Hit maker Ryder readying some new tunes
Another record likely to follow tour for Utopia album
Five years between albums is a long time. Ontario artist Serena Ryder knows that. But following up 2012’s massively successful Harmony was a daunting task.
The album yielded the tripleplatinum (and counting) single Stompa, as well its radio staple followup What I Wouldn’t Do. Both songs are still in heavy rotation.
Both the leadoff hyper-hooky Got Your Number — call it Ryder’s response to the heel and handclap Ellie King hit Ex’s and Oh’s — and the title track to her new 17-song album Utopia are assured places in the programmer’s permanent playlist too.
She’s pretty pumped about taking the new material on the road and presenting both Serena Ryder, the acoustic-based singer/songwriter and her more recent pop star bandleader style.
“It’s a totally different thing this time around, with a lot of just me playing guitar vibe, which is going to be cool,” said Ryder.
“And I have a new drummer filling in for the first three shows who was my first drummer ever when I began in my teens, and then Adrian Bent takes over, who mostly plays with Drake. He’s so badass, he’s insane.”
Rocking out at the front is Ryder, with her Gibson Flying V guitar, no less. She loves to play the uniquelyshaped axe made famous by Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel.
“It’s so easy, so natural to play, but I have weird taste in guitars,” Ryder said.
“My other one is the Silvertone from the 1950s from Sears that came with a guitar case that had a built-in speaker. It’s very special to me, as it was a gift from the late Willie P. Bennett.”
Ryder, 34, used to hang out with Bennett when she was starting out as her late uncle, musician Bob Carpenter, and Bennett were tight.
Since her 20s, the singer/songwriter’s evolving sound has showcased literate lyrics and a real knack with a melody. That some of this was absorbed through exposure to some of the country’s unsung greats is something she is thankful for.
Her sound has certainly evolved over the course of her six studio albums. It is almost like there is an EDM/rock record trying to get into the grooves. Not so, she says.
“I know, where is this going to go next, right?” she said. “I get inspired by big-arse beats to write the melodies and, depending on which Serena is at the forefront, those songs can come out sounding one way or another. Ultimately I do think it always comes around to where you started and that is me and my guitar, which is where I think the next one is going to go
after the Utopia tour cycle is done.”
Ryder is excited to move on, and admits that she has a “mountain” of material that didn’t make the last EP and album. She isn’t writing the new record, though. Instead, she is building a home studio she has wanted to finish for awhile.
“Utopia was largely done on a laptop and two speakers in my kitchen and another person’s living room and, maybe one or two studios involved for brief periods,” she said.
“That’s how I’ve always done it, to some degree, and (it is) pretty much the norm for most artists now.”
The hardest part of the creative process with Utopia was selecting the material. As someone who has gone through well-documented bouts of depression and the slowdowns that can bring, Ryder came into this album with mountains of songs. So many, she briefly considered dropping a triple album.
Yet she doesn’t see the songs that didn’t make the final cut being the body of the next record. While she won’t deny that she could develop into an artist who might cut and paste past ideas into new tracks, that isn’t her process at the moment.
“I’m always interested in newness, in moving forward and being excited by it,” she said. “That can include going backwards to relearn or unlearn something, but it’s always with the notion of a new approach.”
With a lengthy career for someone so young, how does she find having to include fan favourites in her set when she is so hyper aware of the next step ahead?
“The singles that are the ones that people really like are usually the really good songs so I have no problem with playing them repeatedly because I like them and I love the crowd response,” Ryder says.
“I’m just so glad I didn’t write Barbie Girl. It’s a great song, but there is probably a certain period of time and place with a song like that you might not keep feeling.”
Ryder says a great song is like a mantra and if you nail it right, you are ascending.
The singer feels really great about her voice right now. A longtime smoker, she recently quit and has already started to discover some added vocal range.
Expect that new-found creative edge to work its way into her next record as Ryder’s career rolls on.
KAYLE NEIS Serena Ryder is excited about taking her new material on the road and presenting both the acoustic-based singer/ songwriter’s earlier work and her more recent pop star bandleader style.