Dan Croll might look like the nerdy white guy Azealia Banks is yelling profanities at in her viral ‘212’ YouTube hit, but he used to work as a doorman and even had England training as a rugby full-back.
So we won’t be saying he looks slightly geeky to his face, because of the simple fact that he could probably have us.
Dan was actually all set for a rugby career until he broke his leg on the field at 17, and serendipitously rediscovered his love of music while in a cast.
“I listened to all the greats – Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell – just lying on my back taking it all in,” he recalls. With a guitar and a piano to hand he began sketching out future tunes and told his parents the scary news that he wanted to become a musician. “They were shocked. It was all rugby until then.”
Dan recorded a demo and bagged a place at the Paul McCartney-founded Liverpool Institute Of Performing Arts, which is not easy to do – 2,000 applicants, only 24 spaces. Each student gets a 45-minute Macca master class as part of the course, and after playing the man himself a few songs, the songwriting legend gave him some precise advice.
“These songs are great,” Croll says, adopting his best Macca impersonation. “I wouldn’t do anything to them, just get them released.”
One of his songs receiving the ex-Beatle’s approval was current single, ‘Home’ – a quaintly nostalgic ditty with swirling acoustic chords that build to an Afrobeat-style steel-drum close. It’s a truly colourful blend of diverse sounds. And then there’s ‘From Nowhere’, the DIY synth-pop number he released after graduation that kicked his career into action last Christmas.
But our money’s on Croll’s upcoming debut album title-track, ‘Sweet Disarray’, to surpass the others. It’s written about his experience with his grandma, who’s got dementia. “‘Disarray’ references the tough time the family is going through at the moment, but it’s also nice because we’re all coming together to deal with it.”
So Croll is a name to remember for 2014. “I put tickets on sale for one of my first shows, and it started to sell out even though I had virtually no music online. It turned out people thought Diana Krall was on. I bumped into a mate of mine who’s a photographer in the foyer and he asked me, ‘What are you doing here?’ I said, ‘I’m playing the gig. I’m Dan Croll!’”
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WHAT: Electro-folk with Afrobeat rhythms
GET 3 SONGS: ‘Home’ (video above), ‘From Nowhere’, Sweet Disarray’
FACT: Dan Croll isn’t a secret alias of Canadian jazz pianist Diana Krall. Honestly.
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Words: Simon Butcher
Photo: Hayley Louisa Brown