At the start of this month, 23 year-old Dan Croll launched his debut LP, Sweet Disarray, (Capitol). He first caught our ears at last year’s CMJ Music Marathon, but now we were hearing his diverse influences in studio. Before all this, however, he was a star rugby player with hopes of making it big until a leg injury forced him to reconsider his career path. Unexpectedly, he’s become one of the U.K.’s most promising acts of this year and has gained praise from some huge names in the game like Haim, Bastille and even Paul McCartney.
Croll is currently touring North America and we were able to chat with him before his performance in New York City last week. He spoke to us about the sudden transition from rugby to music and why he refuses to define his sound. As talented as he is young, his bold experimentation is likely to keep us guessing what he’ll do next.
You’re from Liverpool, correct?
Yeah, I was born in Stoke-on-Trent, which is like an hour away. But all my family were born and raised in Liverpool and I live there at the moment.
Cool, so are you excited to see them at the top of the Premier League?
I am excited to see that, but to tell you the truth, I’m not a big fan of football which is quite rare for an Englishman.
Yeah, I just assumed that all English people liked football, haha. So do you prefer rugby since you used to play it?
Yeah, that’s my sport.
Can you talk about the transition from playing rugby into playing music full-time?
The transition was pretty sudden and pretty fast. It was quite an emotional thing, breaking my leg and having to kind of stop what I really like doing and trying to find something else new to do. But I really have a huge amount of love for music and I’m very happy with what happened and I’m really content with where I am.
Do you prefer one over another or is it a balance?
It was a balance, really. I can’t choose between them because it was really a progression and I couldn’t really do anything about it, it just happened. So I just live with it.
Well it looks like it turned out for the better, no?
Yeah, it’s pretty good, pretty good.
How has the reception been to your debut? It seems like you’ve gotten a lot of notice by bands like Bastille, Haim and even Paul McCartney, which is insane, right?
Yeah, I think the reception’s been really, really good. Obviously pop music reviews and media may have a problem which them mainly is they don’t know where it is. But I personally really love that, that’s kind of why I did it. I didn’t want just one genre, one sound, every track sound the same cause I just wanted to make it more of where I’ve come from in the past 4-5 years of writing and all the genres I’ve taken on board and been influenced by. You know, it’s quite nice to obviously to see them and to have the support of all these bands and musicians and stuff like that. That’s where I’m coming from I think and I really enjoy it, which is kind of awesome for me to witness.
In the future do you ever plan on defining your sound a bit more?
I’m going to keep on experimenting as long as I can. I don’t want to stick to one sound because, for me, it’s a little bit boring. I’ve always wanted to experiment with different sounds and different instruments and stuff like that. I feel like I want to be in it for the long run and I think you’ll only be in it for the long run if you keep experimenting and being creative, really.
Have you started recording anything new yet or have you just been focused on your tour?
I’ve been constantly on tour, but I’ve been singing into my iPhone as much as possible and have seen some good stuff that could be useful moving forward.
How’s tour been going so far?
The tour’s been fantastic. Been off to a really good strong start. We sold out the El Rey in L.A. and the Music Hall in San Francisco and had two really big shows in Austin. We’ve played every night and they’ve all been really good.
Do you do things differently depending on the size of the venue? Like do you change the setlist for smaller venues to make it more intimate, or do you stick to the same for everything?
Yeah, we will make changes to the setlist. For example in Portland, it was a pretty small show and it was really nice.
Do you have anything special planned for your show in New York?
Well, obviously it’s going to be a big one, probably the biggest one on this tour, but I think we’re just going to straight up play it, I don’t want to risk doing anything too different. Thankfully the bands on the shows we’ve been doing, they’ve all been confident guys. It’s obviously been quite a while since I’ve played New York and I just kind of wanted to show them how able I am to play a big event and obviously have a bigger sound.
Do you have a favorite city you’ve played or city look forward to playing?
I think New York is one of my favorites. I’ve really enjoyed all the big cities like San Francisco, L.A. but I also really like Portland. There’s so many really cool places.
Since you’ve been in the US for a little while, what are certain things you miss from the U.K. and some things you like about here?
I think this is probably the top thing, but I get a little homesick, I think. Obviously I miss my family. I think I’m missing my family and friends quite a lot. But as for things over here, the weather has just been fantastic. It’s been basically so beautiful and back in the U.K. we’ve just had a very wet winter and it’s been a bit miserable. The weather is always something that’s really nice over here.
Maybe not this year though, it’s been so ridiculously cold in New York.
Well I was here last month doing a promo tour and even though it was sunny, it was probably the coldest I’ve ever experienced the city. It was unbelievable, my face felt just like I just had frostbite and that wasn’t cool. But I think it’s a little bit nicer and warmer this time of year.
It seems like you have a lot of diverse musical influences like Grizzly Bear, Beirut and Paul Simon. If you could just choose one of them to record or perform with who would you choose?
Ooooohhhhh, I think it would just be Paul Simon. I think everything he does is always fun, so Paul Simon.
So correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re not the guy from the Azealia Banks video?
That would be correct, yes.
I saw that and I really thought you really looked alike, it was funny!
We do look a lot alike! His name is Jacques Greene and he’s actually recently just busted and I think it’s because of the similarities, and we’ve tweeted a few times and obviously gone back and forth a few times, I think it’s quite funny.
Were you insulted at all or was it nice to be compared when you heard about it?
Well, obviously I’ve heard it a lot but it was quite funny!