Withered Hand is making his mark on SXSW by the power of Twitter

Stamp of approval: Dan Willson was allowed in
Stamp of approval: Dan Willson was allowed in

Flights and hotels are booked for South by Southwest Music; documentary film crews and international media interviews are waiting; four gigs are set up in New York, another two in Los Angeles and San Francisco... And Immigration Officials deny you the visa to enter America.

That's the nightmare that faced Dan Willson, better known as Withered Hand, when he returned from his SXSW fund-raiser in Edinburgh at the start of March. "I came back from the gig, and check my email like I always do. And there was a message telling me my visa application had been rejected. I couldn't go.

"I was resigned when I first heard the news," recalls Willson, "because this was all too good. Then the fans on-line got angry, became optimistic and started up a petition, tweeting the news out... When I saw that I thought 'oh man!' and encouraged it. They wanted to do something to help, and bizarrely it did!"

The story was picked up in local and national media, and other bands pitched in to support the appeal however they could. "I even had my MSP mail me asking if there was anything I needed. Imagine that?"

All of this just increased Willson's resolve to get to Austin and play his music. "Every little note, every message, made me more determined to get there. These people remember my music, it's not just me that wanted to get there, it was people in the UK and Europe, in America, and around the world."

Willson had already made a big investment for this mini-tour of America. The visa application process cost over £2,500 once you add in the cost for an expedited appeal, and then the budget on top of that for flights and accommodation across the continent have to be consider. The decision to appeal (which was successful) was obvious.

At this point, the cliché of "any PR is good PR" springs to mind. Does Willson think that is true? He answers quickly, "you mean would I trade the late nights, constant phone calls, and the sense of the unknown for a quiet week of rest before flying to America? Yes, every time”.

"It's great being known for the visa issues, but I'd rather be known for my music. What I do is niche, but I'm confident that people will find me."


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