It has been almost 10 years since Dan Croll, a then aspiring singer-songwriter in his early 20s, got the chance to take tips from one Sir Paul McCartney.
For reasons good and bad, the experience has never left him, and so inspires the first track – the familiarly titled Yesterday, an ode to opportunities missed during a mentoring session with The Beatles legend – from his new album.
Originally from Liverpool, now living in LA, the musician approached the release to the record, titled Grand Plan, in a slightly unorthodox way, putting out singles in pairs in advance to make the majority of the tracks available ahead of the full physical release.
The album chronicles Croll’s first year in La La Land with 12 tracks, one for each month, written after taking a leap of faith and buying a one-way ticket to make the move 5,000 miles across the planet.
And the story starts with Yesterday.
“My experience with Paul McCartney was incredible, but it’s something that has always stuck in my brain,” Croll tells Sky News on a Zoom call from LA.
“But the problem was, the night before I ended up having a hellish night in London with a gig. I missed the last train home and had to get the night bus from London to Liverpool. I think I ended up getting back at like 7am, feeling awful, stressed, gross… and I was meeting Paul McCartney at, like, 8am.
“I had to go from a night bus straight into this one-on-one with Sir Paul McCartney and I was just on the backfoot throughout the whole thing, and it went like that.” He snaps his fingers. “It was over before it started. Even though it was obviously amazing to be in a room with him, I was so frustrated I probably didn’t make the most of it.
“This was so long ago and it’s still in my brain. So I thought, with this move to LA and idea of starting afresh, I kind of felt I should address those feelings and maybe start this album off by kind of apologising.
“He was obviously amazing about it, he was the loveliest guy ever, but… I just want things to be the best, [I’m a] little bit of a perfectionist, and so the idea that it could have been better kind of haunted me.”
The session happened while Croll was studying at the LiverpooI Institute for Performing Arts. Winning the national songwriter of the year award from the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund, he was picked to have a one-to-one with Sir Paul, one of the institution’s founders.
Did his mentor impart any words of wisdom?
“I actually took one of his harmony ideas, so… I should probably have given him some credit for that.”
Now 30, with two albums already under his belt and the third out this week, Croll says he was looking to do things differently this time round.
“I felt a little bit burned out by the traditional way of releasing music,” he says. “It’s such a long, sustained [process], it’s overly drawn out, I think. You have this, like, 12-month campaign where you’re only releasing maybe two singles, four months apart, and then the album at the end of the year.
“There’s a lot of dead time. So we just wanted to speed it up.”
The decision didn’t come as a result of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, says Croll. “But I think actually it works even better in lockdown because we’re consuming even more now that we’re at home so much.”
Is he worried releasing so many tracks in advance could mean fans are less likely to want the album at the end of it?
“It’s been a different experience and it’s been a welcome experience away from the normal way of doing it,” Croll says.
“Maybe in a way, it’s taking away from the end product of like, the feeling of getting an album and discovering new tracks for yourself, but I think we’ve probably seen trends in music that have shown albums have started to kind of drop slightly, you know, and it’s become more about this regular release of content. I think it does the same job, really.
“I prefer it this way personally… It’s a bit more exciting for me as the artist, just to not have to sit for months between songs. For me, it’s just been exciting to see people engaged more often and listening to the music.
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“I also find that when [an] album is put out, I do think that naturally certain songs are overlooked. You have those kind of stronger, maybe more radio-friendly, single-friendly songs that stand out.
“[Fans] are going to get to know these songs better than if they heard the album in its entirety way further down the line in one go. So I think it’s more digestible, I guess.”
LA is a lot harder to make a living in as a musician than Liverpool, says Croll, but he was up for the challenge.
“I just needed a bit of an adventure… I’ve never done anything like it in my life, but I just went with it.”
And who knows? Maybe Sir Paul will get to hear his Yesterday.
“This is what I was hoping,” he says. “I thought if I at least write it in a way that’s very direct and kind of like a letter to him, you never know.”
Grand Plan, by Dan Croll, is released through Communion Records now