A.J. Croce has always been a music seeker, aligning himself with talented producers, songwriters and musicians like T-Bone Burnett, Cowboy Jack Clement, Allen Toussaint and Leon Russell. However, the Nashville-based artist, presenting Croce Plays Croce at Levitt Pavilion in Dayton on Thursday, Sept. 6, was a well-established artist before he fully embraced the music of his late father Jim Croce.
“Playing my dad’s stuff is very emotional and the songs are really great,” Croce said. “During these shows, people really see a connection between his music and mine. I play his stuff and my stuff and then the things that really connect us. I grew up with his record collection so I was more influenced by the things he was influenced by than by his music. It’s a really fun show. I think people will be surprised how energetic it is because we put it all in and we have so much fun doing it. It really comes off and it becomes infectious.”
Croce’s latest single is a cover of his dad’s hit, “I Got a Name,” which premiered on Billboard.com on Aug. 24. The song, written by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel, was released a few months after the singer’s death. The new version was recorded for a Goodyear television commercial featuring Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Later this year, Croce will be recording the follow-up to his soul-infused 2017 album, “Just Like Medicine,” with Brooklyn-based afropop act, Antibalas.
“It’s something I’ve sort of been working on in my spare time for a few years,” Croce said. “I was trying to find good collaborators and Antibalas sort of came into the picture. They’re part of the Daptone family. I’ve wanted to connect with those folks for a long time because they’re so versatile. They can go all over the map, musically, and it’s always interesting.”
Croce has been an eclectic artist through the years, working in jazz, blues, R&B and folk, but this could be the most extreme yet.
“I initially thought I’d be stretching with this album, but I’m not trying to be anything I’m not,” he said. “I’m just playing myself and surrounding myself with different folks. The first demo we did was so much fun. We had such a great time and we knew it could work.
“You definitely hear me in the composition and the music and you hear them,” he added. “We each have our identity and it seems to mold together really well. What would seem like it was outside the box is something that’s very much a part of me.”