What inspired the name of the band? What are your influences and are they the same as when you started out?

I’ve often gone by several different names throughout my life, as many friends and partners have created their own nicknames for me. I love having different names for different situations and social circles; it shows a level of intimacy, because sometimes there are names which only one or two people ever call you, and which you associate uniquely with them. There’s also something liberating about using different names. I think it can help you inhabit a different character.  We all have different people within ourselves; it’s Whitman who wrote “I contain multitudes”, and sometimes I find that changing a name can help to change your self, and your idea of your self for that day or that moment. 

‘Shelley’ has always been a nickname which my friends have used for me. It’s my middle name, given to me by my father after the radical bohemian poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who is also one of my favourite poets. At university my friends found this out and they adopted it. It always felt like a comfortable name to me, and I love its associations. People also used to call me Raven; I can’t remember exactly how this came about, but I probably mentioned that I think they’re incredible birds. They’re playful, intelligent, and empathetic. They can imitate a huge range of noises, they are associated with many mythologies in different cultures. Plus, my house used to overlook an abandoned church which was popular with ravens, they used to wake me up squawking sometimes, and I loved watching them wheeling through the sky. I also have feathers attached to the ends of my hair, so that probably helped with the name sticking!

Therefore it seemed natural to me to pair the two names together, and Raven Shelley had a good ring to it; it felt right, so I started using it. 


I have a really broad range of influences. Musically, I’ll always say it’s those artists whose lyrics are so exceptional they could be described as poetry. Namely, Bob Dylan, Ani DiFranco, and Leonard Cohen. 

However, I also love Lou Reed, the Velvet Underground, Edie Brickell, Suzanne Vega, 10,0000 Maniacs, Wolf Alice, Marika Hackman, Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell, Loudon Wainwright, Tanita Tikaram, Donovan, Billy Bragg, Ian Dury, Glen Hansard, Fleetwood Mac, Against Me, Kate Bush, Nico, T. Rex, Phoebe Bridgers, Stevie Nicks, Blondie, Pulp, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Florence & The Machine, Iron & Wine, The Postal Service, Death Cab for Cutie, and many more. 

Literature and poetry also have a profound influence on my music, and a few favourites include Thomas Hardy, John Irving, Charlotte Bronte, John Fowles, Shakespeare and Homer, Graham Greene, D.H. Lawrence, Blake, Philip Larkin, Milton, Brian Patten, Sylvia Plath, and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Literature makes its way into my songs in all sorts of ways. 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 am also enamoured with visual mediums, my favourite artists being Schiele, Klimt, Van Gogh and Turner, whilst my favourite director is Nicholas Roeg. I am drawn to images that strike the mind, that are unusual and memorable, commanding attention and demanding to be noticed. 

How do you approach songwriting?

I have a very varied approach to writing. I usually play some music each day, so often the song will just come from me messing about with ideas and chords. I don’t tend to sit down with the intention of writing a song; I have done that on occasion, and whilst it’s possible, I often feel it lacks an element of magic, which I think is an important part of writing poetry and lyrics. On the other hand, I’m very wary of just lounging around waiting for inspiration to strike. The difference between playing at writing and actually being professional is that when you’re trying to make a living from it you do it even if you don’t feel like it. 

I can be inspired by pretty much anything, whether it’s a phrase I overhear in conversation, or an idea I encounter in literature or art. I’m working on a song called ‘Blighted Star’ at the moment, based on Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Films can also be the basis of a song. My Dad showed me a film recently called ‘The Triple Echo’, and I was stunned by it; it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen, so I’ve been thinking about how I could write a song about it. I like striking images and unusual ideas. 

I constantly have a notebook on the go, and try to write down anything I think I could use. Sometimes that means I come back to it a bit later, trying to decipher some hurried scrawl, and I think “What the hell was that about?”, but it’s great, because it means I can return to snatches of lyrics even years after I first wrote them. 

With regards to themes, I think there are definitely ideas and images which crop up over and over again in my songs. At the moment I find that I’m writing quite a few songs which explore free love, and take issue with monogamy and traditional relationships. But sometimes I do know that I want to write a song specifically about one thing, and so I spend a bit of time researching the subject. ‘Ariel’ for instance (which will be released in February) is about Sylvia Plath. To write that I re-read a lot of her poetry, and noted down interesting phrases and images. 

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. But it can be incredibly cathartic. There’s a quote I love – of somewhat disputed origin – about writing, which states all you have to do is open your veins and bleed onto the page. And I feel writing songs is similar to this. In writing songs, you’re making yourself vulnerable by pouring all this emotion into something you’re then going to put out in public, but you’re also releasing something from yourself, and setting it free into the world.  


Why do you write the sort of music that you do?

Because I can’t not write it. It’s as essential as breathing, and it feels as natural to write as it feels to breathe. The alt//indie-folk style of music that I’m playing is just what feels right at the moment. At some other point it might change, but for now this is what comes. It feels honest, and true to me.

How do you decide what to perform live?

That’s a really interesting question! I think I’m still learning how to do it well. Performing live is like anything else: it takes practice to get it right. I usually start by trying to learn a little bit about the venue I’ll be playing at: working out how loud it will be, how big it is, how raucous the crowd will be, how long I have to play, things like that. I also think of some ways to introduce songs, which will capture the attention of the crowd (hopefully!) by piquing their interest. 

For instance, my next single to be released is called ‘Do You Miss Me Yet?’ (keep up to date with the release date via Instagram and Facebook, or the Mailing List!), and I wrote it when I was really angry with someone, just thinking about all the things I wanted to say to them. I tend to introduce the song by saying something like “This is for everyone’s ex”, and it usually gets people laughing once I start playing it and they hear the lyrics. 

I also try to vary the type of songs I’m playing; many of mine aren’t exactly cheerful, and I try not to have ‘Sink in Solitude’ followed by ‘Ariel’ for instance – I don’t want people to end the evening being depressed about the state of humanity! And in that sense you also have to think on your feet and try to read the room; one of the last shows I played was getting louder and louder, rowdier and rowdier, and I just knew there was no point trying to play the quieter stuff at this point in the evening. That’s why it’s good to have a few popular covers up your sleeve that you can bust out, because everyone loves a singalong!

What plans do you have for the future?

I’ve been focusing on the release of ‘Sink in Solitude’, and now I’m going to put all my energy into the next 4 singles that are going to be released, as well as continually improving my guitar and lyrics, and writing more stuff, playing more shows. In the long run, I’d like to get a backup band and play bigger venues, creating a stable following.  I also want to record an album or EP after the singles have been released. 

I’m very excited about the release of the next single, because this one has had such a great response! So don’t forget to follow my Spotify and Amazon Music, as well as the Instagram page so you can keep up to date with future releases!