Though she’s only 24, Canada-based songstress Serena Ryder is already a world-traveled artist, hailed by No Depression for her “Pipes. Presence. Potential.” Elle noted that “When Serena Ryder sings about love, the most jaded world weariness dissolves.” Now the singer/songwriter Billboard declared to be “Canada’s Most Promising” is poised to present herself to American audiences with her debut Atlantic Records EP, “TOLD YOU IN A WHISPERED SONG.” The five-song calling card highlights Ryder’s powerful three-octave range – which veers from tough to tender, often in a single verse – and distinctive, classically romantic songwriting.
Ryder grew up in Millbrook, a rural/suburban town in eastern Ontario. Her mother a singing go-go dancer and father a Trinidadian-born Caribbean-folk musician, formed the origins of a truly eclectic spirit whose passion for music spans a wide array of styles, from folk and country to jazz, blues, and rock ‘n’ roll. Taking personal inspiration from a surprising spectrum of influences – she names John Prine, Neil Young, Wham!, and Culture Club in a single breath -- Serena began writing and performing at 13.
At 15, Serena left Millbrook for the more metropolitan Peterborough, where she began attending art school and immersing herself in the city’s thriving bohemian community. Over the next few years, she played countless shows, both as solo artist and as singer in a number of local combos, all the while honing her burgeoning gifts for penning inimitably creative melodies and lyrics.
Like any true troubadour, Ryder hit the road and began touring across her native Canada, Australia and France. She toured extensively with such great acts as Steve Earle, Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings of The Guess Who, The Corrs, Blind Boys of Alabama and many more. The multiple treks not only helped sharpen her stagecraft, it brought her music to an ever-increasing audience.
“My fans are awesome,” she enthuses. “They tend to be quite grounded and unique… I love having time to hear their story. God only knows they hear mine enough!”
On the heels of a Top 20 hit in Canada, Ryder traveled to Austin, TX in March 2007 for the annual South By Southwest extravaganza. Her inventive, jazz/blues-inflected vocals and intimate songwriting caught the attention of Atlantic Records and before the month was out, she had signed to the venerable label. In May 2007 she recorded her U.S. debut EP, “TOLD YOU IN A WHISPERED SONG.”
Largely a solo affair, just singer, guitar, and song, tracks such as the confessional “Weak In The Knees” represent but a precursor to what will be Ryder’s definitive musical statement thus far, a full-band recording due in early 2008. The tender title song “Brand New Love” display Ryder’s gifts in their purest form – rich vocals, gentle acoustic guitar and haunting, deeply melodic songs. The politically-tinted “Blown Like The Wind At Night” speaks volumes of her remarkable lyrical range, revealing an artist blessed with a genuinely unique perspective.
Ryder will follow the EP’s release by spending the second half of 2007 on tour in America. Already lined up are treks alongside such artists as Xavier Rudd and Chris Isaak. With the road as her home for the foreseeable future, Ryder intends to take full advantage of the plentiful downtime by writing songs for what will be her Atlantic Records debut album. “It’s going to be pretty stripped down,” she affirms. “I’m really into doing a very direct, really organic sound.”
That naturalistic approach defines Serena Ryder, from her frank and direct personality to the warmth and wisdom of her lyrics. She views herself as part of a long musical continuum, a participant and player in the centuries-old saga of the song. That sense of history, of belonging to something greater than the moment, simultaneously roots Ryder in a glorious tradition, while also setting her apart from most of her modern musical peers.
“I think maybe the reason people are feeling detached from a lot of the music that gets played on the radio today is because everyone’s trying so hard to be their own island, their own original person,” she says. “But it’s not important what makes you stand out – what’s important is how connected to everything you are. Everyone’s trying so hard to do something brand new, something they think people need or want, but really, we don’t need anything else.”
Live On Stage:
Serena falls somewhere into that Joss Stone camp - young woman with a big voice. She won the 2008 Juno (the Canadian Grammys) for New Artist Of The Year. Here she is with Told You In A Whispered Song the title track from her latest EP...
Here's a playlist of Serena's most recent album If Memory Serves You Well - which consists entirely of cover songs from Canadian artists. Anytime you make a reference to The Band in your album title and cover one of their songs I'm ready to be a fan...
Serena's got a handful of videos, let's check out her cover of "Good Morning Starshine" - which is best known from the musical Hair...
Few more to check out...
Weak In The Knees
Just Another Day
For more on Serena head on over to her official website.
Sunday, April 6, 2008