OLLIE MCATEER: Head injury is blessing in disguise for Horsham singer

JPCT 130913 S13380410x Rebecca, musician -photo by Steve Cobb
JPCT 130913 S13380410x Rebecca, musician -photo by Steve Cobb

I enjoy my weekly calls from proud parents wanting to thrust their child’s achievement into the media limelight.

It’s common for the kid to know nothing about this phone call. And the thought of mum revealing her chat with the newsdesk at the dinner table that night makes me laugh.

But mums; please don’t be discouraged, we’re counting on you to embarrass your children.

Last week it was Heather Dancer from Littlehaven who contacted me about her daughter Rebecca.

At the age of 19, Rebecca’s opted out of studying English at university to pursue a singing and songwriting career.

It’s a bold move, and one I applaud.

Over the last three years my desk has been swamped with EPs from young musicians keen to chase the same dream.

Competition is stiff.

“I do find it daunting, but I just can’t imagine doing anything else,” Rebecca tells me.

Her jumper is of a punchy hue. She’s sporting an edgy haircut and wearing a hat even though it’s not cold enough to warrant. She already looks like a celebrity.

I expect her to walk with swagger, and brace for bravado. But there’s none of that. She’s timid, and genuine.

Rebecca’s been playing the piano since the age of six. By 11 she was writing songs. But a catastrophic head injury soon followed.

The musician broke her ribs during a boating accident in Ardingly.

She was prescribed medicine to overcome the pain. Unfortunately, the side-effect made Rebecca drowsy and she collapsed at home, smashing her head into the corner of a wall and fracturing her skull.

For more than one year she was forced to contend with the debilitating injury.

She missed out on school, suffered excruciating headaches and was often confined to the house because the strength of daylight was too much to bear.

On her good days, Rebecca would find comfort in music and play the piano.

The injury was a blessing in disguise.

The singer’s since made a solid recovery, but needs to take extra care because she’ll suffer concussions far more easily than you and I.

“I would say I was lucky but some people take years and years to recover,” she said.

“Music has been such a comfort for me, and I’d love to be able to give that same feeling to people.”

Since leaving Brighton College last year all her focus and energy has been channelled into kick-starting her career - playing numerous gigs at venues around the Horsham district.

No X-Factor/Britain’s Got Talent/The Voice for this one, which I’m delighted to hear (no, I’m not a fan).

Her debut gig was in Cowfold’s The Coach House pub, and she’s made appearances in Wabi Horsham, Chameleon bar and the Blue Coconut Club in Pulborough.

Rebecca describes her music as simplistic. She draws inspiration from a variety of artists including Michael Jackson and Australian singer-songwriter Missy Higgins.

“My music is very personal and emotional, and I love sharing that with people. It means so much when someone comes up to me after a gig and says it moved them.”

Before Rebecca left my office last Friday she handed me her EP ‘Swings and Roundabouts’ which joined the collection on my desk.

I listened to her song ‘Bittersweet’ 11 times and annoyed colleagues with my singing.

She has enormous talent.

On Sunday (September 22) the young singer is performing at the Komedia in Brighton with proceeds from ticket sales going to the brain injury charity Headway.

For more information visit www.rebeccadancer.co.uk