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Inspiration is often spoken of in terms of altitude, but for some, like Withered Hand’s Dan Willson, a little help is needed to even find the foot of the mountain to climb. Painfully shy and anxious through childhood that his voice was too high, Willson didn’t start singing until his late twenties. By then, he was married and living in Edinburgh, Scotland, a listless visual artist and rock tinkerer who was afraid of microphones. He faced down this fear as the lead shouter in a shortlived artrock outfit with his best friend, acquiring a reputation for his way with words. Then, when his children were born, like many new parents, he took time out, worked hard and seriously considered selling his electric guitars and concentrating on art as a future creative outlet. Rather than let this happen, his wife and friends chipped in and bought him an acoustic guitar for his 30th birthday, a gesture that inadvertently led to a huge change in his writing approach. Willson says, “It’s a very quiet guitar, not quite full size, very light tone, so I can sing over it without shouting too much. I started writing these very simple quiet songs concerned with communicating truths. Songs I could play at home without waking the children." The nascent Withered Hand gently slipped into existence.

Just as Willson was finding his footing as a songwriter, he lost a close friend, Paul. “He was an artist, a real dreamer. We had kids at almost the exact same time so we spent a lot of time together, considering our new roles in life and the possible endgame for certain feelings and ambitions. He was always telling me I could do things, and I always doubted and argued against him why I couldn’t do stuff, especially with my music. I was a put-it-all-off-until-tomorrow guy before he died." The first ever