Rugby injury steers Dan Croll to music 

click to enlarge Dan Croll
  • Genre-jumping British artist Dan Croll plays the Great American Music Hall this week.
On the cover of his debut disc, “Sweet Disarray,” bespectacled, dress-shirted British artist Dan Croll, 23, resembles your typical sensitive singer-songwriter, the kind who could cry in front of his girlfriend and then compose a delicate ballad about it. His folktronica material — like “Home,” “In/Out” and “Compliment Your Soul” — is thoughtful and beautifully conceived. His pedigree includes graduating from the Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts after working with its founder, Sir Paul McCartney. Yet he has a once-promising career in rugby to thank for his current musical success.

How did you get into rugby? My dad used to play, at quite a high level. And at the high school and college that I went to, they were mainly rugby schools. So it just progressed from there.

So what was it like in the scrum? Oh, my position wasn’t in the scrum. I was one of the backs — more of the faster, agile types than the forwards in the scrum. I was mainly employed to do the running and the kicking and the tackling, really.

Still, you wound up getting seriously injured? Yes. It was a big rugby tournament, the final match, and I was going clean for the score. I just had one guy to beat. But he illegally stuck his leg out to trip me up, and he was wearing shin pads but unfortunately I wasn’t. So he just cracked straight through my shin.

You swore it was broken. But no one believed you at first? I remember my dad, the coach and the ambulance people all looking at my leg and going, “Oh, it looks fine.” And I was going, “No, it’s definitely broken. I can feel it.” But my dad kept going to the fast-food line at the side of the pitch, asking, “Hey, do you want a burger?” He was having a laugh about it!

That must have been horrible — sensing in an instant that your sports career was probably over. I came to grips with it quite quickly. I was out for about a year in a full leg cast, from my groin to my toes. And I’d had a musical upbringing, but I didn’t really think about it until we had to move my whole bedroom downstairs to the dining room, where there was a piano and guitars.

And you already knew how to play them, plus bass and drums? Yeah. But only to a certain level. But with all this time on my hands, I practiced on them every day and improved my technique. That’s when I started writing my own songs — I had never done that before.


Dan Croll

Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., S.F.

When: 9 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $16

Contact: (415) 885-0750,

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Tom Lanham

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