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.