By Keith Sharp
Serena Ryder is a song writing machine. The lady can’t help herself. In recording her latest album, Utopia, Ryder reckons she wrote about 100 songs to be condensed into 17 songs featured on the deluxe version of her new album.
Considering that she also wrote about 65 songs for her previous studio album, `Harmony’, it’s a safe assessment to make that Serena could retire tomorrow and still have enough material in the vault to release albums for the next 10 years.
“Yes that’s kind of a lot of songs but they were written over a period of three years,” allowed the Toronto native on the phone from Sarnia Ontario where she is set to appear in concert that night. “I just like writing songs, it’s just something I do. I know I don’t have a particular image, I am not like these pop star people, my influences are all over the map.”
Modesty aside, the track “Stompa” was a huge hit off her 2012 `Harmony’ release, reaching 4x platinum in sales, allowing her to top certain U.S charts and generating enough star power to appear on the same stage as OneRepublic, Kayne West, Melissa Etheridge and Pitbull and on U.S TV chat shows like Jay Leno. The success of that album also allowed Ryder to add to her Juno Award collection, which now totals six.
“Ironically, I don’t write songs to be played on the radio, and when that does happen, it’s a bonus,” Ryder allowed. “That hasn’t been my goal in life, I write songs because I love writing songs and I’m lucky that I can do this as a career.”
Whilst the material which sparked `Harmony’ were generated by a positive personal relationship, the subsequent dissolvent of that relationship has left Ryder in a more reflective mood, spending over three years to funnel her emotions into her current project.
“Any material I write is a snapshot of how I feel at that moment in time and this one is more like a journey record,” Ryder allowed. “It’s reflective of the different parts of my life and the different things that I’ve learned. It has a theme, it has the darkness, the lightness and the middle ground. The name `Utopia’ comes from this place. It’s an imaginary place that you get to create based on your own experiences.”
“Personally, I think there’s a lot of bullshit going on in the world,” Ryder continues. “My mantra is `think positive thoughts and positive things will happen. There has to be a balance to every spectrum of life so you have to be okay with the good and the bad. This is the theme I played with during the entire writing of the record.”
That’s not to say `Utopia’ is a dour downbeat record. Tracks like “Got Your Number” and “Electric Love” inject the same upbeat enthusiasm which made “Stompa” such a major hit and her new single “Ice Age” is also reflective of a more positive direction. “ Maybe one third of the record is kind of dark, tracks like “Killing Time” and “Wild And Free” and there’s some middle ground but we’re all excited about the potential of “Ice Age”, that song is attracting a lot of positive attention.”
For someone who’s been writing constantly since her teens, has won a Juno for Best New Artist in 2008 and won Songwriter and Best Artist of The Year honours for `Harmony’ in 2014, Ryder continues to build her reputation purely on her vocal and song writing talents.
“There’s a lot of different ways you can showcase your art,” Ryder explains. “A lot of pop artists base their image on what they are selling and what the product is, the things they are attached to instead of just their songs. For me it’s all about the songs.”
Serena’s fans will get to witness the presentation of her new show when she tours Ontario in support of Utopia in December, playing Toronto’s Danforth Theatre December 21st and 22nd. “I’m super excited about the show,” she allows. “I’’ll be playing a bunch of the new stuff as well as the old stuff and there will be an intimate part of the evening where it’s just me and my acoustic guitar. It will be like three or four shows in one.”