Over the past few years, DAN CROLL has assembled a myriad of achievements characteristic of the purse of a competent and enduring musician. Winning the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund Songwriter of the Year award, performing a session for BBC 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq, and supporting the likes of James Vincent McMorrow at this year’s Sound City Festival are just some of them. Then, with an unprecedented jolt, the world heard Dan Croll’s newest single From Nowhere, and his blossoming development hurtled into a new realm, as recognition of his raw, lusciously instrumented, dynamic pop sound swelled to a fever.
Dan has not always flown his solo artist flag. Growing up between Stoke-on-Trent and Liverpool, he finally settled in the city to pursue a degree from The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA). Already in possession of a small collection of songs, it was then that Dan, along with friend and producer Joe Wills, spawned Dire Wolf: “I thought ‘I’m going to step outside my comfort zone and start something entirely new’; it was a totally different style of music to my solo stuff”. After graduating in 2011, Dan joined Eye Emma Jedi and, with three Norwegians in the band, extensive gigging amongst the fjords ensued. Nevertheless, Dan muses that “I’ve always been a solo artist”, and spent his final year at LIPA returning to his solo roots, claiming “it’s always been kept up alongside things”. Dan’s heart is now set on his own creations: “Now the decision has been made to really put everything into it”; a commendable commitment, derived from the reception of his latest single.
From Nowhere has proudly surfed the radio waves of BBC’s 6 Music and Radio 1 of late, being played by the likes of Lauren Laverne and Nick Grimshaw, alongside numerous appearances on blogs such as HypeMachine. Emitting a radiant burst of confident yet swoonful pop energy, the single is an unfurling expanse of layered sounds, notably Dan’s carefree vocals, emulated by sliding guitar hooks and bittersweet ‘aahs’. From the rhythmic intro to the organ breakdown section, no sound is out of place, and the result is an exultant, blissful affair, effortlessly bold and sickeningly catchy. Along with a striking accompanying video on YouTube, and various remixes by Casio Kids and Stealing Sheep among others, the song has had the best possible start in life.
Noting the spirited turn away from his previous folky, evocative style, Dan explains that, rather than a conscious new direction, “I think it’s always secretly been in me.” Previously, more sentimental songs such as Marion and Home were products of their environment: “I started out with my acoustic guitar and basic recording equipment, so the songs stayed quite simple because I had quite restricted equipment around me.” Having lived in his city centre flat for nearly four years, it now boasts a curious collection of rare instruments, and consequently “songs have been slowly getting more and more instrumentation thrown at them”. This, along with Dan’s compulsion for unique musical finds on eBay, and a quest for new musicians: his confession “I always want to meet more people who play different instruments” has resulted in an ever-evolving sound. Additionally, recording in an abandoned school in Toxteth (complete with a badminton court) created a ripe playground of experimentation, with even more instruments from which new songs could emerge. Dan discloses that “I think From Nowhere really reflects the atmosphere in the school, to be honest; everything was high energy, and I think that came through in the song.”
The recording environment can play host to various creative accidents. Whilst playing back From Nowhere during a break, the sub-bass caused a table of mugs to vibrate with powerful intensity, and so it was recorded, and a new ‘instrument’ was born. As well as an ear for unusual sounds, Dan also has an important ethos: “It’s always good to give tracks time”. Having the month of January to play with, tracks were started, given time to breathe, and then re-approached in the final week, giving Dan a clear view of which were deserving of his meticulous attention.
Dan claims influences such as Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mombazo, Dirty Projectors and old Zero 7 albums, and it can be heard that this multitude of inspirational artists bleed into his sound. “My influences are quite strange; they go from standard singer-songwriters or folk people to heavy bands to hip hop.” Dan also claims ‘World Music’ as a genre marker, admiring its expansive choirs: “rather that it inspiring me to write World Music songs, it’s more just that sound and that really big production element that they have. We found ourselves layering a lot of vocal takes to try and give this kind of choral sound.”
Liverpool radiates a seductive glow for many musicians, and its musical output seems to repeatedly reflect this lately. Dan has valiantly joined the multitude of artists stepping up to showcase the snowballing emerging talent the city has to offer. Being a relatively small city helps, in that “everything’s accessible, and everything’s relatively easy to do”. Having the strong support of the creatives around him, who often appear in each other’s projects, plays a crucial role, and adds to a shared and growing notion that, “I think there’s a great buzz at the moment; I honestly think 2013 is going to be Liverpool’s time.”
So with a new single firmly in the limelight, the race to exceed it has commenced: “We’ve all thought ‘we’ve got to act quickly’ and I’ve found myself having to write potential follow-up singles quite fast”. After an experimental visit to an empty swimming pool in London to record, Dan plans to embrace gigging this autumn: “I’m really looking forward to having this collection of songs and investing a lot of time into the live set.” Next year brings Dan Croll’s album plans: “I feel like I can start 2013 with a bang”. With Dan’s ever-productive nature, we can safely assume this to be true, and the prospect is invigorating, as some vital, groove-laden pop energy is injected into the nation’s psyche.
From Nowhere is out now.