One of the rising stars in Celtic Music is Susan Raven. Her music evokes peace and tranquility. It is for this reason that she was invited to be interviewed. Here is the interview conducted via E Mail of one of Europe’s Finest Celtic Singers who is a lover of nature
1. How did you get your start as a singer songwriter?
I grew up listening to my mother playing her Spanish guitar and singing Bob Dylan songs. She taught me the major chords and gave me a guitar of my own, and I very quickly realized that I could enter a sphere of vibrant potential when I began to play music. In this sphere, my ability to communicate was vastly more adept than my awkward attempts at articulation in everyday conversation.
Each of us is born with a set of celestial co-ordinates, a starry script, that indicates the gifts and challenges we must meet in our present incarnation. One of my major challenges in this particular incarnation has been the ability to communicate effectively. Until relatively recently, the highway from imagination and inspiration, to articulation and conversation, has been littered with steep speed-bumps. But of course, at their higher octave, these challenges always hide a gift. I have leant to combine authentic self-expression and emotive reportage, in an art-form that utilizes my true gift of this lifetime – a haunting and powerful singing voice.
It was Jane Austen who astutely pointed out that “Seldom, very seldom does complete truth belong to any human disclosure”, and in the minefield of human relationships, we have become adept at hiding our true nature from ourselves and others. Yet, in the writing and singing of a song, a personal, truthful disclosure can be crafted with insightful care, and given emotive and powerful impetus by the musical arrangements beneath it. Chords and tones have always offered us a sublime and powerful vocabulary.
2. Who were your musical idols and what did you learn from their music to form a style that people say is Susan Raven?
The music of Peter Gabriel, David Bowie and Donovan resonated through my childhood and early teens. All three of them are great wordsmiths, and all three of them are emotive music makers. (One of the sweetest moments I have experienced as a music fan, was when I received a card from Donovan hailing my album as “Awesome”!)
Although their multi-faceted, quintessentially British sound must surely have coloured my formative years, it was not really until I started on my own esoteric path that my songwriting and recording began in earnest. The work of Rudolf Steiner, Eckart Tolle and David Hawkins has activated and inspired the real moulding activity in my music and lyrics.
3. Your first album was “Glittering Cities”. How long did it take you to record it?
As nearly every song-writer on the planet knows, making a living from your craft takes time, persistence and single-mindedness. I recorded “Glittering Cities” over a five year period, while earning my living in the interior design trade and also by leading north American students on tours around the sacred sites of Celtic Britain, introducing them to many of our great cathedrals and stone circles. Both of these tasks were fulfilling in their way, but they were always undertaken in order to finance the recording of my album. I knew I had to use really top class musicians on my recordings and even their concessionary fees, quite rightly, are pretty steep. I was honoured that they considered my song-writing to be worth their time and creative output. David Rhodes from the Peter Gabriel Band and Hilaire Penda from the Salif Keita band are a couple of the fine players on this CD.
4. What was the inspiration behind “Glittering Cities”
In many mystical traditions there are tales of etheric cities, resonating in a dimension beyond the normal bandwidth of human vision. The most famous, in Celtic tradition, is the sunken city of Hy Brazil off the coast of Ireland. The title song “Glittering Cities” came to me at a time of maximum emotional upheaval and spiritual growth – the two always seem go hand in hand – and during the peak of this turbulence, I experienced a high voltage, full colour, visionary dream. I was taken to the shimmering quays and temples of a glittering, astral-etheric city, I knew I had been there before and I knew I would return there again when my work as a human was complete. On awakening from this dream, I asked myself “Where have I been?”, I reached for the nearest book – which happened to be a selection of lectures by Rudolf Steiner – and the page fell open on a passage describing the ancient sacred place, known as Shamballa.
For me, “Glittering Cities” is probably the best song I have written to date. The actual process of writing it was the most adrenalin-fired deed of creativity I have yet experienced, and while I love all my songs, I live in expectation of experiencing that intensity of creativity again.
“Glittering Cities” iTunes download link:
5. You also recorded “Ravensong”. How long did it take you to record it?
Like “Glittering Cities”, “Ravensong” took about 6 years to manifest. I continued to be a tour director, leading tours around Celtic Britain, and was also giving talks on the work of Rudolf Steiner at the Mind, Body and Spirit Festivals in the UK – these commitments served to finance the high-quality musicianship to be heard on “Ravensong”.
I am not a prolific writer, I take one song and hone it and refine it, until it gives me a warm sense of fulfilment or a pulse of expansion around the heart. If I did not have to supplement my musical income with other tasks, I think the albums would probably have manifested in a third of the time. But I do not regret that I have had to work in other streams of activity. They have brought me unique opportunities, challenges and human interactions, all of which have served to raise awareness, instil wisdom, and enrich the songwriting process.
6. What inspired you to record “Ravensong”?
I have the great good fortune to live in the remote hills of mid-Wales, and Wales is, of course, the birthplace of that enduring and mysterious being – the great teacher Merlin. The Welsh landscape is bursting with a living, potent inspiration. The natural inborn gift of clairvoyance our ancient ancestors once possessed – that great gift we lost when we descended into matter and individuality – seems only an out-breath away. The membrane between worlds is thin, and the nature spirits of the four elements are generous with their ideas and inspiration… but only to those who walk with love and mindfulness through their domain. Great stories like “The Lord of the Rings” were born in this landscape. In one moment the land is a gentle fairy realm, and in the next, it clothes a towering and implacably stern presence that impels you to see the whole biography of the earth… it demands that you experience the pain that humanity’s ignorant maltreatment has inflicted on the generous heart of this planet.
When I first moved to Wales, I had to prove that I was worthy to receive the drops of inspiration from “Ceridwen’s Cauldron”. I suffered injury and illness in those years, including nearly losing an eye, as I walked the landscape and allowed the Folk-Spirit of Wales to further mould me into the troubadour I am today.
“Ravensong” is a record of my relationship with the elemental kingdom of Wales.
“Ravensong” on-line sales link: http://www.susanraven.com/sales/
7. Have you done concerts in North America?
Not yet! I look forward to performing in North America.
At the moment I’m performing at festivals and acoustic venues around Britain.
8. What is your advice for those who want a career in music?
There are many categories under the heading “A career in music” and there are, of course, many shades between the ‘driven messenger’ and the ‘compulsive celebrity’. I have always felt the ruthless pursuit of wealth and fame, carries with it too heavy a price – the loss of freedom. I can only speak authentically of the path I have endeavoured to follow, and that is the path of the messenger. The following advice is distilled from my many years on that path.
(a) First and foremost, prepare yourself thoroughly for the sensation of rejection… repeated rejection of your work. When you receive rejection, observe it with a strong, still, witnessing consciousness, and do all you can to prevent the rejection from undermining your self-belief. If you let another person’s subjective view get under your skin, and allow it to play havoc with your emotions, you will find yourself considerably weakened and depleted. Precious creative energy will be diverted away from your purpose, and drawn into healing the damage caused by your over-sensitivity. Thorough mental-emotional preparation is essential before presenting your work to the outside world.
(b) Use this same witnessing consciousness to measure criticism of your work – the volatile storm of affront and disbelief we often feel when experiencing criticism of our work, shuts down our ability to pick up the subtle and valuable clues hidden in constructive criticism. Guidance comes in many forms and guises.
(c) When you do hit a rich seam of like-minded, like-hearted souls, who truly understand, adore and connect with your music (and this you surely will do if you have any genuine talent), the resulting sense of fulfilment and validation is far greater if you have managed to practice points (a) & (b).
(d) The whole universe is a song, forever singing itself into being, and our solar system is a powerful refrain within that song… as Rudolf Steiner says “Imagine this: the sphere of the more stable fixed stars and behind this the moving planets. When a moving planet passes by a constellation of fixed stars, not just one tone but a whole world of tone resounds. So the realm of the fixed star is a wonderful cosmic instrument and behind are the gods of the planets who play upon this instrument of the zodiac”.
Each time we roll up our sleeves, take up our instrument and begin the creative songwriting process, we become co-creators in that universal song.
9. Any comments for the public?
(i) Acknowledge, greet and honour the background living presence within nature wherever, whenever and however you can.
(ii) Witness your thinking and pivot it into positive creativity, whenever and however you can.
(iii) Become an adept of forgiveness until there is nothing left to forgive.
The first two are graspable, and suitably elastic and responsive to the growing levels of consciousness in many people, but even some of the most experienced students on the path of spiritual enlightenment, baulk at commencing a true and lasting act of forgiveness. Forgiveness is almost a taboo subject; it can whip up a blizzard of cold fury, contempt and excuses within seconds, followed later by a milder front of stubborn resistance and justification. Yet, this raw, exposed frontier of forgiveness, is one we must endeavour to reach. There is no way around the 6th petition of “forgiving the trespass” – it is implacable – and in our deepest heart, we know there will always be a “ring-pass-not” until we do. But maybe the following quotes by Neil Douglas Klotz will show a new approach to this most uncomfortable and demanding of tasks…
“Loose the cords of mistakes binding us, as we release the strands we hold of other’s guilt…”
“Erase the inner marks our failures make, just as we scrub our hearts of other’s faults…”
“Untangle the knots within, so that we can mend our hearts’ simple ties to others…”
“Forgive our hidden past, the secret shames, as we constantly forgive what others hide…”
(iv) Meanwhile, whenever you take a rest from this task, remember to have a rip-roaring good time while you are here on Earth… and try to find the hilarity in all things!
Thank you for accepting my invitation. My best wishes.