When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19, but guests are advised to arrive at 6:30 p.m. for refreshments and cafe seating
Where: Pruis Hall
Some artists establish a name for themselves through the work they share with the world, but others already have a name that comes with a reputation before their careers even begin.
A.J. Croce, son of Jim Croce, is one artist who has worked to create his own identity in the music world that is not defined by his father.
“Throughout my 25-year career, whichever album you’ve heard will sway you one way or another about my music,” A.J. Croce said. “But, if you know nothing about me except that my father was a singer-songwriter, then you really don’t know anything about me at all.”
Although Croce hopes people know him for his work, he still acknowledges that his father was a great artist.
At 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19 Croce will perform “Croce plays Croce” in Pruis Hall as a part of the “Coffee & Cabernet” series, where 15 “internationally renowned and award-winning artists” will perform throughout the year. The show will include works from both him and his father.
“The ‘Coffee & Cabernet’ series is an annual series presented at Pruis Hall,” said Kristi Chambers, the assistant director of marketing and communications for Emens Auditorium. “This series presents an intimate atmosphere where guests can enjoy a selection of wine and [a] coffee bar in an up-close and personal setting with these artists.”
Croce grew up listening to his father’s albums and those his father listened to, including Jimmy Reed and Sam Cooke.
Croce began playing the piano at age four as an outlet to avoid the difficulties in his life because he said he has “never found anything more healing than playing music.”
At 18, Croce went on the road for the first time with american pianist Floyd Dixon, who Croce said “took him under his wing” and gave him the kick-start he needed.
“It’s been a lifetime of music, and there have been so many people who have been inspiring,” Croce said. “There were also people who weren’t famous that inspired me — people I played with who have given me good advice as a young musician [and] a lot of people many have never heard of.”
Croce now has had more than 18 songs in the Top 20 that range in all different styles of music.
“Name the genre of music, and I’ve written in it,” Croce said. “What I do is soulful music, energetic.
“I try to write my music to be timeless. [If] there is a date to a specific reference [or if] there is a type of music or instrument that leads you to think of one time period, I change it.”
In August, Croce released his new album, “Just Like Medicine,” which he said was a “complicated” album.
“There was a lot going on during the time I was writing [‘Just Like Medicine’],” Croce said. “I was moving from California to Tennessee, and I really had mixed feelings about it.
“I felt I had lost [the] connection with the people in my life from all the traveling I have done in 28 years,” Croce said. “I had a million acquaintances, but not many friends, which hit me hard.”
With his upcoming concert, Croce said he hopes to transport guests away from the struggles of their everyday lives and entertain them.
“People are usually surprised because not many people play the piano the way I do,” Croce said. “They’ve never heard such a diverse combination of musical concepts thrown together into one piece. I’ve spent my life studying countless genres and subgenres and working to be the best I can be as a pianist.”
Currently, Croce is working on a large collaboration project he said may be done this winter.
“I always have different ideas,” Croce said. “When you’re an independent artist without the backing of a large record label, the ideas behind an album are so much more critical… You need a movie trailer that sells the story. Your first single has to lead to the rest of the story within the album.”
Beyond creating new albums, Croce said he hopes to just keep performing and entertaining people.
“I didn’t do this to be famous,” Croce said. “I did this to be the best I can be. If people love [my work], it makes me really happy, but I’m doing it because I love it, not for the fame, money or a pat on the back.”