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By Request – AJ Croce’s New Rock Album Debuts At #2 On Billboard


Photo credit: Tim West

“I’m not going to miss the pandemic; I’m going to miss the lockdown.

Spoken like a true introvert and yet with the simplest of commonality. AJ Croce’s recently released rock album, By Request, debuted on Billboard at number two. Not bad for inspiration during quarantine.

“I found a lot of time playing Chopin, and practicing languages I had never had time to before.” AJ is the son of Jim Croce. His living style is simplistic/modern with splashes of music and culture. He only drinks coffee from a coffee press (good chap) and collects obscure, personal, art. 

Photo credit: Tim West

After the death of AJ’s father, Jim Croce, AJ lost his vision when he was four through a series of trauma and physical abuse caused by his mother’s boyfriend. AJ resided in the hospital for six months and only regained sight back in his left eye. The other eye sees periphery as primary sight. In the interview he meekly joked calling his condition the “Sliver of Sight”. 

In the hospital, AJ, age five, began to see the world through a different lens.  AJ’s humble countenance continued, “there was trauma…Throughout all of our lives there’s a lot of struggle. But, it’s how we deal with it through humor and forgiveness.” 

Piano became AJ’s focus as he gravitated towards greats such as Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder. His first paid gig was a wedding when he was 12, rate: $20.  Little did AJ know that his first tour would be with his first musical heroes. 

 He loved Soul, R&B, ELO, Elton John, McCartney, Stones.

“My father’s record collection was amazing. I would go through and pull records randomly. Didn’t matter if it was Otis Redding, Sam Cooke or Joni Mitchel, Fats Waller, Bessie Smith, Mississippi John Hurl… the ones AJ liked went into the pile to the left and he has since whittled is record collection down to around 5000.

Photo credit: Tim West

Floyd Dixon mentored AJ in LA when he was 16. “Taught me the basics in entertainment in LA. Set length, dress up for the audience, get paid in cash.” He introduced AJ to Mae Axton, writer of “Heartbreak Hotel.” Mae became a fan of AJ and quickly flew him to Tennessee so she could introduce AJ to Cowboy Jack Clement. A 17-year-old AJ brushed shoulders with Jerry Lee Lewis in the hall as Elvis’ band chatted him up in the green room of Cowboy’s studio. “Cowboy had an open-door policy. Pot of chili on the stove at all hours.”  Thus, began AJ’s deep connection with Music City. 

AJ dropped out of high school when he was 18 to play on the road with BB King before he got his first record deal at 19. He started playing with Taj Mahal and right after his record dropped was on the road with Ray Charles, Aretha, Neville Brothers and a slew of other legends.

“I had always felt like an outsider, Because of my father, my vision… because of the experiences I had. At that point I realized it was a unique and honest faucet of who I am, it was part of my identity. Embracing being unique and doing things the way that makes me feel good is the best that I can do. I was alright with not being embraced by mainstream….” Says the man-boy who was playing with the biggest artists of all time. 

Photo credit: Tim West

AJ familiarly speaks of his first albums as “holding his influences on his sleeve”. But he has more recently taken a liking to film and TV projects. “The beauty about writing for a film is you write it and then it’s done. With an album, if a song becomes popular, you sing that song for the rest of your life. That’s acting. Sometimes you reinvent that and it’s not okay with the audience. Film and TV, you write it and let it go.”  

Business came naturally to AJ. He bought his masters back from BMG and started his own publishing company in 1992 along with his own indie label. 

His motto: “The less you pay attention, the greater the cost. The more you pay.” My mind is officially blown. 

He moved back to Nashville in 2008 to write and spend more time at home with his wife and two kids. After his son graduated, and they decided to stay in Nashville permanently, AJ’s wife, Marlow, passed unexpectedly from a heart complication. AJ found himself in a “dirge”. His muse for years was gone. Even the happy songs were sad songs.  

He couldn’t play for months in order to heal. Fortunately, AJ has emerged more at ease with himself and the world these days. He has no desire for drama and doesn’t engage. 

Coming out of the 2020 madness, AJ released an album that just debuted at number 2 on Billboard. 

Photo credit: Tim West

Currently AJ is producing a scripted feature film with Atlas of the Dark Knight series American Hustle. And he’s composing music and co-producing several documentaries. He lit up with excitement when talking of working on a doc about Leon Redbone.

AJ says he feels it necessary to give every project his direct attention so “everyone feels positive and engaged. It’s very natural, don’t be an assh*le. Treat people the way they want to be treated.” In the collaborative aspect of film, it’s okay to have differences. People come and go out of their roles the whole time so, “Collaborative aspect is necessary. If it’s too smooth, it’s not creative.” 

Because, like music, every project “develops at different speeds and tempos” …

Photo credit: Tim West

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*Featured photo credit: Tim West


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