Dan Croll: I just keep buying new instruments

Dan Croll: I just keep buying new instruments
Photo courtesy of the artist

Dan Croll is kind of an anomaly. The U.K.-based 22-year-old singer-songwriter makes music that's difficult to place, even with all our various hyphenated categories. His debut single "From Nowhere" hit last fall, and since then, Croll has seen his music career spin off in a dazzling upward spiral.

Now, Croll's five-song debut EP titled From Nowhere continues the roller coaster ride. It's got all the best elements of successful electro-pop albums: catchy hooks, upbeat mixes, interesting sounds, lyrics that are all too easy to sing along to... and then Croll does things like add some organ, or some marimba, or some weird accordion notes, and you're like, "Dude, where did that come from, and where can I get more of it?" 

The From Nowhere EP is set to be released today, the same day Croll plays at the 7th Street Entry. Gimme Noise caught up with him ahead of the gig to chat about where all those weird instruments come from and what he's got planned.

Gimme Noise: The From Nowhere EP is a gorgeous five-track record, really lush and layered. I read online that most of your new songs start with a new instrument. Was that true for the songs on this EP?

Dan Croll: Yeah, pretty much. "From Nowhere" was written on an organ I bought for five pounds on eBay... There's an African marimba... "Wanna Know" was written on a bass guitar... I think each track did start with an instrument, it was kind of sparked by that. I just keep buying new instruments and filling up my flat. [Laughs] It's just the excitement of the vehicle, the excitement of picking up an instrument that I don't know anything about and trying to make it sound good. On the EP, I go through all sorts of things -- trumpets and trombones, a lot of strings go on the songs, sometimes a lot of organs... I'm a big fan of different organs. I've got a lot of African percussion shakers and traditional instruments... I bought an accordion not long ago, and that was pretty challenging, the accordion. That's hard.

Wow. Okay. That's a lot of instruments. How many would you say you officially play?

I guess, officially, I've never really been taught in anything but the trumpet. In everything else, I'm self taught.... Or my sister has taught me to play piano, but I'm self-taught in a lot of instruments. I feel confident with a lot of them. I'm not able to play them all very well, but I like to try.

Since "From Nowhere" was released, you've seen your popularity jump exponentially. How does all this make you feel, people knowing your music internationally and all that?

The success is from nowhere. It's completely overwhelming. I knew when I wrote that song that I had written a good song, and I was confident in it, but I never guessed that it would do this well. I feel like I've just been in a dream watching the SoundCloud plays go up to like 160,000 in a week and a half, and it's definitely given me a lot of confidence as a songwriter--the confidence boost that I really needed.

Tell me about what we can expect from your live set. I hear a lot going on with your EP. What does it look like live?

[Laughs] I started out with a nine-piece band a few years ago, and I slowly realized that a nine-piece band is really expensive to keep, and we downsized to five of us. A few of the players have changed here and there, and I've got my ideal five down now. I suppose it can be quite hard because of the way that I record songs, because I record layers and layers and layers. Sometimes I could have ten layers of drums and twenty layers of guitars, and then when it's a live show, I've got one guitar and one drum kit, and so it's a lot of fine-tuning, trying to make it sound good. That's what I'm practicing now. I really enjoy playing live shows. For me, there's nothing better than a crowd you can sing along with, that can interact. I love when the crowd feels part of the band, or the band is part of the crowd. Sometimes you don't get that when you're playing in London. I'm really looking forward to the U.S. audience for that reason.

Is this the first time you're touring the U.S.? Are there any places you're most excited to visit?

It is! It's the first time for all of us, so we're pretty excited at the moment. I'm looking forward to all of them, really. Minneapolis, of course, and I think San Francisco, too.

Great. So, last question: What's next for you? A full-length, maybe? Are you working on anything right now?

I'm still writing a lot. I'm spending most days in the studio. I'm trying not to get too stressed out by the thought of doing an album... It's right around the corner. I'm just writing songs like I normally would, playing a lot of different sounds, and I think when the time comes, I'll have a lot of songs I can pick from. I'd say an album is pretty close. Hopefully this summer.

Dan Croll is playing at the 7th Street Entry on Tuesday, March 5 with Gloss and Apparition. 7:30 p.m. $7. 18+. Details here. 

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