Q & A: WE TALK SHAKESPEARE, KATE BUSH AND POETRY WITH RAVEN SHELLEY




PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELF FOR US WHO ARE NOT FAMILIAR WITH YOU AND YOUR MUSIC AND TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF.


I’m Raven Shelley, conscious creator of music and casual creator of chaos. I write ethereal alt//indie-folk songs, with and emphasis on poetic lyrics.


TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR NEW ALBUM OR SINGLE? It’s my first single! It’s called ‘Sink in Solitude’.


It’s a song about time passing by without achievement, and it has a very special place in my heart because I still remember the time when I was writing it. It was one wet afternoon in Manchester; I’d woken up late, having been out the night before, and was annoyed with myself for wasting most of the day. It was winter, and, as usual, it was raining. The light was flat and dull, and I stood looking down at the grey urban street, at the litter, the sludgy brown leaves and skeleton trees, at the other houses, wondering about the individual stories and tragedies that might be unfolding just metres away.


I’d been reading Shakespeare’s Richard II, and a lot of Shelley’s poetry, so many lines from the song are influenced by these two great writers. It’s a song I wrote to myself, trying to rouse myself to get on and do something, rather than wasting the time that I have been given. Cheery stuff! But I do think that it’s quite a universal human feeling, in that everyone has felt like that at some point. Whenever I listen back to ‘Sink in Solitude’ I remember that time very clearly.


WHAT INSPIRED THE ALBUM OR SINGLE?


As I’ve said above, it was a feeling that I was wasting time, and that I knew it, but wasn’t doing anything to change it. I think the texts I was reading also had a big impact. Like I said, I was reading Richard II, and was struck by its beauty and eloquence. I was especially enamored with Richard’s final soliloquy. Shortly before he is murdered, having lost everything, he reflects, “Thus play I, in one person, many people,/And none contented”. Later, he laments “I wasted time, and now doth Time waste me”. These lines affected me deeply and were the spark for ‘Sink in Solitude’. I realised that just as Richard’s “vain weak nails” are not able to “tear a passage through the flinty ribs” of his “ragged prison walls”, one cannot just sit around waiting to find some truth and purpose, and just “Claw at the walls/And sink in solitude”.


In addition to Shelley’s poetry, I was re-reading his biography, The Pursuit, by Richard Holmes. Shortly before drowning in the Gulf of Spezia, Shelley – always prone to hallucinations – supposedly encountered a vision of himself whilst walking on the terrace of his house. This figure asked him “How long do you mean to be content?” This also deeply affected me, as I have always feared becoming too content and therefore complacent. This is the origin of the line “How long are you going to be content?” in my song. And I started asking myself what was I waiting for? If not now, when?


CAN YOU SUM UP THE ALBUM IN A FEW WORDS?


Ethereal, intense, calming.


WHAT RECORD CHANGED YOUR LIFE AND WHY?


Good question! There’s a few to choose from there, and it’s hard to pick. I know that when I first heard ‘Exile on Main St.’ I was stunned by it, and I thought “I want to do that”. I think it’s partly the story behind it that I love, that “paradise of exiles” vibe of recording an album by night in the basement of a French villa. It sounds like a gloriously messy musical chaos. Right up my street!


DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE MUSIC VIDEO FILMED BY YOUR BAND OR ANOTHER ARTIST?


I really like a lot of Kate Bush music videos, her choreography is great, and it makes her visual image very unique. It would probably be a toss up between ‘Babushka’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’.


WHAT WOULD WE FIND YOU DOING WHEN YOU'RE NOT MAKING MUSIC?


I work in a pub, but when I’m not doing that (or pretending to be an adult), I’m almost always doing something creative.


I make sterling silver jewelry, which is great because I can sit focusing on the one piece in front of me, but I still almost always have music playing, or a podcast or something, which means I get to listen to music and learn plenty of new things; it gives my mind a break but still allows me to think about stuff too, if that makes sense.


Otherwise, I read a lot, and try to read some poetry every day. That’s one of the main influences for my music; I tend to read with a notebook and pencil in hand. That way, if something I read kickstarts an idea, or I particularly like a phrase or word, I can underline it/write it down, and either run with it right then and there or come back to it later on. I have plenty of songs which are based on books that I’ve read too. I also write quite a bit, whether that’s songs or thoughts or poems, and I have a few longer projects on the go as well.


I walk frequently; walking is a great way of clearing your head, and I find that the rhythm helps with creating music and poetry. It’s a great healer; just you, clean air, quiet. It’s a bit like yoga which I do as well; I love being able to focus on my breath, it forces you to quieten your mind, to reset. It’s also useful for singing, because it teaches you how to control your breath and therefore you have more flexibility with how you pull words about in a line.


DO YOU GET NERVOUS PERFORMING LIVE, IF SO HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THAT?


I used to much more than I do now. It still happens, especially if I’m playing somewhere new, but I tend to just breathe, and take a moment to focus in on myself, to inhabit Raven Shelley. Then I just get up there and do it. And by the second or third song usually the nerves have gone and I’m enjoying it.


If it’s proving especially difficult to get into the right mindset, I give myself a stern talking to, along the lines of: “Well you’ve got two options. One is chickening out, grabbing your guitar and slinking out the side door. But you’re not a slinker, and that really isn’t an option because you will regret it forever and be very ashamed of yourself. The other option is getting a grip and hopping up on stage.” That usually

does the trick, and a few drinks beforehand can help too!


HOW DID YOU FORM THE BAND?


I’ve been playing guitar since I was about 10 or 11. Upon moving back to the UK I played in a few bands as lead singer/rhythm guitar player, and although performing live was great fun and really increased my confidence, I didn’t have enough confidence to play my own material until I reached uni and started playing open mic nights. That also kick started a different way of writing; more mature lyrics, way more literary references, just better poetry in general. And this has only increased as I’ve focused on improving guitar playing and lyrics.


HOW DO YOU WRITE?


The key songwriter is me, myself and I. I don’t like writing in collaboration with people, I think it’s a very solitary pursuit.


I don’t really tend to sit down and say “Ok, I’m going to write something”. Occasionally I have done that, but I don’t really like it. I think it lacks an element of magic. On the other hand, I’m very wary of sitting around and waiting for inspiration to strike. I think perhaps it’s having watched my parents working; they’re both writers, and I know that the difference between people who play at writing and those who actually do write is that they do it even when they don’t feel like it.


WHAT INSPIRES YOU?


I know I go through phases of being far more creative than others; often if something emotionally draining has happened, or if I’m in the middle of a really chaotic situation (breakups, moving house, etcetera), I’ll only start to process it all afterwards, and then I’ll write about it. You tend to cannibalise your own life, and the lives of those around you, to write. I can be inspired by all kinds of things, whether it’s a sentence I overhear in conversation, something that’s happened to me or something I hear about, a story I’ve read a painting, a film… you get the picture! I’m always on the lookout for ideas which kickstart that creative process.


I have certain ideas or phrases in various notebooks which sometimes I only use years after I first thought of them. I write stuff by hand, and my house is full of various notebooks, scraps of paper, receipts, bus tickets, all with ideas and lyrics on them.


WHAT IS NEXT?


I have 4 more singles coming out in the next few months, the next one is called ‘Do You Miss Me Yet?’, and I have dedicated it to everyone’s ex – mine in particular! It always gets people laughing when I play it live, because of lines like: “I mean how are you not bored of yourself? It’s bad enough dealing with you as someone else But you have to put up with you every day of your life”


I was listening to lots of Dylan songs like ‘Positively 4th Street’ and ‘She’s Your Lover Now’; he can write some really cutting lyrics. If you want a good breakup song, then look out for ‘Do You Miss Me Yet?’. I wrote it when I was really angry with someone, and I just wondered what would happen if I wrote down exactly what I wanted to say to them. I hadn’t intended to turn it into a song at first, but once I started it pretty much wrote itself. It was just a torrent of words! It will be released in September. So don’t forget to follow me on Spotify and on Facebook//Instagram


to keep updated with it!


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Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/5RdtFWWml8En9HTsozJrqr