Dan Croll Reveals the Influences Behind His Latest Album ‘Emerging Adulthood’
Pop is a tricky genre to navigate these days with artists either creating music explicitly for radio or doing whatever they want and hoping their true fans respond. British singer-songwriter and emerging alt-pop star Dan Croll has chosen the latter. His new album “Emerging Adulthood,” out July 21, follows no specific trend, other than all the music is actually done by Croll himself. The album is utterly charming from beginning to end. With hints of folk, electronic and pop and classical songwriting in a modern context, Croll has crafted a true piece of original art. Entertainment Voice spoke with the 26-year-old up-and-comer about which of his favorite bands influences him most, what his single “Bad Boy” actually means and a curious, yet endearing trend he has seen play out during his live performances.
Musically speaking, what were some inspirations for your new album “Emerging Adulthood”?
Music wise I’ve always had the same influences that I kind of grew up with, people like Brian Wilson, people like Burt Bacharach, James Taylor. I know a lot of those are quite folky but they still influence me now. And big artists like Michael Jackson, but I guess more modern stuff would be people like Tame Impala, who I really look up to and Bombay Bicycle Club as well.
This record feels like an indie version of The Beach Boys in a way. How would you describe your new record, sonically?
I think it’s a quite immediate, to the point record. With my previous album (“Sweet Disarray”) we used an old primary school gym with my mates and we borrowed used equipment and it was all quite DIY, and I think the songs kind of came across like that, in a good way. But I think with this album I was quite clear with what I wanted to do. I wanted to push myself and get straight into it. I wanted to write it all within six months, I wanted to record it in two months and I wanted to play all the instruments on the album. I think because I had those kind of clear goals, that it comes across in the album. It’s quite immediate.
Part of what stands out about you as an artist is the fact that what we’re hearing is 100 percent you, meaning you play each and every instrument and write every song yourself. Can you talk about the importance of doing this project solo?
I’m just an artist who gets restless maybe quite quickly and I think I’ve got to constantly be doing things in different ways. Once I experience something one way, I want to try it another way. Like I said with my first album being a more collaborative, DIY thing, I immediately wanted to do the polar-opposite just to see if I could do it. It’s quite a physical and mental challenge to do the whole album pretty much on my own. I’m very competitive in my nature. I used to play competitive sports most of my life so I needed to push myself, to compete with myself.
You once said you didn’t want to create a new genre with your music, but instead to encourage others to combine more genres to create more interesting music. What types of genres were you intent on mixing for “Emerging Adulthood?”
I think I have a lot of influences from the classic songwriters, to the acoustic style of music, to a lot of the more recent electronic music. People like Sylvan Esso, even classic songwriters like McCartney and Wings, they had quite some good, bizarre electronic albums. I also love hip-hop and R&B. I guess I’m just trying to keep things interesting. I guess sometimes the pop charts…I think they can feel a little bit stale sometimes, in the UK maybe more so. I do pop music, I wanna be a pop artist but I do music from a more organic, alternative angle and maybe kind of educate in a slight way to bring a few more genres through my music than a normal pop song would.
Your lead single “Bad Boy” begs the question: Is that how you consider yourself? Or is the song more of an observation on that personality type?
It’s more of an observation, but I think everyone’s been there at some point. That song looks back at a phase of life I think everyone goes through where you had a bit of a rebellious phase. You either wanted to go out with a bad boy or a bad girl, or you wanted to be the bad boy or bad girl. So that song is more so telling people to be comfortable in their own skin.
“One of Us” seems to be about the struggle with peer pressure. Can you speak on the thoughts behind this track? Have you yourself fought with peer pressure?
When I was writing the album, I was kind of taking breaks now and then to switch off from music. I would watch a documentary, I love documentaries. I’ve been really fascinated with cult documentaries…what I was quite intrigued about was how a cult was one of the greatest forms of peer pressure. To convince all these followers to join a cult and in certain kinds of drastic cases in things like mass suicide and really messed up stuff. I found it quite wild so I started writing this song about that. But as I was writing the song I realized that there was a bit of peer pressure in my own life, to do with writing songs that would conform to radio or TV. The first album connected very well with radio. So there was that pressure to do that again.
You retweeted a fan the other day who posted a video from one of your sets featuring a couple’s make-out session with the caption “soundtracking your sloppy snogging since 2010.” Do you feel your music has that effect on people?
(laughs) I mean yea, that was really funny. That really made me laugh. I think some weird stuff happens when we play. There is occasionally the kind of big makeout sessions, we’ve also had a lot of proposals whilst we’ve been playing. I think it’s a big compliment. I think it means that my music is connecting in some way, whether you’re making out to it or proposing to it or whatever.
You’re about to head out on a North American tour to promote the album. How do you like the tour-life?
Tour is great. It goes back and forth between tour and studio. When you’re in the studio, you want to be on tour and when you’re on tour, you want to be in the studio. In particular I look forward to touring in the US, and I’m not just saying that because we’re talking now but I think it’s such a rare thing that UK artists get to travel there. It’s something I’ve been lucky enough to do and it’s a country that really kind of intrigues me. So much really varies from city to city, more so than say the UK or Europe. So I’m really excited to get back out to the US. The past couple of times we’ve only been kind of East coast, then Midwest, but this time we’re going to the West coast as well. So it’s going to be really exciting.
“Emerging Adulthood” is available on Apple Music July 21.