DREAM-LIKE CHILDHOOD TO DREAM CAREER
When Serena says she was “successful at the get-go’” as a singer and as a songwriter in the Canadian music scene, she’s not exaggerating. She hadn’t even made it out of her teens before being given an independent deal, followed by a major contract, which led to touring around the world garnering praise that likened her to greats like Aretha Franklin for her formidable, soulful pipes and mentor Melissa Etheridge for her raw, emotional songwriting.
But, growing up two hours outside of Tornoto, Canada in an idyllic tiny Ontario town called Millbrook (pop. 1,600), Serena’s flavor wasn’t always appreciated by her peers. ”All the kids at school used to make fun of me all the time,” she confessed to the Bowery fans during one of her many endearing anecdotes in the set. ”They said I sounded like a goat when I would sing, because I have vibrato.”
Serena soon gained an appreciation for her old-soul timbre as she was exposed to jazz and blues legends like Etta James and Bessie Smith thanks to AM radio listening sessions on Sunday drives with her dad. Multiple Juno Award wins later Serena got the opportunity to write an ode to the classics that inspired her style with “For You.” The swelling big band tune is composed around a string sample of Nina Simone‘s “I Put a Spell on You.” Coupled with Serena’s lower register rasp, it sounds like a lost vinyl recording of a James Bond theme from the 60s.
Her childhood was similar in that nostalgic way, “I always felt like it was a hazy dreamland when I was there. I knew someday I was going to wake up and be outside of it and have that as a memory,” Serena said. “In my head right now it will always be this romantic little place.”