Dan Croll is a fabulous new solo artist with enough facets for a whole band. He's the electro boy with links to the folk scene (Communion Records discovered him and included one of his tracks on their recent New Faces compilation), a multi-instrumentalist whose songwriting prowess has impressed everyone from former Beatles to legends in the world of fashion and design. He started 2012 with one of his demos (Marion) as a Q Essential Download and another (Home) picked up by Steve Lamacq on 6 Music and ended it with his debut single From Nowhere being hammered by Radio 1.
Don't be fooled by the Buddy Holly specs - he's a one-time rugby fanatic whose career in sport at the highest level was derailed by a broken leg - or by the sensitive acoustica: the 23-year-old is a former nightclub doorman who used to live above a strip joint in Liverpool.
Dan was born in 1990 to a marketing consultant dad and nurse mum in Trentham, a suburb of Stoke-On-Trent, home of Robbie and Slash. He played rugby for his school, county and the Midlands, but a shin-on-shin collision aged 17 left him in a cast for a year and his hopes of ever playing for England about as up in the air as his leg.
Music was his other adolescent obsession, one partly acquired from his mother, a jazz, blues and folk fan who used to sing in brass bands. His first love was the nu metal of Blink 182 and Sum 41 followed by - via his older sister - the indie rock of The Strokes and The Libertines. He would later discover the varied pleasures of everyone from The Beach Boys to Beirut, Dirty Projectors and Grizzly Bear.
At school Dan straddled the hardnut rugby and cool skater cliques. By his teens he had learned to play guitar, bass, piano, the drums, even trumpet. Growing up, he spent most weekends in Liverpool because of family connections, and so it was perhaps inevitable that he would end up studying at the city's Institute for Performing Arts, where he took a Music degree and his lecturers included local heroes Eddie Lundon of '80s synthpop duo China Crisis and Keith Mullin of baggy reprobates The Farm who used to regale him with tales of his mis-spent past.
He won the Songwriter of the Year award from the Musicians Benevolent Fund and picked to have a one-to-one with LIPA founder Sir Paul, a 40-minute session during which the former Beatle praised Dan's songwriting and apparently said "groovy" a lot. He was grateful for the opportunity to spend time with the most revered pop composer of the 20th century, but admits he prefers Paul Simon and Burt Bacharach.
"Being in Liverpool you can get caught up in the history of The Beatles, so you do try and go elsewhere and talk about other people," he says, adding that, much as he admires the production on tracks such as Come Together, he feels that "Liverpool is just clinging onto The Beatles - I'd rather give someone new a lift."
Dan's music has become increasingly electronic as he has acquired more gadgetry, and now it offers a balance between the acoustic/organic side with tracks such as Home and Marion and a more computer-generated approach as evidenced by his latest songs.
And they're brilliant, concise, smart pop tunes. From Nowhere is the exuberant single that announced Dan's arrival in no uncertain terms. It became a regular on Radio 1, XFM and 6 Music, and had well over 100,000 streams on SoundCloud in just two weeks, with blogs and websites clambering to feature it, to the extent that it made the #1 spot on the Hype Machine charts. The Prince-ishly funky Wanna Know is, says Dan, "a strange song written from the point of view of a stalker where the person is into someone, he's become over-controlling, although not necessarily in a bad way! It can be interpreted creepily - I want listeners to have their own take on my songs." Then there's the Afro-tinged Always Like This, which depicts the highs and lows of Dan's relationship with an ex-girlfriend.
Half troubadour, half techno whiz, Dan is a latterday Beck, and the missing link between Jake Bugg and Joe Mount. No wonder he's becoming the prime mover of the city's first movement of note since the heady days of The Coral and The Zutons, one that also includes the critically lauded Stealing Sheep, Outfit, Kankouran, Jethro Fox, The Staves, Eye Emma Jedi, Mikhael Paskalev, Vasco Da Gama, Ninetails, Neon Lights and many others, bands and singers with ambitions to break out nationally.
You name it Dan could have made a career out of it. He could also have pursued his most recent employment as a part-time doorman (he worked at Liverpool's Le Bateau, where he used to have to confiscate punters' drugs - "Only for them to be kept under my desk," he says) or as an extra - he had a walk-on part in Channel 4's Shameless, in which he had to attend Frank Gallagher's stag do at a strip club (it was a busman's holiday, really, considering he used to live above a bordello on Liverpool's Broad Street), and another TV role as a Victorian gent involved in prostitution.
Instead, it's going to be music all the way. Currently recording in an abandoned primary school gym in Toxteth, (turn right at the docks, past the crackheads) the unique rehearsal space / studio is equipped with an old badminton court and climbing ropes: who needs a �1000 a day residential studio? He's continuing to work on his debut album for release early next year. You could say he's gone From Nowhere to, well, everywhere, in less than 12 months.
In fact, Dan’s total SoundCloud plays now number in the millions. And the figure can only rise. In April 2013, he issued his second single, Compliment Your Soul, it had a pan-cultural feel that reflected his love of world music-influenced pop from Paul Simon to Vampire Weekend and again saw Dan top the Hypemachine charts. He followed this in September with In/Out, a masterclass in indie j-pop synth’n’b co-written with Japanese musician Dustin Wong that seamlessly weaved together folk melodies, pop hooks and machine rhythms.
In/Out was Dan’s first release on Deram Records, the reactivated British label famous for signing David Bowie and Cat Stevens and issuing the iconic singles Nights in White Satin and Whiter Shade of Pale. Dan is the first artist to appear on the newly revived imprint, and he perfectly encapsulates their ethos of nurturing young, creatively independent artists. His third and last single for 2013 is Home, an enchanting number with a simple tenderness that erupts into a magnificent crescendo of melody and harmony.
It is a marvellous taster for Dan’s debut solo album Sweet Disarray, due out in spring 2014. Produced by himself and friends, the long-player is due to feature The Ladysmith Black Mambazo choir (of Graceland fame), whom Dan will be recording with in South Africa. It will surely be hailed as one of the great debuts of next year. Featuring his four singles to date as well as the supremely infectious Sweet Disarray and the irresistibly forlorn Can You Hear Me?, it will confirm DC as one of our most promising young multifaceted artists, and a purveyor of intelligent alt-pop to rival Alt-J.
No wonder there was such a buzz about Dan when he appeared at CMJ in September 2013; and no wonder NME proclaimed him one of 20 must-see acts, while many publications have made him a One to Watch for 2014. No wonder the likes of Haim, Bombay Bicycle Club and Chvrches asked him to support them on both sides of the Atlantic, and no wonder 2013’s biggest breakout star Bastille and American alt rock band Imagine Dragons invited him on tour across the UK and Europe.
Having recently inked a global deal with Universal Music, who are releasing him through Capitol Records in the US and Deram Records in the UK, Dan Croll’s music has already found its way onto The Grand Theft Auto 5 and FIFA 2014 soundtracks, has featured on a Dreamworks animated advert and taken over the internet, airwaves and venues around the world. You don’t have to wonder to know that 2014 could be Dan Croll’s year.
"I want music with life and a bit of a story, that comes from genuine inspiration, to be in the mainstream," decides Dan. "Not just songs put together in a day by a bunch of anonymous writers chosen by a record label. Music from the heart, with meaning, that means something to me and will hopefully be meaningful to listeners.”
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