Dan Croll's debut disc Sweet Disarray, released on Capitol Records just last week, is brimming with fun, from its frothy folk-tronica ditties like "From Nowhere" to more tropical-tinged fare like "Compliment Your Soul."
It's also a truly homemade confection, declares the former student of the Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts who was awarded the opportunity to work with LIPA's founder, Sir Paul McCartney.
"Half of my album was recorded in my flat," says the 23-year-old Brit, "and half in an old school gym around the corner."
Croll says he's used to puttering around the house, which is where he was grounded for a full year, hobbled by a full leg cast.
Although he may look like the sensitive singer/songwriter type on the Sweet Disarray cover — complete with carefully windswept hair, horn-rimmed spectacles, and button-down dress shirt that practically screams hipster — Croll is no shrinking violet. In fact, he broke his leg while playing semi-professional rugby, just like his father before him. And until his tragic accident, that's where he thought his life was headed.
"I was one of the backs, more of the faster, more agile types than the forwards," says the musician, who'd imagined the position was less dangerously confrontational.
Still, the game proved violent enough for him on the fateful day his unprotected shin collided with an opposing player's during a tournament.
"He just cracked straight through my shin, and it had broken right through," he recalls. "It was a bit of a painful one, really."
Oddly enough, no one would believe the athlete was injured at first. The bone had realigned itself, and the adrenaline in his system started muting the pain.
"I remember sitting there in front of my dad, the coach, and the ambulance people, and them looking at my leg and going 'No, it looks fine!' And I was going, 'No, definitely it's broken. I can feel it.' But my dad kept going to the fast-food line at the side of the pitch, asking, 'Do you want a burger?' He was just having a laugh about it."
He couldn't climb the stairs at his parents' house, so his bedroom had to be moved downstairs where a piano and some guitars were gathering dust.
Croll already knew how to play those instruments, just not very well. So with all that down time, he began mastering them, along with bass and drums.
"So I definitely started to rediscover this love for music," Croll explains, "until I really wanted to make something out of it. And over the course of a year, I studied on those instruments every day until I was writing my own songs for the first time."
Over time, Croll also came to grips with the cold, harsh reality that his sports career was basically finished. "It was a big confidence knock," he admits, "and I decided to call it a day."
As he would soon discover, music could fill the void nicely. After all, it's not everyone who gets to work alongside a former Beatle and land a major-label contract.
"I'd had a musical upbringing that I'd always appreciated," says Croll. "I just didn't think about it because I'd grown up with it."