When Serena Ryder was a teenager, you could find her performing in motels, coffee shops, and legion halls. Fast forward to today: this Canadian artist has taken her music to cities around the world, and even to the ocean floor. Her best known hits include “Stompa” and “What I Wouldn’t Do,” and she has scored multiple Junos, including “Artist of the Year.” Though this musical marvel is brimming with ongoing projects, she took a moment to share with Parvati Magazine why a “slow and steady” music career wins the race, and how mental health candour and environmental stewardship matter.
Parvati Magazine: You’ve said that you were “born comfortable onstage.” Tell us more, including how you’ve stretched and grown?
Serena Ryder: It took me some time to harness the energy I receive onstage, but today I feel at home there for sure. I do find that healing and growth can happen when you allow yourself to go through the uncomfortable moments that life throws your way. I’ve suffered immense emotional trauma, both situational and internal. I’ve been unable to get out of bed for months. I’ve been in a mental institution. I’ve been in and out of the hospital with intense pain from endometriosis. All these things have broken my heart, body, or mind, but they also healed them. Your heart can’t get any bigger if it never breaks. And I also believe my music has a bigger reach as well, because I can relate to a wide spectrum of people on this planet.
PMAG: A few years ago, you said that you have been “blessed to move like a turtle” in your career. Even with all your success, do you find that still to be true? Why is moving slowly a recipe for success?
SR: Yes, I believe my success is rooted in the steadfastness of that turtle metaphor. And I’m still in no rush. Success is relative and I love finding family through my music.
PMAG: Your single, “Famous,” released last year, had the lyrics, “Could you be happy by my side if we never got famous?” Why did you feel compelled to touch upon this subject at that time?
SR: I feel like this is a timeless subject. Suffering comes from wanting what we don’t have. The idea of fame is warped and overrated, especially in this day and age of instant “gratification” and social media connection. Lots of people think they want fame, when really they just want authentic connection. Let’s hold hands instead of phones!
PMAG: You have described yourself as a “nature kid” immersed in the outdoors. As an artist, you’ve raised awareness about the state of our planet, through events like your Quietest Concert Ever on the ocean floor of the Bay of Fundy as the tide went out. Why is speaking out for nature important to you?
SR: Mother Earth is our home. She’s our future. We need to realize that we are responsible for her health because it’s really our health. The red flags are all around us all of the time.
What we put into our bodies and our environment literally affects everything. First Nations people have always known all of this. We need to start listening to them and making things right before it’s too late.
PMAG: I was inspired by your candour about experiencing depression and being a recipient of the Margaret Trudeau Mental Health Advocacy Award. Do you feel that being open about your mental health was part of the healing process for you?
SR: Absolutely. When I was suffering so much, the one thing I didn’t have was the knowledge that there were others out there going through the same thing.
I believe creating community is the only way to a healthy body, heart, and mind, because no matter what we think, we’re in this together. We need to start being more transparent. If you can’t share your own story, make a safe space to listen so that the people who need to share can do so.
PMAG: Recently you performed on the Melissa Etheridge Cruise, and you are back on the road this summer. With all the different places you have performed and the experiences you have had with fans, what do you hope to bring to this tour?
SR: I want to bring joy and hope, to shine a light and inspire people to take better care of themselves, others, and the environment. It’s all a chain reaction. It’s pretty cool what the magic of one special show can do!
PMAG: Do you have upcoming projects in the works that are inspiring you now?
SR: I have so many ideas right now! My favorite project is my new recording studio and label, ARTHAUS, that my “womanager” Sandy Pandya and a bunch of awesome young talent are helping to create. I’m excited to be a part of creating an environment that fosters inspiring authentic changemakers and musical visionaries.
Toronto-based vocal powerhouse Serena Ryder is an artist adored by fans, peers, and critics alike. She is known for her raw and earnest songwriting and beautifully electric live performances. She has received numerous accolades, including six prestigious JUNO Awards, a MuchMusic Video Award for Best Rock Video for “Stompa,” and a Canadian Screen Award for Achievement in Music – Original Song.