Dandy shares challenges being disabled musician

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Alternative pop musician Dandy sings from the heart, after going through an abusive relationship she can relate to those going through difficult and traumatic times, especially disabled people under the benefits system.

The 28-year-old from Shropshire addresses the issue in the lead single from her debut album, The Cycle, which includes the lyrics: “When she’s at the assessment / She holds her pride / As they ask why she hasn’t / Pursued suicide,” putting herself in the shoes of characters such as Mary.

Speaking to The Guardian Dandy said: “Anger is an emotion that I had to learn how to feel, and I had to learn how to channel artistically or productively. I think that’s a huge problem for a lot of people, and I think particularly disabled people.”

Dandy is fed up being labelled as a queer, disabled woman. Quite rightly she sees herself as a person who doesn’t need to be filed in any category.

“We feel we don’t have a right to be as angry as we should be, that we need to sit back and be the good disabled people who are really thankful for the handouts,” she explains. “I feel so much frustration about that, because all of the disabled people I know are fantastic, incredible people. We need them: they add so much vibrancy to the world, and we’re so often reduced to being a so-called ‘burden’.”

The future looks bright for Dandy after she was noticed by BBC Introducing, could she become the first popular musician to land a deal with a major record label?

A study conducted by Attitude Is Everything revealed two-thirds of disabled musicians have sacrificed their ambitions to perform live to protect their health or wellbeing; 70 per cent have not disclosed their condition because they are concerned with the stigma associated with disability in the workplace.

AIE’s artist development manager Rich Legate said: “Artists and musicians with chronic illnesses are frequently met with attitudinal barriers, which stem from a lack of understanding about what it is actually like to manage a health condition day in, day out.

They do not see the planning, the rest, the wellbeing tactics.”

Dandy was diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) in 2018, the news sparked fire in her determination to change her life around and start living it to the full after spending 18 months stuck in a bed.

“I would honestly say that I probably would have gone through the rest of my life really struggling with my confidence if I hadn’t become disabled,” she told The Guardian. “I had to become confident in a wheelchair, with people staring at me and interrogating me when I’m trying to buy bog roll.”

Dandy’s condition proved its own problem when she was working on The Cycle.

“Another thing my ME has caused is I’ve lost my rhythm, and I didn’t believe that that was a thing that you could lose,” Dandy said. “I thought that was an innate thing that either you had or you didn’t, but mine is just terrible.”

In 2019 a study by AIE found a number of venues did not provide sufficient access and facilities for disabled musicians, a point which has made Dandy’s career even more challenging.

“We can’t get into studios, we can’t get into venues, we can’t get into all of these places that we need to to produce our music,” she explained.

“I think labels perceive it as a risk – and again, there’s no other examples of it.

“I realised how incredibly useful [anger] is, and how many people need to hear that. I hope people listen to [the album], and realise that those are emotions they’re allowed to have when terrible things happen to them.”

The Cycle by Dandy is available now.