Multi-talented singer/songwriter Dan Croll has had a tough few years. We caught up with him to chat about the difficult process of releasing his new album, the strange feeling of being a professional musician, and his journey of self-discovery:
You’re in the middle of a UK tour – how’s it going?
‘It’s going great! For me, there’s nothing better than being on tour with six of my best mates and being in transit; so, yeah, it’s good. It’s been a while since we’ve done a tour like this, too, so it’s nice to be out gigging again. We’ve just been waiting for some gigs to come along – it’s been quiet on the live side because there’s been so much work happening on the record, so it’s nice to finally get out and play some shows.
‘It’s funny, really – you go on tour, and then a few months later you’re sick of touring and want to be back in the studio, but then as soon as you’re back in the studio you’re just itching to get back on tour again. It’s swings and roundabouts.
‘Still, I can’t complain. You definitely get trapped in your own head when you’re not keeping busy. I’m a very social person, personally, so not being with my mates or not being outdoors is pretty tough for me – so, I found it pretty hard to not be out there and doing things over the last couple of years.
I bet you can’t wait to get your album out, too, then.
‘God, yeah. I’m just looking forward to everything, haha! It’s been way too long; it’s been a ridiculously long process. Obviously, though, that’s been nobody’s fault – it’s just been a natural amount of time, what with recording this new album and parting ways with the first label. It just means that I’m now super-excited – and relieved – that it now finally gets to see the light of day. Now, it’s just a case of hoping that my fans like it too, and then getting going on the next one…
How did the experience of making this new record compare to the first one?
‘It was a very different experience. It was kinda like the other end of the spectrum, actually. With the first album, I kind of inadvertently spent about four years writing it. Before I even went into the studio to record it, I’d been writing songs for years – so, some songs that I’d written four years previously actually ended up on the album. The way we recorded the album, too, was very D.I.Y – it was just in an old school, with me and my mates, so it was a very raw and natural recording process.
‘With this album, however, I knew that I wanted to create a very disciplined album.
‘I wanted to approach it from more of a straight-on angle of wanting to write it in five months, record it in two, and play every single instrument on the album. I wanted to be out of the UK, and I wanted to be out of my comfort zone: in short, I knew exactly what I wanted. I felt like I had to step outside a bit, and challenge myself, and almost go into competition with myself, to do everything I possibly could to make things different on this album. I wanted to be exhausted by the end of it.
The title of ‘Emerging Adulthood’, then, must have at least partially stemmed from that bildungsroman-esque attitude to making this album.
‘Yeah, a little bit. The title of the record actually came from a book that I was reading while I was making it. The idea of the book was one that I definitely connected with: it was that we now finish college or university, and that we’re then at this age where anything is possible. We’ve got realms of possibilities; you can go wherever you want, and you can do whatever you want. For some people, that can be quite overwhelming. I think I fall under that umbrella – I was definitely still struggling to get my head around the fact that I was making a living from music while I was reading this book, so there was definitely an element of ‘why me!?’ about my thoughts at the time. I felt quite a bit of pressure, and so quite a lot of these songs come from that period of me, post-first album, being uncertain about where I wanted to be, what I wanted to do, and life in general.
‘I was never one of those who wanted to do music from a young age, and I think that was one of the reasons why I really struggled to get my head around where I was after the release of the first album.
‘When I was a kid, I loved sport, and I wanted to be a rugby player; I loved the idea of being a professional sportsperson, and everything that went with it. Music was a hobby for me, not a career option. That’s why it still feels a little bit strange for me to be able to make a living from playing music, and probably why the theme of Emerging Adulthood resonated so strongly with me.
Does this mean that this new record isn’t similar – either lyrically, or sonically – to your first album?
‘I think the production, and the engineering, is more professionally-done this time. It’s definitely a heavier album because of that, in terms of it having more punch to it. I think it’s a lot more upbeat; maybe a bit more electronic than the first album, too. Lyrically, it shares some of the main topics of the first – vague relationships, and stuff like that. There’s definitely an element of Emerging Adulthood, and self-discovery, on there too. I think it’s still a good album… Just packing more of a punch.
What’s your favourite track from the album?
‘Ooh, that’s tricky. I really enjoy One of Us. I come from a heavier world, musically, than a lot of my stuff suggests – I really like rock, and metal, and I think that One of Us is a bit of a guilty pleasure in terms of it being a heavier track than anything I’d normally do.
‘Admittedly, it feels a little bit strange for me to be putting out a track that was first released two years ago as the lead single from the album, but it had to be done.
‘When I recorded One of Us, I knew that I wanted it to be a single, and that I wanted it to be the first one. I had to make a tough call with it; I had no label, and I was very much on my own. I was quite anxious about being forgotten, or falling behind a little bit, so I felt like I had to put something out. So, I put One of Us out, and I was happy with it. Now, I want to make sure that as many people as possible are able to hear it, so we’re just giving it a little push to ensure that it reaches its full potential.
What’s the plan for the rest of the year?
‘Just get out the house! I’ve got this tour to finish, and then we’ve got a built-up going towards the summer festivals, the album, a tour of the states, a European tour, and then maybe a bigger UK album release tour… Just get in a van and see where I end up.
Out of every song ever recorded, which one do you wish you’d written?
‘It’d probably be something mad, like Bohemian Rhapsody. I don’t think I’d ever be able to write that song, ever – I don’t think anyone could, apart from Queen. It’s such a unique song, so it would’ve just been ace to go ‘oh my God, I’ve got this idea for a song… It’s going to be mental, but bear with me!’. I would’ve even just loved to have been in the room when Freddie Mercury played it to them for the first time. Brian May and the rest of the band members must’ve just been like ‘where is he going with this!?’, y’know? To have the balls to just follow your instinct and put a song like that out is… Well, it’s just amazing.
What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you?
‘Being able to be a professional musician is pretty strange. I never really thought it could happen, but when the first two or three singles really started to connect with people, I thought ‘oh, shit, this actually might happen’. Then they started getting on video games and soundtracks of things you’ve been playing since you were a kid, and you began to actually believe that it could happen. It’s a blessing and a curse, really; I’m not much of a gamer anymore, but the guys in the band will be in the van playing FIFA or something, and suddenly I’ll just hear my own song coming on…
Describe yourself in three words?
‘Normal, chilled guy.