You Oughta Know Serena Ryder Breaks Boundaries, Battles Depression + Finds Harmony

Serena Ryder captivated the standing room-only crowd on the floor of her Monday night show in New York last month. The Canadian crooner kicked off the hour-long set with a spellbinding a capella verse of “Nobody But You” as a single spotlight illuminated her black and fringe-clad form, before she launched into full band refrains of “Fall” with Tina Turner-esque conviction.

“This is my very first show at Bowery Ballroom and I’m loving it,” Serena said with the sincere enthusiasm of a new artist on the verge. Only, this performance was in support of Serena’s sixth studio album (her fourth on a major label).

When we caught up with VH1’s June You Oughta Know artist before her Bowery debut, we wanted to know how the hell we overlooked this old-fashioned howler with impassioned vocals and the Melissa Etheridge’s personal seal of approval.

Had our neighbors to the north been selfishly holding out on us since Serena’s indie debut Falling Out dropped in 1999? Serena’s theory on why The States got Justin Bieber while Canada kept the second-coming of Alanis Morissette is more straightforward: “I feel like I just didn’t have the right record yet,” Serena said. “Maybe I wasn’t ready.”

Thirteen years, a live album and four major label LP’s later, Ryder’s latest, Harmony, has her ready as she’ll ever be with the official U.S. release date set for July 16. Lead by the infectious “Stompa” which had the entire Bowery crowd dad dancing* with abandon. As joyful as the single and other tracks are on the album, the subdued, shadow-casting bar setting, where Serena sprawled across a vintage vinyl sofa to chat before her set, was oddly appropriate for telling the inspiring story of how Harmony finally made everything come together.

*To dance erratically like a preteen’s embarrassing chaperon at basement party. See: shameless adj.


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.”

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