I’m Raven Shelley, an alt//indie-folk singer-songwriter. I was born in the UK but grew up in the South of France, coming back to England as a teenager. I lived in Manchester (where I went to uni) for 4 years before escaping to the country for a year. I’m currently in the Peak District, but I’m returning to the city in the Autumn to focus on music. I write honest, lyrically complex and intriguing songs. My first single, ‘Sink in Solitude’ has just been released!
How did you all meet?
Being a solo artist, I’ve known myself for a while. I can’t seem to escape me. We usually get on pretty well though.
Who were your musical influences growing up?
Growing up, the house was always filled with music. We would tend to have classical music – especially Tchaikovsky and Mozart – at breakfast (though I didn’t appreciate that enough as a surly sleepy teenager, I do now!) and then various playlists at dinner. An early memory is my parents having dinner parties, and when I went up to bed I could still hear the music playing; I still have some of those playlists and certain songs still remind me of that time. That’s one of the amazing things about music, its ability to transport back to times and places long gone.
Some artists who were played a lot are Leonard Cohen, Billy Bragg, Bob Dylan and Loudon Wainwright III. Lyrically good musicians were always a staple.
I grew up in the South of France, and so I was also exposed to quite a bit of traditional French folk music. It was a small place, so tradition was strong – at school we didn’t sing hymns, but we did have to dress up as shepherds and shepherdesses and sing songs about sheep being lost in mountains!
What made you want to be in a band?
When we came back to the UK, I was desperate to start a band, and eventually I did manage it when I was about 16. There’s something brilliant about playing music with other people; it’s a universal language of its own. It’s unlike anything else. The band actually wasn’t bad, but it all fell apart after a while, and I’ve been playing and writing solo pretty much since then.
I’ve known for a while now that I’m never going to be satisfied unless I’ve at least tried to make a career out of playing my songs. I can’t not write them, it’s essential to me. I’d love to go back to playing music with people, because it can be hugely fun, but the most important thing to me is being able to write and play my own songs, and to have the kind of creative independence that you don’t necessarily have in a band.
What has been your best gig?
That’s quite a tough one to answer because I’ve only recently started playing live shows again; during Covid obviously it was impossible, and last year I moved to a small village in the Peak District to take a year out of the city. I’m heading back to Manchester this Autumn to focus on my musical career, but until then I’ve only been playing the small venues and pubs around here! Though I will say that the last place I played here was quite fun; I finished my setlist with a song I knew everyone would know. The beer had been flowing all evening and everyone was singing along, everyone was in a great mood. That set the tone for the rest of the evening, and it soon turned into an all-night karaoke//sing-along party!
Can you tell us a bit about your music?
My first single, ‘Sink in Solitude’ was released with The Animal Farm a few weeks ago, and it’s had a really lovely response. There’s 4 more in the pipeline set to be released over the coming 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!
Describe your music in 3 words.
Bohemian. Poetic. Honest.
What makes your band stand out from others?
I’ve always said that I hope my lyrics make me stand out from the crowd; I try really hard to stay away from the banal, and the typical stuff you hear. And I read an awful lot of poetry, plays, novels, and I know they make their way into my lyrics. Literature is one of the backbones to my music; I studied English Literature at university, so it’s only natural. Sometimes that’s just snippets and phrases, and sometimes it’s full songs that are based on novels. But I have songs about all sorts of things, from Sylvia Plath to monogamy through to vegetarianism and the bombing of Dresden. So I hope that
when hearing my music, people can stop and consider the lyrics for a moment; perhaps they’ll even recognize some of the literary allusions. I’d never thought my voice was that special, but since the single has come out, people have been coming up to me and saying how much they love it, and that it’s unique. It’s a lovely thing to hear, I’ve never had a huge amount of confidence in it. Someone said to me that they felt at peace when they listened to ‘Sink in Solitude’, which is a beautiful thing to hear, because I don’t often have that sense of peace in myself!
Someone said to me recently that something happened when I started playing live. They said that people actually quietened down, and listened, and the emotion of the room shifted. They said that it was strange to watch, because it was just me and an acoustic guitar; it wasn’t loud, but there was something that made them stop talking and take notice. I want that to be what people remember. I want my songs to have that power to silence a room, not through being louder than the room, but by subtly commanding attention, and demanding to be heard.
What are your plans for the rest of 2020?
Given that it’s 2022 I don’t really have any – I think it might be a bit too late to start making plans now! But for 2022 I’m focusing on the release of the next singles, and moving back to Manchester this Autumn. I’ve missed the number of venues in a city to play in, and the amount of live music I can go and see.
If your band had to be remembered for one thing apart from your music what would you want it to be?
Good question! I’m going to say for being fearless in my views, and speaking out for the causes I believe in. But it’s honestly more likely to be for the chaos I seem to create wherever I go!
Any gig’s coming up?
On the 22nd July, in the pub I work in. It’s always a really nice vibe, so I’m looking forward to it!
By Siân Parker