Dan Croll knew he had to make a change.
So the English songwriter did something previously unthinkable - he upped sticks and moved, crossing the Atlantic in the process.
Now ensconced in Los Angeles, he set down some roots in the city, allowing its gilded pop history to intertwine with his own unique musicality.
New album 'Grand Plan' is very much informed by this change, both by the challenges he faced and the opportunities it opened up.
A songwriter of real depth, Dan Croll broke down a few key albums for our latest Foundations.
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James Taylor – 'Greatest Hits'
This album has been played in the car for every family journey for as long as I can remember, no trip was complete without it. As a kid I’d be belting along from the back seat, and I’d probably say this was my first introduction to harmony, especially tracks like 'In My Mind I’m Going To Carolina' and 'You’ve Got A Friend'.
Even now I still reference back to this album in the studio, for my latest album I found myself referencing back to some of the drums sounds, especially the drums on 'Country Road'.
This was my gateway to James Taylor, and still consider him one of my greatest influences now. I’ve gained even more respect for him in the past few years after rediscovering my love for his work and entering the dark past he has. It all goes to show the perseverance and talent he had to make it through and unstable upbringing and substance abuse and still produce these incredible songs.
I’d also add that James Taylor was one of the handful of Laurel Canyon artists that made me cross the pond and head to Los Angeles.
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Paul McCartney – 'Paul McCartney II'
It was always going to be hard not to put any Paul McCartney, Beatles, or Wings album on this list, but I think this one holds a very special spot for me. Other albums of his definitely showcase his song writing mastery, but there’s something about the production and genre crossovers of this album that make me keep coming back to it.
I really discovered this album when I was 18, I’d been sent some possible sync/jingle work to create a track for a home improvement company and as the main reference they wanted it to sound like 'Coming Up'. I never got the track in the end, but after listening to that reference track and then going through the rest of the album I was hooked to it all.
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The Beach Boys – 'Pet Sounds'
While James Taylor may have introduced me to harmony, it was really the beach boys who showed me how far that can be pushed. I remember being even more blown away when a friend introduced me to some of the a capella tapes from 'God Only Knows' and 'Wouldn’t It Be Nice'.
Despite those two huge songs on this record, I still feel my favourite track is 'Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)', there’s something so beautiful and understated about that song that really stands out to me.
Like James Taylor, they were also another huge influence in the move to California. I hoped some California sun might inspire some Beach Boys sounds.
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Toe - 'The Book About My Idle Plot On A Vague Anxiety'
A bit of a wild card compared to the albums above, and whilst it’s not a commercial classic, it’s been such a huge inspiration to me. I remember being in my late teens when I heard this record, at first I didn’t know it was an instrumental album, I was patiently waiting for vocals to come in, and by the second or third song I found myself hoping that they wouldn’t.
There was something so beautiful about the two guitars countering each other, providing all of the melodies you needed. This style of guitar had a big impact on my songwriting process, I think guitar was something that was always overlooked, and I felt melody only ever came from vocals, but this taught me to put more effort in to the way guitars are carried in songs and can have so much influence to the listener.
Kashikura Takashi is still one of my favorite drummers, and this is the album I feel really showcases his style, if feels so effortless yet complex at the same time.
After listening to a song from this album its not long before I find myself down a YouTube rabbit hole watching them live, highly recommended!
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Sigur Ros – 'Takk'
Last week I was going through a bit of a rough patch mentally, and for the first time in a long time I went for a walk and just listened to music. I wanted something calming, and I suddenly though of Sigur Ros, and realised how long its been since I heard this album.
Whilst I was walking and listening it brought back such clear memories of being an anxious teen and using this as a coping tool, the way this album is able to transport me to a calming place is incredible. It also brought back amazing memories of seeing them live on my 18th birthday in Spain with my best mates, a show that really opened my eyes to pursuing a career in music.
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Dan Croll's new album 'Grand Plan' is out now.
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