After a bit of a break, I’m delighted to crank the Clear-Minded Creative Types series of interviews back into action with one of my favourite songwriters, Dan Willson aka Withered Hand, who is also an artist and DIY gig promoter – not to mention husband and father.
He also happens to be an Edinburgh resident and I’ve seen him at various venues in town, from the small and dingy to the vast and expansive with his recent Queen’s Hall show. He even appeared my telly box in a recent BBC documentary about the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas (Dan became a trending topic on Twitter in the UK due to the US authorities initially refusing his visa).
Please can you tell us who you are and what you are up to at the moment?
My name is Dan Willson. I write songs and perform them under the moniker Withered Hand. I suppose I have been doing this on and off for about 5 years. Before that I used to play guitar in bands and draw a lot. I certainly never expected to be a songwriter, much less a singer, but I mostly like what I get to do right now.
Did you always know what you wanted to do (creatively) or has it been a process of trial and error to get to the point you’re at now? If it’s the latter, how did you decide what to focus on?
As a kid I wanted to be an artist. I guess my parents didn’t realise I needed dissuading. I have always had a clear short term idea of what I want to do creatively, but stagger along with no real plan and right now I’m getting it out there via songwriting and performing songs, I hope it carries on being something I do but maybe in a few years I’ll be doing something else which involves less travelling and hollering.
It was only when I first visited New York in 2009 that the events of ten years ago really hit me in the gut. Seeing the Tiles for America and Staten Island memorials really brought home the personal stories of those directly affected.
My thoughts are with all those who lost someone on this day in 2001.
I went out last night to see friends off on an epic trip round the world (they only return next July, lucky swines!). Another friend who was there found a picture frame in the toilet and insisted we all get our photos taken with it. In the toilet.
The other blokes who were using the toilet for more traditional purposes weren’t too happy about this invasion of their privacy but still, it was a lot of fun, and a bunch of very cool photos resulted (mine being one of the weaker examples but I didn’t want to incriminate everyone else by putting them up online!).
Below are some other photos I took recently, also highly random. One was of a man and his dog who were crossing the bay near where I live on what seemed to be a plank of wood. How bizarre… the others are of the wife and I with some of the cool “Jungle City” animals that are visiting Edinburgh at the moment to raise awareness about endangered species.
Maybe none of this is art that will last through the generations (ha!), but it is a nice reminder that you can find inspiration everywhere if you look hard enough. A lot of us get bogged down in big projects so it’s nice to take a few minutes and just take a photo or write a poem or do something that doesn’t take massive amounts of planning and organisation to complete.
And even though that is in fact an Orangutan above, here’s a nice quote from The Guerilla Art Kit by Keri Smith:
As an individual you can directly impact your environment on a regular basis. You can affect someone’s day or even change the world (one interaction at a time) just by presenting someone with something different than what they might expect. Like a random act of kindness, guerilla art has the potential to create a ripple effect.
The Ditch the Day Job Video Diaries are 20 video diaries I have filmed since I took voluntary redundancy in February 2012 – after ten years working in the Scottish civil service.
The videos also feature footage from a couple of adventures I went on to meet other bloggers and self-employed people from around the world and get their perspectives, including the World Domination Summit in Portland and a trip to Oslo.