My Festival: Withered Hand

The Edinburgh-based singer-songwriter on new songs of hope and recovery, being a tourist in your own town, and unlikely childhood triumphs

There are thousands of shows in Edinburgh this month. Please explain why we should come and see yours.

Don’t be fooled by the name – my songs might break your heart AND stick it back together again. Whether you’re visiting from afar or are curious about the Scottish alternative music scene, come along, take a chance and let us raise your spirits. A special full-band Withered Hand show has been a fixture of the Festival since 2008 and it is always a life-affirming and joyous affair. Hometown shows attract a diverse, enthusiastic and loyal crowd, and for many local music lovers, the festival isn’t complete without a Withered Hand show. Come and join us for a unique night of song, banter and connection.

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What will we learn from your show that we didn’t know before?

Withered Hand PIC: Jannica HoneyWithered Hand PIC: Jannica Honey
Withered Hand PIC: Jannica Honey

This year was a big one for us, we released the long-awaited third album How To Love in April, so the show will celebrate that, alongside classics from our back catalogue.

Who or what was the biggest inspiration for your show?

My recent songwriting and new album reflect a renewed creativity and mental health recovery. I’ve been emerging from a dark time, and playing for the festival audience with a fantastic band of old friends, a quiver full of new songs and a critically acclaimed new album honours and celebrates that recovery.

What’s the best review you’ve ever had, and the worst?

Withered Hand PIC: Ian WestWithered Hand PIC: Ian West
Withered Hand PIC: Ian West

Reviews come and go, best digested with a healthy pinch of salt. Rolling Stone USA ran a stellar review after the re-release of my first LP in the States and more recently the New Yorker recommended the new album, which was great. On the flipside, the closest I have come to a roasting was someone at the Independent years ago who called me a ‘simpering manchild’ during a less complimentary review! That’ll teach me.

Who or what are you most excited about seeing this year?

Always the faces in the crowd at our show. But I’m also excited to see Adrian Bliss. The surreal, bittersweet sense of humour resonates with me.

Who do you most like spending time with in Edinburgh?

My wife and two grown-up children, I love the city and I love exploring it with them – there is always more to discover. It’s good to remember to be a tourist in your own town.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

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I was primary school sack-race champion in 1983, ’84 AND ’85. Three years ago I stopped drinking alcohol. I haven’t won a sack-race for over 35 years.

What’s the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night?

On a good day? Thank my lucky stars.

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Thanks for the interview! We’d like to buy you a drink. Where are we going and what are we drinking?

Uplands Roast, a little cabin on the Meadows with a big heart. One of my favourite coffee and hot chocolate haunts. Mine’s a vegan hot chocolate with all the toppings, please!

Dan Willson, aka Withered Hand, plays a full-band show at Summerhall on 24 August, 7pm.

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