Flashback Friday: City And Colour’s “Sometimes”

Moving out of home is a daunting prospect for anyone. Terrifying actually, so when I found myself at 21 newly single, living in my parents’ new house half a country away from the tiny rural town I’d always grown up in and with all my friends having moved here and into places of their own, I told myself it was time to get out from under their roof.

What I brushed off at the time was how big a deal that actually is. To go from having meals prepared round the clock, laundry done every day and freedom from shitty household bills and other things my parents had opened their pockets for over the last 21 years of my life. None of that went through my mind as I shoved my B-horror DVDs and my old Creed CDs (shudder) and all my other worldly possessions into cardboard boxes and carted them to an utter hovel of a place in an industrial estate where two of my good friends were living.

Into the sleepout I went, a broom cupboard of a room with squares of carpet on the wooden floor that used to be a verandah and a tin roof where a possum routinely got stuck and hissed at me all night. I met it all with a shit-eating grin on my face though, because I finally felt independent and because I could go out all night drinking and partying and I wouldn’t have a stern-faced mother waiting on the stairs when I got home. This was living.

It wasn’t long before all the things you simply dismissed as first house rites of passage, a room that was stiflingly hot, a shower tub that looked as though it had been used to dispose of a body, a toilet that was outside the house and a backyard that looked like the Amazon jungle among other things, began to weigh on me and I felt like I was regretting my decision to leave. I had air conditioning at home and my own bathroom and dad mowed the lawn every Saturday. The child in me was ready to leave this $130 a week brothel and back into the comforts of my family home.

City And Colour helped me stay.

It was getting home late one night that I first heard Alexisonfire guitarist Dallas Green’s solo project. We were sitting around the living room absolutely roasted when my housemate turned it on at volumes that would ensure the neighbours would give us hateful glares for days following. The song was Hello, I’m In Delaware and I sat there mesmerised listening to Green weave a tale of life on the road. My life wasn’t quite on the road, more just up the road, but sitting there baked I felt a certain level of solace. I remember stumbling into my shitty little bedroom, Googling the song and playing it with my headphones in before drifting off to sleep.

I found the record the song came from soon after: the debut album Sometimes from City And Colour. Sonically a world apart from the post-hardcore he had made a successful career from as part of Alexisonfire, Sometimes was a vulnerable record, just Green’s lilting falsetto backed by an acoustic guitar so hauntingly mournful it sent shivers up your spine.

It was a record Green admitted had been in writing since he was 16 years old, saying it was sad songs that appealed to him the most and that he wrote these songs when he was most bummed out. As someone dealing with so many added pressures and doing it alone, it was the perfect record to escape into.

What struck me most about Sometimes on first listen was how heartwrenchingly lonesome it sounded. Hello, I’m In Delaware obviously, but the same road-weariness carrying over into Coming Home where Dallas looks around at all the places he’s been around the globe and remains largely unimpressed. Sam Malone echoes that similar feeling of isolation, the title taken from Ted Danson’s character from Cheers and the chorus paraphrasing the sitcom’s theme, Green trying to find a place where nobody knows his name.

The theme of broken relationships also pervades the record and was something constantly dragging me down in those first days out of home. Unable to deal with not having a significant other very well, it was some small comfort to hear someone on record going through similar pain to me.

Day Old Hate is near seven minutes of pure hurt as Green struggles to let go of someone he thought he could make it work with but who had plans of their own. Save Your Scissors, with its air of defiance rippling underneath the sunny guitar riff as Green breaks free from a relationship where his partner wanted him to be someone he wasn’t, rocked me to the core as well, having been in one myself already. Like Knives dealt with the painful aftermath of that relationship a little less positively, Green blaming himself and finding comfort in the paper and pen he has to commit her memory to. I started writing myself when I was on my own, though nothing I put to paper came close to the gravity of that song or any others on Sometimes. Each of them expressed my current feelings in ways I simply couldn’t.

Sometimes became one of my go-to records when feeling down. Hearing Green on his own solo journey, a long and winding road down unfamiliar highways, baring his soul to the world, made me feel at peace being completely on my own for the first time in my life. I stayed in that house for a year before moving into a slightly better one and made the most of it, living in another two after that. When I picked up a guitar and my housemates in my current house made me learn how to play it, City And Colour songs were some of the first I set my mind to learning.

Seeing City And Colour live onstage at Splendour several years later and being unable to fathom just how far I’d come since first moving out of home, then a scared kid without a clue and now still without much of a clue but at least no longer scared, moved me to tears sitting on the amphitheatre hill.

Just as Green stepped outside from Alexisonfire and made it on his own, I wanted to do the same, and Sometimes is a record that will always come with me on any new journey of my own.