Interview with Raven Shelley

Written by Divine Magazine

Raven Shelley is a casual creator of chaos who doesn’t quite fit into the modern world and all its strangeness. Her intense, complex, and honest music is influenced by her love of literature, poetry and visual mediums. Drawing inspiration from artists such as Bob Dylan and Ani DiFranco, Shelley has a unique sound that perfectly showcases her passion for the arts. 

Growing up in the south of France, she educated herself in English literature from a young age and went on to study it at university. It was this that sparked her desire to create lyrics that can also be described as poetry.

After moving to England from France as a teenager, Shelley formed a band in which she was the lead singer and rhythm guitarist. This was a formative experience for her and where she decided to pursue music as a career. Shortly after the band’s formation, she began to write her own songs as well as perform at open mic nights which allowed her to gain confidence playing her original music.  

Shelley’s ethereal nature led her to leave Manchester (where she had spent several years) for the rural tranquillity of the Peak District, in the latest stage of a journey befitting her nomadic instincts. She intends to return to the city soon to pursue her musical career. Wherever she finds herself, she is committed to continually improving her craft. At her core, she believes in being kind to living things, especially animals, and being respectful to non-living ones. Above all, she strives to be honest and fearless in her unconventionality and refuses to submit to prevailing opinions and mundane acceptance of the status quo.

What do you enjoy most about being an artist?

One of the best things is that you can get away with being a bit eccentric, people just assume it’s part of your ‘arty-persona-thing’. It also means I don’t tend to have to get up early, which suits me given that mornings aren’t my strong point! I like the fact that most shows are in the evening or at night since I’m pretty nocturnal anyway.

What I love most though is the freedom that comes with this lifestyle, and how varied each day is.

What does your music say about you?

I try to be honest in the music that I write; I hope that all the hurt, all the anger, all the love, and everything that runs through me can be found somewhere in my songs.

Although given that of the two songs I’ve currently released, one is about time passing by without achievement and one is about a spectacular failure of a relationship, I’m not too sure what that says about me!

Are you creative in other disciplines?

Very. Creativity is absolutely essential to my life. I’ve tried all sorts of things, from pottery to painting. I make sterling silver jewelry and sell that online and at various craft fairs. I also write many things apart from music, like short stories and poetry, and I have a few bigger projects on the go too.

What inspires your writing? Do you draw inspiration from poems, music, TV, or other media?

All sorts of things. Often it’s literature because I read so much, and I read with pencil in hand to underline//write down phrases or ideas as they come to me. I have a song about Sylvia Plath and her last collection of poetry, and I’m writing some based on books at the moment.

Films can definitely inspire me too, or even paintings and other art – I love visual mediums! But it can be as simple as a conversation I overhear, or something that’s happened to me personally.

What was the last thing you dressed up as for fancy dress?

I love fancy dresses! There’s not enough of it about, but it’s so much fun.

I know I’ve dressed up as a pirate quite a lot – that doesn’t involve much effort actually, since I already get called ‘Captain Jack Sparrow’ because of my dreadlocks and beads!

I dressed up as a leopard for a Noah’s Ark themed party that was held at a shared house I used to live in. We got slightly carried away with the number of people we invited, and it spilled out onto the street. It was really surreal, looking around a wet Manchester street and seeing a load of bedraggled people dressed up – with varying degrees of success – as various creatures.

Which fictional character do you wish was real?

Oh, there are so many! I mean really, I could write an entire essay just on this question. Can you imagine being able to have a conversation with someone like Withnail from Withnail & I?!

Trying to narrow it down, I’d say maybe Michaela from The Velvet Trumpet – she’s an incredibly rich and 3-dimensional character, though you may never be able to quite make up your mind whether she’s a charlatan or a genuine modern-day prophet.

Otherwise, I’ve always found Mick Travis from Lindsay Anderson’s if…. trilogy to be absolutely fascinating.

If you could learn any language fluently what would it be?

Tough question, but it would almost certainly have to be Greek. It’s one of my favorite countries, and I would love to be able to live part of my life there. Knowing how to speak the language makes moving countries so much easier.

What’s your favorite children’s story?

There are so many possibilities to choose from, I have really found memories of my parents reading to me. But I think I might pick Cornelia Funke’s ‘Inkheart’ series. It’s about a father and his daughter who, when they read aloud, can bring fictional characters out of the book and into their world, or can send people from their world into the book. Much of the story takes place in the so-called Inkworld, which is such a rich, imaginative place, and the idea of being able to move in and out of books always appealed to me.

What movie ending really frustrated you? And how would you change it?

Well, I love movies, but many that are adaptations of books irritate me because they mess about with the plot. Obviously, you have to adapt things, but you shouldn’t completely change the story and characters.

Incidentally, the worst culprit for this is that awful film, Troy. They could have made such a great movie (a massive budget and great actors – Brad Pitt as Achilleus and Peter O’Toole as Priam!) but then they went and screwed about with this ancient and incredible story. Don’t mess with The Iliad!

Recently I read The Beach by Alex Garland for the first time, having already seen the film a number of times. I still think they made a pretty decent adaptation, but I know next time I watch it the ending will irritate me because it’s so much less complex and so much more sanitized that the book.

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