There’s just something about a woman who appreciates what she’s got. That’s Serena Ryder for you. She was born with a gift from God and calls it the blessing it is—a blessing, it turns out, for all of us who groove on her groundbreaking musical sound.
Serena Ryder is not just a gone-platinum, JUNO award-winning superstar voice. She’s a smart, deep woman who speaks in poetry and lives and breathes her songs. She’s a woman who somehow emerged from a bout of depression even more balanced and beautiful and blessed than ever.
As she puts the finishing touches on her newest album (aptly named Utopia, the ideal follow to the chart-topping Harmony), we were lucky enough to sit down with Serena and hear what she’s all about.
The Brazen Interview with Serena Ryder
Randi Chapnik Myers: How did you find music or did music find you?
Serena Ryder: I think both things happened. Music found me and I found it at the perfect time—when I was in my mom’s belly. I was born with it. It was a gift given to me from my my family, my mom, dad, sister and brother, and from who I believe to be God in my life.
RCM: And who is God in your life?
I like to find God in opposites. For instance, I love that women and men exist and that we are perfect for each other in opposite ways. I’m a total 100%, 36o-degree feminist. Feminism to me is being in the centre of the perfect circle. I picture all people holding hands in that circle. We are all family.
SR: Who was your musical idol and why?
David Bowie! I’ve wanted to marry him since I was three. I found him so balanced and so inspiring and very challenging and so beautiful. I love a man like that, and I have a man like that. I also have a cat named David Bowie. She’s white with one green eye and one blue eye.
RCM: Was there ever a time you contemplated a career besides music?
SR: I contemplated doing a lot of different jobs: being a mom, for one. I was a nanny for awhile to a beautiful little girl who is now 21. She’s still in my life.
SR: It comes out from the inside and it comes in from the outside. I do speak in riddles but they make a lot of sense to me. My body is connected. It’s an instrument I like to play and my voice is my greatest gift.
RCM: You suffered a bout of depression a few years back. How did you free yourself from its grip? What has changed for you since?
SR: I could be depressed but I realized that there is light outside and sometimes I just need to close my eyes. Just because you close your eyes doesn’t mean you are hiding. Closing your eyes is going inward, taking a break, and taking it slow. It’s being a turtle with your protective shell, and that feels good, and then when you open your eyes, you see that it’s kinda nice out there.
RCM: What can you tell me about your upcoming album?
SR: It’s called Utopia, and it’s about walking in the centre of that circle we talked about, that grey area that marries the black and the white. How does it feel in Utopia? It feels like I’m working through my trauma and it’s not as painful as I thought it needed to be. I respect the pain, though, and I respect the fact that there’s peace, too. All you need is love—just like John Lennon said.
Oh, and if you wanna dance, listen to the song Got Your Number. I wrote it on drums and it was so much fun because I didn’t have to think as much and it connected me to my heartbeat.
RCM: You’ve been so successful in your career. What do you say to people who said no one ever makes it in music?
SR: Oh, so many people say that and it’s just not true. My fiancé is one of the most talented people I ever met. We both made it in music. We both took it really slowly and both came from a long line of musicians.
RCM: You grew up right here in Peterborough and you’re still touring Canada. So many artists feel they have to move to the US to make it. Why stay?
SR: Oh my gosh. I love Canada. I was born here and it’s my home forever. I live in the United States half of the time and I live here half of the time. It’s balancing. Just as I said I deal with darkness by realizing it’s okay to look inside and outside, being on the border of both countries is a similar balance. There’s just a thin line to walk between them. They are so close to each other.
RCM: What’s your advice for a young artist just starting out in the music biz?
SR: I say go really slowly and trust yourself. That’s the most important thing to learn. You are a student of life, and so are we all.
The Brazen Fast Five
1. What attracts you most to a person and why?
Love. There’s no opposite to it.
2. One musician, living or not, who you’d love to share the stage with?
Yoko Ono. Yoko O-ya!
3. One bucket list goal?
To be ok with my bucket having a hole in it like the Hank Williams song.
4. Best album of all time?
Graceland. Because Paul Simon.
5. What makes you feel beautiful?
Feeling like I’m a river. Just like in that Joni Mitchell song.
To keep tabs on the fabulous Serena Ryder, check in with her at serenaryder.com