Dan Croll: Fresh Out of Liverpool
I spent most of my teen years trying not to crash my parents’ cars into guardrails and working retail (dark days, my friend). Singer-songwriter Dan Croll meanwhile spent his winning the Musicians Benevolent Fund’s National Songwriter of the Year contest and being chosen to work with Sir Paul McCartney who basically told him his music was perfect. Now 23, Dan’s debut album Sweet Disarray is out this month. It’s an eclectic blend of pop, rock, folk, electro and hip hop that somehow takes me back to my rainy days in England sipping chamomile tea. His current US tour — which stops in NYC’s Bowery Ballroom this Thursday, April 17 — is his first headline tour, after opening for Haim, Bastille and Imagine Dragons last year.
It’s his first headline tour, his first album and VEVO called him one of 2014’s artists to watch, but Dan isn’t feeling any pressure because he’s having too much fun, not that that stopped us from forcing him to answer questions about writing Sweet Disarray; meeting Paul McCartney for the first time; and figuring out how we’re supposed to describe the melange of sounds in his music.
We hear, you actually didn’t intend to be a musician. What were you originally intending to pursue and how did you get into music?
Correct, I was pursuing the career of a professional rugby player. I was massively in to it growing up and played to a high level up until I was 17 when I broke my right leg. I think I really got in to music whilst recovering from the break and started to realize that I could potentially have a career in music.
We’ve also heard you were a bouncer at one point. What was that like?
[Laughs] I wasn’t exactly a heavyweight bouncer, I was more of the doorman who took the entrance fee, looked out for people kicking off. A secondary reinforcement I’d say.
What has touring been like for you so far? Tired yet?
Not at all. It’s my favorite part of the job. Not only do I get to travel the world playing my music but I also get to do it in the company of my best mates. I usually travel with a team of eight, and I’ve known them all for about six years now, so tour is a lot of fun!
Right now, a lot of attention is being given to London about their music scene. But you are sort of Liverpool’s poster child for music. Can you talk about that?
London is always going to have emerging bands and artists, it’s so huge it’s near impossible for it not to be. However, Liverpool being smaller a handful of artists come in waves, and bloody good ones at that. I feel there’s a more relaxed way of life in Liverpool that allows artists and musicians to really fine tune what they have. Quality not quantity. As for me, the people of Liverpool have been incredibly helpful and I’m honored to be that poster child.
How long have you been working on your album?
Since I started chasing the dream of being a musician really. Even though songs from my late teens aren’t on the album, it’s all been one huge learning curve. I feel I’ve failed many times, which is a good thing, and learned from my mistakes which led me to my first album track Home which I wrote about four years ago. From then on, it’s all been about taking my time and honing each song.
You’ve been compared to The Beatles a lot. Do you feel any pressure to live up to that hype?
None at all, I’m never going to reach the height of The Beatles, neither is anybody else really. For me it’s all about enjoying what I have, and if anything else comes it’s a bonus.
You’ve had the amazing opportunity to work with Paul McCartney. What advice did he give you about your work? And how did it feel meeting him for the first time?
It was incredible to meet him, and quite a surreal 45 minutes I spent with him. There wasn’t much advice given, he really liked the songs I played for him, so we jammed for a while. He also said "groovy" a few times which was funny.
Who are your musical influences?
They’re from one extreme to another. I’ll always have influences like James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Burt Bacharach, Billie Holiday, Paul Simon, The Beach Boys and other greats that I grew up listening to, but in the past 5 years so much more new music has come in to my life. I’m loving my metal at the moment, heavily obsessing over Meshuggah, they inspire and motivate me to write.
You mentioned the song “Home,” can you talk about what that song is about?
It’s about me returning home after a very cold trip to Berlin, arriving back soaked and frozen to the bone and realizing how great my home and family are.
“Home” is a bit folksier than your other tracks. But your other songs incorporate pop, afro-beat, and electro. Can you talk about the sound of the rest of your album?
I think it revolves around those four genres you mention, plus a few more. There are a couple of songs that are heavily hip-hop and R&B inspired as well as one or two that are inspired by J-pop. It’s just a melting pot of all of my influences really.
Paul Lester of The Guardian said of your music, “think Paul Simon jamming with Prince.” What do you think of that description?
It’s a funny one, but I do see where he is coming from, or at least I think I do. I see it as him comparing my past to my present, I grew up in the folk world listing to James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Simon & Garfunkel and so on but in the past five years I’ve been introduced to a huge wave of genres, most notably electronic music, and it has recently slipped in to my songs. So in a way, they’ve all molded together in to a pretty cool jam session.
You have a lot of festivals coming up. Which one are you most excited to perform at?
I’m really looking forward to it all to be honest. Traveling and playing music is the most fun thing, so all of the festivals will be great. That said, I am looking forward to Firefly Festival in America!
Photography by Laura Lewis