“The accident in November left me with a few broken bones, and it actually gave me so much clarity on my life. I was just like ‘I’ve got to do all the things I want to do like I’ve got to do them now.’”
The best kind of musicians are those that feel at one with the work they have created. Melbourne-based musician Shanti Lane, currently using the stage name Selki, is certainly one of those artists. Despite not entering the industry until 2014, and admitting that her musical skills weren’t up to par, Shanti went on to becoming a finalist in the 2014 Melbourne Music Bank. She also went on to record her first EP with the band she was playing with at the time.
“It was probably a bigger thing for me now looking back on it than what it was at the time. I was very chilled about it. People really liked the track . I kinda wish I was more professional in the way I’d dealt with everyone, rather than being so indie/hipster. However It was a great experience and good to get the flavour of what’s out there. The whole crew was made up of good people and their support for new artists is awesome.”
Photo by Rhys Newling
Shanti’s career was put on hold in 2015, after she was hit by a bus in London. Despite this, she admits it helped her put her on the path she wanted to take, realising how it important it was to do what she wanted to do with her life.
“The accident in November left me with a few broken bones, and it actually gave me so much clarity on my life and I was just like ‘I’ve got to do all the things I want to do like I’ve got to do them now.’
“As soon as I had some sort of independence, I contacted some new producers at a studio in Paris. I really liked the vibe so I was like ‘yeah, why not?’ and so then we did three tracks over a month or so. It was my first proper time recording, which was a really good experience. I wasn’t happy with some of my vocals listening back but then you’ve just got to realise that that was where you were at at the time and then move on. I feel like musically I’ve improved three times over from then, but it was a good experience- accepting where you were and seeing where your art is developing. It was a pretty incredible time of my life.”
Now wanting to “own the pop thing,” Shanti is also no stranger to embracing different lifestyles and cultures. Born in Cairns to a coconut picker and an a teacher, she had a childhood different than most. Not coming from a musical background meant that becoming a musician was a big deal, instead of following her family down the academic route of psychology which she intially planned.
“I grew up a bit like a tribal kid, to be honest, we lived kind of ‘off the land’ and all that pretty survival stuff. I’ve lived in New Guinea and other islands for a while where I had to catch my own food etcetera. Wild stuff. I climbed trees a lot and was into horses and painting.”
Her creative nature is also imbued in her song writing. Writing poems from a young age, she wrote her first song at a mere eight years old. Not a musician at the time, she admits she struggled to find the melody to go with it. Shanti wrote her first proper song at 17, after finding a love for piano a few years later, she’s quick to confess that she still plays some of those songs.
“I always used to write epic rhyming poems. Even on the school bus I used to do everyone’s poems for our assignments and hand them out to everyone. I loved it and I loved the thrill of getting them out there. When I was eight I wrote this song, but it was like a three-page poem. And I knew it wasn’t a poem, like in my head I knew it was a song- but I’d never sung before. I feel like I’m back where I started when I was 17, just have a lot more experience and musical abilities now.”
Photo by Carla Venus
An acquired songwriter in 2017, Shanti admits that most of her song writing comes from within. There is no particular process, or place, or time, that she finds herself needing to be in. Most of her songs come out in about 15 minutes, with all the bridges for her upcoming single Skins written in five.
“Now I go back over and change the lyrics based on what the concept of the song is about. The first track on the single Skins, was actually a folk song that I used to jam to with a friend of mine. The tracks were all pretty spontaneous and touch on the passion you have for life when you’re younger and the factors that were important in my life at the time.
“My songs are quite simple and more catchy, poppy stuff. But I write a lot about contemporary culture and sometimes I allude to serious topics like mental illness and the anxieties and things about losing yourself, and discovering yourself when you’re young.”
Taking on the stage name Selki, Shanti suggests it is more of a timely project, rather than a name. Wanting a five-letter word to describe her sound, she realised after hearing it that the word ‘Selki’ is in reference to the Selki, an Irish legend. At the time, she chose it due to liking how it sounded, but later it became symbolic of what Shanti was trying to achieve with her music. She explains how when a Selki lets go of its skins, it becomes a women and believes she identifies with that concept.
“It’s been a real self-discovery period and there’s been loads of downs and ups and a bit of drama, but in a way the concept of this whole single is ‘letting go of your skins to reveal your own human.’ For me, recently I’ve realised that there are all these layers that you hide behind when you’re younger but you’re most powerful when you’re open and vulnerable. I’ve been a bit of everything and have now realised that it’s so empowering to embrace who you are and celebrate that. Even if it’s not who you idealistically want to be.”
Not only is she unleashing her skins, the project has allowed her to develop into the artist she wants to be. This hasn’t been straightforward for Shanti; however, who admits to going through multiple phases over the last couple of years. From Joni Mitchell, to Alanis Morrisette, to Bjork, her influences- and possibilities- are endless.
“Every three months or so I’ll write a whole new set of tracks. I’ll have a whole new idea and direction and then three months later it’ll change again. A lot of the songs I’ve written I guess I’ll never even think of again because I’ve moved on so quickly. I think moving around a lot, I’ve become a very adaptable person and I’m very quick to change to adapt to my environment and my music has kind of done the same.”
Selki will be launching her single Skins at The Workers Club, Fitzroy, on April 30. You can purchase tickets here.
Photo by Rhys Newling