Serena Ryder (born December 8, 1982) is a Canadian musician. Born in Toronto, she grew up in Millbrook, Ontario. Ryder first gained national recognition with her ballad "Weak in the Knees" in 2007. An accomplished songwriter and musician, she also possesses a three-octave vocal range and is considered a mezzo-soprano. Her timbre has been described as slightly nasal with a raspy lower register.
Ryder at Bowery Ballroom, May 2013
|Born||December 8, 1982|
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
|Origin||Peterborough, Ontario, Canada|
|Genres||folk rock, indie rock, jazz, pop rock|
|Occupation(s)||musician, songwriter, vocalist|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, piano, harmonica|
|Associated acts||Melissa Etheridge, Hawksley Workman|
Early life and musical interestEdit
Serena Lauren Ryder is the daughter of Barbara Ryder and Glen Sorzano. Her father, a Trinidadian musician who immigrated to Canada in the early sixties, was a founding member of the West Indian band the Tradewinds led by the Guyanese Dave Martins. Sorzano was a talented musician, songwriter, and vocalist who appears on three of the early Tradewinds records: Jump Up With The Tradewinds (1967), The Caribbean Tradewinds (1967), and Caribbean Souvenir (1968) Ryder was raised by Barbara and her second husband, Andrew McKibbon, just outside Peterborough, in Millbrook, Ontario, and grew up listening to old records by the Beatles and Leonard Cohen from her parents' collection. She grew up the only child in her family. At age eight, Ryder sang at Royal Canadian Legion halls and motor hotels. Having received a guitar from her stepfather, she began playing the instrument at the age of thirteen. Songwriting efforts followed. At fifteen, she was playing classic and folk tunes with her piano teacher in coffeehouses and legion halls.
Ryder stated, "I'd been writing a lot since I was maybe eleven years old. I wasn't doing diary entries; I needed to express something a little deeper than that, which I couldn't express in conversation. And I'd been singing since I was a little kid, doing cover songs at gigs. But when I got my guitar, a whole other world opened up to me. I realized I could put the poetry I was writing to song and bring two very separate things together."
At age 17, Ryder left her home for Peterborough, Ontario, where she settled into a community of artists while attending the Integrated Arts Program at the Peterborough Collegiate and Vocational Institute.
In early 1998 Damon de Szegheo, record producer and owner of the Peterborough based independent record label Mime Radio, approached her about recording. de Szegheo had noticed her while she sang during a set change for a local stage production of Gone with the Wind. The product of their sessions was a self-titled promotional cassette, Serena (limited to a run of 100) and her first full-length CD, Falling Out, released in December 1999.
During that time de Szegheo also organised live concert appearances for Ryder with many local and touring acts including bands Thousand Foot Krutch, Three Days Grace (Then named Groundswell) and Craig Cardiff.
Ryder was later managed by Kellie Bonnici. Bonnici approached Ryder with an offer to help her after being moved by her performance at the 2001 Peterborough Folk Festival, where Ryder was awarded the Festival's first “Emerging Artist” award. This award enabled Ryder and Bonnici to attend a regional music festival conference and make some initial connections. Bonnici worked with Ryder to release Live at the Market Hall and A Day in the Studio in 2002.
While Ryder was playing her first show at the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield, Quebec—famous for its high-profile performers—owner Paul Symes, amazed at Ryder's talent, called Bill Stunt, the producer of the CBC Radio program Bandwidth, and left a voice mail of the live show. This led Stunt and Symes to invite Ryder for a performance recorded by CBC Bandwidth at the Black Sheep Inn. The recording was later released as a live EP, Serena Ryder Live. The album features the song “Hiding Place”, recorded for the first time.
Ryder was invited by Erin Benjamin (then the president of the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals) to perform in Winnipeg at a regional music conference. There her manager, Bonnici, met the CBC radio host Avril Benoit during one of Ryder's showcases. They later arranged an interview for Ryder on CBC's Here and Now, which caught the attention of the musician Hawksley Workman and Sandy Pandya, who was then his manager. After initial meetings with Workman and Pandya, Ryder was invited to record on Workman's Isadora label. Shortly thereafter, Ryder and Bonnici amicably parted ways, and Ryder began working with Pandya in 2004.
In 2005, Isadora Records released Live in Oz, a recording from Ryder's tour of Australia, in limited numbers available only at live performances.
2005–2007: early singlesEdit
In 2005, backed by Workman and two other players, Ryder recorded her debut album with a major label, Unlikely Emergency. The album did well enough to earn Ryder a performance at the 2005 Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame press conference, after which it was suggested she cover songs written by other Canadian musicians. Meanwhile, the poignant song "Just Another Day" got considerable airplay on various Canadian radio stations.
In November 2006, Ryder released her second album, If Your Memory Serves You Well, a collection of 12 covers of notable Canadian songs and three original songs. The tracks include Sylvia Tyson's “You Were On My Mind”, Leonard Cohen's "Sisters of Mercy", Galt MacDermot's "Good Morning Starshine" the Bob Dylan–Rick Danko collaboration "This Wheel's on Fire", and Paul Anka's "It Doesn't Matter Any More."
The EP Told You in a Whispered Song, released on June 19, 2007, is an acoustic studio collection of several live tracks and new songs by Ryder. Touring in Canada, Ryder was part of Blast From The Beach in Prince Edward Island on July, 21 2007 headlined by Aerosmith and featuring other notable bands, including 54-40 and Cheap Trick. Touring in Australia that same year, Ryder appeared as a guest on SBS's RocKwiz in March, where she displayed an authoritative knowledge of rock music, singing song segments in answer to questions presented to her; she also performed in the closing guest spot, with Lior.
2008–present: Critical acclaim and chart successEdit
In April 2008, Ryder found herself receiving the 2008 Juno Award for "Best New Artist of the Year" while on the label EMI. On November 11, 2008, Is It O.K., was released in Canada on EMI Canada and on Atlantic Records in the United States on February 11, 2009. The single "Little Bit of Red", which won a Juno Award in 2010 for Best Video of the Year, was released on that album. As well, "All for Love", which appears on Is It O.K. and the EP Sweeping the Ashes, was featured in an episode of ABC television's Private Practice. In Canada, Is It O.K. won the Juno Award for Adult Alternative Album of the Year in 2009. In the United States, the album got a warm reaction and Ryder furthered her foray into the U.S. by recording the duet "You Can Always Come Home" with American Idol Jason Castro on his debut album.
In May 2009, Ryder appeared on Bruce Springsteen's official website, covering his song "Racing in the Street". The video was part of the "Hangin' on E Street" feature of his website. That year, her song "Sing, Sing" was selected for Music Monday, a special event to highlight music education in Canada, for which nearly two million Canadian schoolchildren sang the song in class on May 5.
On February 19th 2011, Ryder toured with Melissa Etheridge across Canada. Ryder's song "Broken Heart Sun" was performed as a duet with Etheridge, and a recording was released on her EP Live. Ryder performed "Broken Heart Sun" with Etheridge at the Juno Awards that same year.
In 2011, Ryder fell in love, and it inspired her for her fifth studio album, Harmony. Over 65 songs were written for the album; “[i]t feels like it's the first time I've written ...in love”, she said. After writing more songs while in Los Angeles with Jerrod Bettis and Jon Levine, Ryder released Harmony on November 27, 2012. The first single "Stompa", co-written with Bettis, was used in an episode of ABC television's Grey's Anatomy, quickly climbed the charts, and became certified platinum in January 2013. In the United States, less than two months after its release, it was at number 14 on the charts. In Canada, Ryder became the first Canadian artist to be number one on the CBC's Radio 2 Top 20 chart, days after the release of Harmony. “Stompa” was played in four radio station formats: Modern Rock, Hot AC, Top 40 and Adult Contemporary.
Ryder performed at the opening night of Luminato Festival on June 14, 2013 in Toronto, Ontario. She also performed in Calgary, Alberta on July 6, 2013 as part of the Calgary Stampede. On July 17, 2013, Ryder made her late night show debut, performing "Stompa" on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
In May 2015, Ryder recorded "Together We Are One", the official theme song for the 2015 Pan American Games. The song reached #1 on the Radio 2 Top 20 the week of July 17, 2015. She performed at the Pan Am Games Closing Ceremony.
On June 24, 2016, Ryder released the single "Got Your Number" and dropped her sixth studio album Utopia on May 26, 2017, containing 17 songs. The EP Electric Love was released the same day for the U.S. and European markets but not in Canada. Utopia's first single was "Electric Love."
Ryder, a spokesperson for the Bell Let's Talk social campaign to end the stigma around mental health, was honored on April 4, 2018 at the Mad about Margaret's event, founded by Margaret Trudeau for her work with mental health.
On April 6, 2018, Ryder released her single "Famous" featuring Simon Ward of The Strumbellas for the US market. Co-written with Simon Wilcox and Simon Ward, "Famous" is a song about society being obsessed with social media and people trying to achieve fame solely for the sake of being famous.
On August 11, 2018, Ryder was one of the artists invited to join Billy Talent for the #TorontoStrong benefit concert following the Danforth shooting on July 22, 2018. Also participating were City and Colour, Maestro Fresh-Wes, and PUP.
On October 19, 2018, Ryder launched her first holiday album, Christmas Kisses. On November 27, 2007, Ryder had released a holiday single, Calling To Say.
Artistry and activismEdit
Ryder's music has been influenced by genres ranging from R&B, jazz, folk, country, classical and blues. She says that her influences include Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald, Roger Miller, Hank Williams, John Prine, Paul Simon, Linda Ronstadt, Buddy Holly, TLC, Stevie Nicks, Neil Young, the Rolling Stones, Wham!, Culture Club, Supertramp, the Beatles, David Bowie and Leonard Cohen. She ranges musically between folk, roots, country, and adult contemporary music. An accomplished musician, she plays the guitar, piano, mandolin, ukulele, harmonica, banjo, clarinet, drums, and bass.
According to various sources, Ryder possesses a three-octave vocal range. She is considered a mezzo-soprano. Her timbre has been described as slightly nasal with a raspy lower register. Ryder is often praised for her technical virtuosity. She hits notes in full voice, with a controlled vibrato and an incredible conception of pitch. Praised for her arsenal of technical skills, she "delivers in a commanding, often melismatic style that enchants."
Reviews have compared her to "the teenaged Aretha Franklin" (Elle), noting her "impressive fearlessness" (Boston Globe), lauding her "pipes, presence [and] potential" (No Depression), and observing that "Ryder brings a range and vocal maturity of someone twice her age" (American Songwriter).
In addition to singing, Ryder is also an accomplished visual artist. She draws, paints, sculpts and does collage. Some of her paintings have been sold for charity events, including The Kidney Foundation of Canada. Ryder is also well-known among her friends for her voice impressions, mimicking various accents.
Ryder has also actively supported many other charity organizations in Canada and abroad. She has been involved with Young Artists for Haiti, Time for Climate Justice Campaign, Canadian Kidney Foundation, Peterborough MusicFest, Fashion CARES. More recently, she has been the spokesperson for Bell Let's Talk, an initiative to end the stigma surrounding mental illness. Ryder is a member of the Canadian charity Artists Against Racism.
In August 2015, Ryder performed on CBC TV's "Quietest Concert Ever on the Ocean Floor", which took place on the ocean floor during low tide at Fundy National Park in New Brunswick, Canada. During this pre-recorded concert documentary (also available to stream on YouTube), she performed songs from her upcoming album titled Utopia. The televised broadcast of this concert was on September 25, 2015.
|Serena Ryder Live||
|If Your Memory Serves You Well||—||—||—||—|
|Is It O.K.||
- Serena (1999)
- A Day at the Studio (2002)
- Told You in a Whispered Song (2007)
- Sweeping the Ashes (2008)
- Serena Ryder & the Beauties 12" Vinyl (2011)
- Electric Love (2017)
- Live at The Market Hall (2002)
- Serena Ryder Live (2003)
- Live in Oz (2005)
- Live in South Carolina (2011)
|Title||Year||Peak chart positions||Certifications||Album|
|"Good Morning Starshine"||2006||84||—||—||If Your Memory Serves You Well|
|"Weak In The Knees"||44||—||—||
|"Calling To Say"||2007||40||—||—||Non-album single|
|"Little Bit of Red"||2008||82||—||—||Is It O.K.|
|"All for Love"||—||—||29|
|"What I Wanna Know"||2009||—||—||—|
|"Broken Heart Sun" (with Melissa Etheridge)||2011||—||—||—||Live|
|"What I Wouldn't Do"||2013||8||8||—||
|"Mary Go Round"||—||—||—|
|"Together We Are One"||2015||—||—||—||Non-album single|
|"Got Your Number"||2016||62||19||—||
|"Be the Ones"||2018||—||—||—||Non-album singles|
|"Famous" (featuring Simon Ward)||—||—||—|
|"Christmas Kisses"||—||—||—||Christmas Kisses|
|1.||"Bodies and Minds" (with Great Lake Swimmers), (Lost Channels, 2005)||3:48|
|2.||"Your Rocky Spine" (with Great Lake Swimmers), (Ongiara, 2007)||3:36|
|3.||"That's No Way To Say Goodbye" (with Adam Cohen), 2008)||4:06|
|4.||"Heart of Gold" (with Lior), 2008)||3:17|
|5.||"Everything is Moving So Fast" (with Great Lake Swimmers), (Legion Sessions, 2009)||4:09|
|6.||"So Ready" (with Milosh Pfisterer), 2009)||4:33|
|7.||"You Can Always Come Home" (with Jason Castro), (Love Uncompromised, 2009)||3:19|
|8.||"Stones Under Rushing Water" (with NEEDTOBREATHE), (The Outsiders, 2009)||3:19|
|9.||"Lonely In Columbus" (with Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers), (The Bear, 2010)||4:23|
|10.||"Walk That Way" (with Jimmy Rankin), (Forget About The World, 2011)||3:38|
|11.||"Broken Heart Sun" (with Melissa Etheridge, 2011)||3:33|
|12.||"My Heart Has Wings" (with Aengus Finnan) (North Wind, 2011)||4:25|
|13.||"Black Sheep" (with Blackie & the Rodeo Kings) (Kings and Queens, 2011)||3:05|
|14.||"If I Can't Have You" (with Blackie & the Rodeo Kings) (Kings and Queens, 2011)||5:28|
|15.||"Fire It Up" (with Johnny Reid) (Fire It Up, 2012)||3:45|
|16.||"All Over Again" (with Jerry Leger) (Some Folks Know, 2012)||3:04|
|17.||"Beat This Heart" (with Tim Chiasson) (The Other Side, 2012)||3:01|
|18.||"When You Know" (with Matt Epp) (Learning To Lose Control, 2013)||4:20|
|19.||"Heart of Gold" (with Gord Downie), 2013)||3:17|
|20.||"I'm Alive" (with Michael Franti & Spearhead), 2013)||3:43|
|21.||"Uh-Oh" (with Jeremy Fisher) (The Lemon Squeeze, 2014)||3:24|
|22.||"In The Morning" (with The Trews) (The Trews, 2014)||4:33|
|23.||"To Love Somebody" (with Bobby Bazini) (Where I Belong, 2014)||5:01|
|24.||"Counting Stars" (with One Republic), 2014)||5:01|
|25.||"Hard Love" (with NEEDTOBREATHE) (Hard Love, 2016)||3:24|
|26.||"Happy Xmas (War is Over)" (with Shawn Hook) 2017)||3:05|
|27.||"Famous" (with Simon Ward), 2018)||4:18|
|28.||"Walk In The Park" (with Colin Macdonald), 2018)||3:05|
|29.||"What I Wouldn't Do" (with Brett Kissel), 2018)||3:39|
|30.||"Mary Go Round" (with Melissa Etheridge), 2019)||3:39|
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