Discovery: Dan Croll


UK musician Dan Croll is a collector of sounds, with an expansive collection of instruments that he loves to layer into his music. Croll spends most of his songwriting time trying to edit his compositions down, but he is thrilled when he can add sounds from his toys in unexpected ways—like sneaking a “snake charmer” into a track’s bridge.

At age 17, Croll decided he wanted to make music his career, and he hasn’t stopped since. After playing in bands and experimenting with sounds, he has finally come into his own, releasing his debut EP From Nowhere. Croll channels Paul Simon, James Taylor, and African rhythms into his own compositions. Many of his songs are about life experiences, especially in tracks like “Only Ghost,” about the death of a friend. Following his EP is his debut, which is slated for an August release; he’ll be back in the States then, touring once again.

We chatted with Dan Croll about performing with CHVRCHES, writing songs worthy of records, and what happened the first time he landed in America.

AGE: 22

HOMETOWN: Liverpool, U.K.

BEGINNINGS: I’d always grown up with music. I was brought up into a musical-ish family. My mom played a lot of jazz records, lots of folk like James Taylor or Eva Cassidy. I was brought up with music around me. My sister played the piano, so she taught me a bit of piano when I was younger. I picked the guitar up myself and started learning instruments. I didn’t start writing songs until I was about 16 or 17. I made the call at about age 17 that I wanted to give music a go as a career.

FLYING SOLO: Well, before I went to university, I was very much on my own as a solo artist. I suppose when I went to university, I thought, “I’ve got 3 years to have some fun and play about with different projects.” I did start a few other bands: very different types of music, because I love a lot of different genres. There were some very heavy bands and very weird bands. I think towards my final year at university, I decided I was most comfortable as a solo artist, so I decided to focus on that.

INSPIRATION FROM NOWHERE AND EVERYWHERE: It comes from a lot of people, really. I’ve got a lot of influences in songs I love to listen to and artists I love to listen to.  I reference a lot of tracks when I’m in the studio. I think if I was to take it back to songwriters that I love who could encourage me to make music, they would be Burt Bacharach, Brian Wilson, and James Taylor.  People like that.

GETTING PERSONAL: Especially with the From Nowhere EP, all of that feels very personal to me. “From Nowhere” and “Only Ghost,” especially. “Only Ghost” is quite a close song to me. “Only Ghost” is about my first and only friend who had passed away. It’s kind of about my experience dealing with that, unfortunately. He passed away a few years back. It was kind of around the time when I was about to head on a family holiday. I didn’t want to head on a family vacation and have fun. I just wanted to be alone, stay at home, think about it all and take it all in.

SELF-EDITING: I think for me, sometimes, it’s quite hard to stop. When I start writing about a song, I get very excited. Usually I’m bouncing around the room playing lots of different instruments. I love to collect instruments. I can spend days playing about on different instruments and with different sounds. I usually keep layering and layering and building this big sound. Often for me I go too far. For me, it’s more about taking things away and finding that right balance of what stays in and what doesn’t.

INDIE ROCK AND THE M.A.A.D. CITY: I love Grizzly Bear. I’d love to collaborate with them. I love the Dirty Projectors. I love Deerhoof. Those three bands for me would be ideal collaborations, or even something completely different. I’ve been enjoying the new Kendrick Lamar album. I’ve got quite a love affair with hip-hop, and I think it would be cool to collaborate with someone like that.

WHAT’S INSTRUMENTAL: My favorite instrument to play is the drums. I love playing the drums. I collect things like different organs, bass guitar, mandolins, and ukuleles. I recently bought an accordion that I really like. I enjoy playing that. It’s incredibly hard to learn. It’s one of the hardest instruments that I’ve tried to learn. I like ortho-harps and digital ortho-harps. I just love to be surrounded by them all, hit record and see what happens.

NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE: This was our first American tour that we did this month. It was our first-ever trip to America, and the first 48 hours of being in America were just crazy. We arrived in Chicago, we sound-checked; we went for some food and relaxed. We played the gig in Chicago, and we were going to head to bed because we had a very early flight to Minneapolis that we had to make in time for this radio session and the gig. When we got offstage in Chicago, we were told that there was a huge snowstorm that was going to hit Chicago and every flight was cancelled for the next day or two. We decided to go to the nearest rent-a-car place, rented a car at midnight, put all of the gear in the back of the car and drove through the night to Minneapolis and through the snowstorm. You could barely see in front of you, and we were driving past over-turned trucks covered in snow. It was scary, but a pretty crazy adventure. We arrived in Minneapolis perfectly in time to do the live radio session.