Serena Ryder

Serena Ryder


Though only 22 years old, Serena Ryder stands poised on the brink of big things. Armed with a riveting stage presence, powerful three-octave range and songs of intense passion, she invites the listener to observe her soul stripped bare.


Serena Ryder’s first solo performance was not in school, at a talent competition, or on television. It was not even rehearsed. It happened when Serena was only two years old, at a wedding reception for a relative of hers. The band had just gone off for a break, and with an empty stage in front of her, Serena jumped up, grabbed the microphone, and belted out Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ to wild applause from the crowd.

She's come a long way since then. The talented singer/songwriter's compelling US debut 'Unlikely Emergency' will be released April 5 on Isadora Records. Serena wrote nine of the ten songs on the record, with her stunning take on Etta James' "At Last" as the lone exception. "Ryder... strikes one... as a combination of Patsy Cline and Janis Joplin. Add a little Tracy Chapman and Etta James and you've got the picture. Pipes. Presence. Potential”, raved No Depression.

Ryder's family offered her a surprisingly diverse musical education growing up in the small farm town of Millbrook, Ontario. Her mother was a go-go dancer who loved to sing around the house. Her Dad (Spike) used to blast Roger Miller (best known for "King of the Road") or Willie Nelson in the car on Sunday trips.

At seven years of age, she sang at a local Christmas concert. Along with the requisite carols, she sang Ronstadt's "Different Drum" and "That'll Be The Day" by Buddy Holly. "They paid me with a Barbie doll. I was so pissed off. I hated Barbie dolls," says Serena.

More to her taste were the treasures buried in the family’s house. "I used to rummage through the basement," Serena recalls, "through my parent's old record collection from the '50s -‘70s”. Among her finds were Leonard Cohen, John Prine, and the Beatles. "It was an eclectic mix of music for such a young person. While most kids my age were listening to New Kids on the Block, I was discovering dusty vinyl treasures in the basement. Occasionally, my family would get me to put on my tap shoes and perform for their friends to the old jazz standards- not your average 10 year old!”

At age thirteen she received her first guitar as a gift from her father, and promptly began teaching herself to play with considerable help from those records she’d discovered in the basement.

Ryder's big break came after a performance on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Channel) when she met her future mentor, Canadian singer-songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Hawksley Workman. Workman had been listening to the program and immediately called the station. "We've been working together ever since. He comes from a really old place. He's an extremely talented musician who plays the hell out of every instrument. He's also a brilliant producer.” He and Ryder holed up in Workman's studio in preparation for recording 'Unlikely Emergency.' Serena says, "He's got this little studio deep, deep, deep in the woods in Huntsville, Ontario. It's a one-room schoolhouse built in the late 1800s. It's magical, you can hear wolves all around you at night and frogs during the day."

Ryder's songs address both personal and fictional experiences. One case of a fictional story that came true is the heartrending title track, in which she sings, "In an unlikely emergency, over water / You stole my heart but no one was killed.” Serena recalls, "I was almost in a plane crash on my way from Paris to Toronto. About 3 hours over the Atlantic Ocean, the captain says, 'Please don’t panic. We have a gas leakage and we have to go back to the airport.’ As we're landing, you can see huge sheets of gas coming out of the wing. There are paramedics, ambulances, and fire trucks on the runway. I found out later that it was national news. That was a year after I wrote that song."

‘Unlikely Emergency’ closes with a stunning a cappella version of the Etta James standard “At Last,” the only track on the disc that Serena did not write herself. She often ends her live performances with this show-stopper as well, highlighting her powerful voice and immense stage presence.

Ryder’s skills as both a performer and writer have already drawn glowing reviews from critics. Canadian Elle Magazine's Egle Procuta wrote, "When Serena Ryder sings about falling in love, the most jaded world-weariness dissolves... it's impossible not to be physically shaken when [she] sings.” Recent tours have seen Ryder sing with the likes of Bobby "Blue" Bland, the Corrs, Jeff Healey, Steve Earle, and Hawksley Workman.


Unlikely Emergency (2004)
Live (2003)

Set List