Musician's US dream sent south by border red tape

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IT was supposed to be the crowning moment of his musical career.

&#149 Dan Wilson hopes he'll still make it to South by South-West

But immigration red tape may have put paid to an Edinburgh singer-songwriter's appearance at one of the world's biggest music festivals because he can't prove he is good enough.

Slateford-based Dan Wilson, who plays under the name Withered Hand, was invited to play at the prestigious South by South-West (SXSW) festival in Texas and was due to fly out at the weekend.

However, US officials have put the brakes on his working visa application, claiming he needs to provide more proof he is an artist of "exceptional quality".

This is despite already being signed to an American label, receiving backing from the Scottish Arts Council and the BBC, and the fact a host of other Scottish bands have had no problems obtaining permission to work there.

His acoustic folk music has won praise from critics across the country. But the 36-year-old said the decision, if it stands, will "set me back two years".

It will also make the release of his album in the US less significant, as he won't be there to promote it.

He told the Evening News: "It costs a lot of money to go to these events. I've managed to get help from the Scottish Arts Council, but all my flights are booked and I've invested scores of hours of my time.

"This is my living, it's what I do, and I had kept March clear so I could go. Now I don't know what's going to happen."

While he had admired the SXSW, he had never originally harboured ambitions of going.

"I was happy here, and a bit sceptical about putting so much money into going to an event where so many others are.

"But when I got approached to play I began to think perhaps everything was coming into place, and this was my chance."

The complex visa system has disadvantaged the singer. Bands are considered in a different category from solo artists, making it trickier to secure permission.

"It could just be down to a pedantic immigration officer, I know I'm not the only one in this position," he said.

"I've done everything as I was supposed to."

It isn't only his SXSW appearances at risk. His American label has organised gigs in New York and San Francisco as it attempts to boost his profile.

"I do have a lot of people working on it and I really hope it can be sorted out," he said.

"I'm supposed to be filmed for a BBC documentary of the festival so they are doing their bit. The festival itself is limited in what it can do."

He added: "What is even more ironic is one of my songs features in a film being premiered at the festival, so my song will make it there, but I may not."