What do you want to be when you grow up?

It’s a question we’re all asked at some point, with answers varying from firefighter to teacher to writer to president and everything in between. For Liverpool’s Dan Croll, the dream was to be a professional rugby player, but a broken leg at 17 would force him to change course and put his focus elsewhere, ultimately realizing his passion for music. At 18, Croll attended the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), and it wasn’t long before the singer/songwriter began making a name for himself. In addition to winning the national Songwriter of the Year award from Musicians’ Benevolent Fund, he was one of seven students chosen for a one-on-one session with LIPA cofounder, Sir Paul McCartney, an opportunity annually presented to select individuals.

Focusing on his music over the course of the next few years, Croll would release his critically acclaimed debut album, Sweet Disarray, in 2014. With over 69 million streams on Spotify, making his television debut on Jimmy Kimmel, and sharing the stage with major acts including Imagine Dragons, Bastille, and Haim, Croll has a musical résumé that surpasses many. Additionally, tracks from the album can be found in FIFA ‘14 and Grand Theft Auto V, a dream come true for the artist.

“When the track was used by Grand Theft Auto V, that hit the greatest spot for me; it was greater than any movie or TV sync,” Croll shares. “I could die happy knowing I got a song on the greatest video franchise ever.”

Now three years later, Croll has returned with a follow-up release sure to make the artist a household name. The singer/songwriter’s sophomore album, Emerging Adulthood, was released on July 21 via Kobalt Music Recordings and Communion Records and touches on the concept that the possibilities to do what you want are endless. Taking that concept and driving it forward, Emerging Adulthood allowed Croll to have full creative control. He wrote and performed all 10 tracks on the album, even playing a role in production alongside Grammy-winning producer Ben Allen (Animal Collective, Cee-Lo Green, Matt & Kim) in Atlanta’s Milk Money Studios, allowing for the album’s original idea to evolve seamlessly.

“It was a nice feeling having that control, but I was also really open to everything Ben was throwing on to the table too,” Crollshares. “A handful of the tracks changed from their demos into something far greater thanks to him.”

Emerging Adulthood perfectly displays Croll’s unique sound, which draws inspiration from a combination of elements including old-fashioned jazz, vintage rock, and modern
pop. Each track on the album shows a different side of Croll, such as indie pop dream “Bad Boy” and the stunning jazz-influenced track ”Away From Today.” One of the standout tracks off the album is “One of Us,” an all-around, feel-good, pick-me-up jam which turned out to be Croll’s favorite as well, and a track he’s excited for fans to hear.

“For me [“One of Us”] is the heaviest track I’ve made,” he shares. “I love all music, and I try and incorporate all sorts as much as possible. I have a real love for metal, so I guess this track was allowing myself to distort those guitars just a little bit more and push it all a little bit harder.”

Inspired by the artists his family introduced him to at a young age, Croll can typically be found listening to older music like Paul Simon, The Beach Boys, and The Beatles. Croll has previously shared that because of this he has to force himself to keep up to date with today’s popular music. Perhaps that plays a part in why he wasn’t familiar with the recent reformation and change in sound of English pop rock band, Busted.

“I had no idea they reformed, but as long as Charlie is still rocking those ace eyebrows, they’re alright in my books.” While discussing the music scene in the U.K., he also commented on how it compares to the scene in the States. ”I’m not totally plugged into the scene in the States, but it doesn’t seem too different for me,” he says. “The radio set up is a lot different over there, but generally everyone is working their asses off to travel and perform, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Croll is a genuine, down-to-earth soul who looks to connect with fans not just through music, but on a more personal level as well. In fact, that’s the main inspiration and purpose behind the “Dial Dan” hotline, which launched earlier this year. The line acts as a way to have fans contact Croll and share how they relate to his music.

“I was fed up with sitting behind a computer on social media trying to connect with fans, and no matter how many people I connected with, I still felt I didn’t know them and they didn’t know me,” he explains. “That’s when I thought it’d be great to give them a direct line. There’s something quite magical about a phone call, it’s almost a lost art of being put on the spot with someone totally random.”

Though none of Croll’s personal influences had a similar campaign when he was a teenager, he felt compelled to offer the option for his fans. The first week of operation, Croll answered a whopping 248 phone calls, having incredible conversations with those who reached out. It allowed Croll to show fans a more personal side of himself while having the chance to be introduced to people he might not have otherwise been able to speak to.

On the topic of personal matters, Croll discussed his struggle with anxiety, something he’s previously been open about. At it’s worst, Croll’s anxiety made it impossible for him to be in a public setting without feeling sick and couldn’t even take public transportation. While anxiety is something many people deal with in their own ways, Croll shared how he was able to cope with such an indescribable feeling.

“It’s still something I deal with, but I’ve managed to develop a few handy coping mechanisms thanks to support from a great therapist and my family and friends,” he says. “I just had to take a step back for a brief moment and assess what exactly was worrying me and deal with it head on as best as possible. It also had a lot to do with general health and not looking after myself, so a few tweaks there made a huge difference.”

The stigma surrounding mental health is slowly breaking down and Croll hopes the “Dial Dan” campaign will help those who are silently struggling and afraid to open up.

“There’s now a generation who have grown up with social media and now have this feeling of constantly missing out or not leading an extravagant enough life style,” he points out. “It’s something I talk about a lot with fans on the hotline, and generally just talking about it makes a huge difference, but also its reallyimportant to unplug for a while, escape technology even for an hour a day and get outside and socialize.”

For fans looking to escape technology for a few hours, heading out to a show is always a great way to check out new music, interact with other people, and make for an unforgettable night. Although Croll is a solo artist who performs all the instruments on Emerging Adulthood, he works hard to bring a live band with him to create a memorable performance.

“I’ve known the boys in my band for eight years now, and they’re my closest friends and incredibly talented musicians, and they really bring that extra energy live,” he says.

Croll truly pushed his creative boundaries on Emerging Adulthood, tackling personal goals including writing the album in six months and recording it in two. It’s safe to say that Croll will continue to challenge himself with every upcoming release, further exploring his genre-bending sound.

*A version of this interview first ran in the current print issue of Substream Magazine, on stands now and available through our online store!