In an industry where originality and genuine musicianship are rare, Serena Ryder is one of the exceptional few. Known for her natural songwriting talent and raspy, powerful vocals, the six-time Juno Award-winner and certified Gold and Platinum artist has come a long way from playing local venues as a driven teen in her hometown of Millbrook, Ontario. But despite her worldwide fame and accolades, Ryder hasn’t lost that genuine Canadian-ness about her.
“I love that we’re coming to the West Coast, because it’s nice weather!” she sings, revealing her melodic voice over the phone. From her snowy home in Toronto, Ryder says she is excited to make her return to Vancouver on Feb. 13, 2018 at the Vogue Theatre. Followed by dates through the West Coast, Alberta, and Ontario, this circuit marks the last leg of the promotional tour for Utopia, her sixth studio album.
“Every single song that I wrote on the record came from a really intense place in me,” says Ryder, the daughter of a Caribbean folk musician. Over the course of almost three years, the inherently gifted guitarist wrote close to 100 songs in preparation for Utopia, which was released in May 2017. “They laid the foundation of this record,” she explains of the surplus of songs. “It was a part of a foundation of this house that I built, of this album that I built, that people don’t necessarily need to see. They aren’t necessarily that pretty, but they keep the house held up.”
From fun, high-energy tunes to dark, sombre songs including “Killing Time” and “Wild and Free,” the 17-track deluxe album is partly inspired by the themes of an old First Nations story about two wolves—a dark wolf and a white wolf. “One of the songs on the record has a line about ‘the one you feed is the one that wins,’” Ryder says. “There’s always more than just black and white, right or wrong; there’s always a middle ground. If you feed both wolves, neither one of them wins or is killed.”
In pursuit of this equilibrium, this “semblance of balance in life,” Ryder continues to reinvent herself with provoking songs, versatile vocals, and a colourful range of musical styles. Boasting sounds of country, rock, folk, soul, blues, and more, Utopia is a testament to the artist’s continuous evolution since her international breakthrough record Harmony in 2012.
With an imminent new album and a personal recording studio in the works, exciting things are on the horizon for Ryder. “It’s going to be my sanctuary, writing space, and eventually I’m going to bring other artists in and do collaborations,” she says, envisioning a management company and other projects like podcasts being hosted in the new studio. Ryder has every right to be excited about the future—hers is looking very bright, indeed.
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