Following the release of his sophomore EP, Ever Again, Matt Andrews caught up with Louis Croft for the latest instalment of our FOCUS Nottingham feature, to discuss his experience as a rising musician in Nottingham, his take on being an artist in lockdown, and a profusion of musical ambition, which, when the ongoing pandemic subsides, he is set to continue tailing.
‘One of the most prolific artists round here.’ The words of BBC Introducing stalwart Dean Jackson cutting through the airwaves to describe revered twenty-year old indie-folk singer-songwriter Louis Croft, a Nottingham artist devoted to both guitar and sound. Having already established himself as a prominent name in the region, featuring on BBC Introducing’s East Midlands show sixteen times and releasing highly praised 2018 EP, See the Sun on Phlexx Records to an electric reception, Croft entered 2020 prepared for an exciting, chaotic year of musical growth, something upon which an unfortunate and obligatory pause has been forced.
Stripped back, authentic and focussed on lyricism, Croft’s music is a catalogue of ‘soft finger picking’ ballads in which his musical influences (the likes of Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Oasis) are instantly recognisable. Though unable to put his finger on exactly what he draws from such musical divinities, Croft takes joy in discussing the irresistible resonance to be found in the music of his heroes and illuminating exactly how they find themselves creeping into his music, particularly his latest EP Ever Again. ‘The second half of it was massively influenced by Bob Dylan’ Louis acknowledges with a trace of marvel in his voice, and whether it is the combined sound of the acoustic guitar and harmonica (an instrument Croft has recently adopted as a new member of his one-man band) in The World is Sleeping Now or the touching projection of internal turmoil onto complicated allegorical anecdotes in Made of Gold, Croft’s music reveals itself as a reverential nod to the work of Dylan and a handful of other archetypal folk singer-songwriters. Croft is aware of his genre, and is striving to reserve a seat at the crowded table of its greats, wedging himself somewhere between Dylan and Cash.
‘In terms of actual music, I’ve not really changed my sound, it’s always just been me and my acoustic guitar.’ Despite being completely comfortable in his musical style, one element which seems to materialise consistently in Croft’s music is an exploration of two different approaches to production: (1) the aforementioned soft finger picking, lyric driven acoustic soundscapes (see Made of Gold and The World is Sleeping Now) and (2) the more elaborate, full-band sounding ballads, in which Croft records everything but the drums (see Ever Again and Don’t Let it Happen). The young troubadour recognises this variation in style and puts it down to a natural urge to incite some sort of variety in his music: ‘it can get boring, especially when it’s just me and my guitar - it can get really repetitive sometimes, so it’s important that I move through more than one sound. No one wants to go to a gig and watch a guy finger-picking all night.’ Such a disparity in the particulars of Croft’s sound is particularly prominent in Ever Again, a project he views as being ‘split down the middle’ into these two different approaches.
“As a musician it’s time to write and record and practice, to polish up for when gigs do eventually come back.”
Despite current circumstance bringing the entirety of the live music industry to a mandatory stop, the composition of Croft’s independent, bedroom-produced tracks refuses to slow down. Admitting that the lethargy that accompanies current social distancing precautions is ‘doing [his] head in’, Louis spoke about how such a break in the usual regiment of everyday life is a largely positive thing for musicians like himself: ‘as a musician it’s time to write and record and practice, to polish up for when gigs do eventually come back.’ Any sort of dialogue on the topic of COVID-19, whether it be on the news, with family, or with neighbours a garden apart, feels inescapably repetitive and uninteresting, but speaking about it with Croft, under the context of music and its role in the current circumstances, was edifying. Croft is a self-proclaimed music-partisan, in the sense that he is happy to admit ‘it’s the only the thing I really do, it’s the only thing I really enjoy’ and his take on the current role of music is that it takes on the role of a medicine, something to keep people ‘sane’, something to maintain some a branch of normality in such unprecedented times, whether that be through listening or producing. Croft intends to continue contributing to such a musical restoration with an abundance of future single releases, including a track centred on an electric guitar debut.
In spite of his acceptance of the ongoing lockdown, the singer-songwriter doesn’t hide the fact that he misses the performative aspect of his music: ‘gigging’s the whole point of doing music. I mean I love writing, but performing’s where the real excitement is.’ Slipping into a discussion about Nottingham as the city in which Croft has hitherto pursued the majority of his musical development, speaking of notorious Nottingham venues, ones that the musician is no stranger to, was almost nostalgic, a mutual reminiscence on the pleasures of gigging, both from the point of view of performer and that of the audience. Nottingham’s music scene is striving to combat the ongoing uncertainty by continuing virtually. Live streams have been particularly popular in such an effort, something which Croft is proud to have been a part of, putting on virtual gigs for The Bodega and other prominent bodies in the local music scene.
“It’s important that I move through more than one sound… no one wants to go to a gig and watch a guy finger-picking all night.”
Having started the year by supporting Wigan four-piece and breakthrough band, The Lathums, and working closely with Mike Spink on the production of his latest EP, Croft is certainly an exciting new talent with a foot in the proverbial door, and he acknowledged that he is ‘definitely at the start of something’. The next twelve months sees Croft headlining local shows (one of which is currently scheduled for September 4th at The Chameleon), establishing himself in other regions of the country, and continuing with the same intensity when pushing music releases. In spite of the ongoing uncertainty, Croft maintains an impervious determination to develop musically and to continue publicising his talent: ‘you’ve just got to take it as it comes. Me, personally, I’m just gonna keep writing and recording’ – and for that we can only thank him.