8 Questions with Serena Ryder

By Kirsti Salmi, Photo by Evaan Kheraj

Toronto rock-pop powerhouse Serena Ryder is heading on the western leg of her Utopia tour to celebrate the album’s release last spring. Utopia is the “Stompa” singer’s follow up to 2012’s Harmony, and the 12-track LP is every inch as vivacious, energetic, and confident as its predecessor. Nobody does sing-it-from-the-top-of-your-lungs like Serena Ryder, and you’ll have the chance to holler back on February 27 at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium. Ryder took a few minutes to talk hockey and the healing powers of music, serenade us with The Band, and let you in on how Thunder Bay fans can blow her away on her last tour stop.

TW: You performed the national anthem at the Scotiabank NHL 100 classic recently—are you a hockey fan?

SR: I like going to hockey games because the excitement is super palpable, and it’s fun to be in a place where everyone is screaming and having a great time. Usually I just go for fun and hot dogs and beer—when it comes to the rules of the game, I don’t pay too much attention.

TW: Do you have a team that you root for?

SR: I’m a Toronto girl, so it’s gotta be the Maple Leafs.

Jimmy Fontaine

TW: You’ve been touring Utopia since its release last May. Now that fans have gotten a chance to get to know the album, what songs do you find crowds are responding to the most?

SR: We’re four singles into the record, which is amazing, and they’re the ones that people know the best. I find the biggest response has been to “Got Your Number.” That was the first single; it’s a super high energy song, and people know all the lyrics to it now. The one I wasn’t quite expecting was “Sanctuary”—people are really enjoying it, and it’s a bit of a tear-jerker. “Ice Age” is another that’s been huge.

TW: The video for “Ice Age,” and the song itself, are incredibly joyful—not gonna lie, I teared up a bit when I was watching it. It made me really happy.

SR: Yay! That is the best, thank you.

TW: The video has that way of showing how music can suspend time for people, connecting them with moments in their history. What was it like to film?

SR: So much fun. We went to a senior’s home in Regina, and everyone was so excited to be in the music video. It’s not something that happens every day! And it wasn’t our everyday scenario either—getting to hang out with them was wonderful. They have so many stories, so much passion, and you can see it in their eyes. Music helps bring that out in people. They remember stories when they were younger, and they share that with you. So it was super special to film it there. My favourite part was when we all got to dance with each other.

TW: You’ve said the “Ice Age” video was inspired by the healing power of music. I think singing along in concerts with thousands of people is really healing. What’s your favourite song to have a giant singalong to?

SR: Definitely “The Weight” by The Band. [Sings] Take a load off Fanny, take a load for free. I love that song! So good. It brings me all of the feels, every time. It’s more of a campfire or a kitchen party situation for me, rather than an arena song.

TW: Any specific memories attached to it?

SR: You know how sometimes music gets in touch with a feeling so deep inside of you that you kind of feel like it comes from a past life? You have no idea why—you can’t even put words to it, it’s so old and deep. That’s how I feel when I’m singing that song. Or! I could have just been really drunk at a party one night and had a great fucking time when that song came on. [laughs]

Jimmy Fontaine

TW: Your last touring stop is in Thunder Bay. A lot of artists get asked: do you have anything planned for us? Which is kind of a terrible way to put you on the spot. So I want to ask: is there anything we do to make it a memorable end to the tour for you?

SR: Oh wow, I’ve never been asked that. It’s very considerate. Since we’re on the topic, one thing that really makes me feel awesome is having people sing along. If anyone knows any of the words to my songs, sing! It means so much. And I love when people smile up at me! I don’t know if the audiences knows that I’m actually looking back at them, that I can see their faces. If someone thinks I’ve looked at them, I totally have—you’re not making that up. It’s not your imagination. The more interactive it is, the more excited I get to perform. I love to feel like there’s a conversation going back and forth with you.

Serena Ryder will play the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium on February 27 at 7:30 pm. To purchase tickets, visit tbca.com.