It doesn’t seem as though it was all that long ago that Toronto’s Serena Ryder was here in the Maritimes.
Might she be falling in love with the Maritimes and our laid back way of life? Well, that might be the case. But probably more accurately, Ryder is simply continuing promotion on her Gold selling album Is It OK, squeezing the shows in our province in between other Canadian dates and a seemingly endless tour schedule in the US.
In spite of battling illness (which she reassures me is not the dreaded H1N1 virus), Ryder’s reflections on the year past are positive.
“Oh my gosh, this year has been so amazing for me,” Ryder gushes. “It ended up really blowing my expectations out of the water in terms of what I had expected going into the year.”
While forming lasting relationships with tour mates like Great Lake Swimmers and Eric Hutchinson, Ryder has also made a point of being a repeat visitor to many of the cities she has played over the past year, building her name with persistence and the good old reliable word of mouth.
“Being on the road is the most fun for me. I really see being on tour as though I am building a little community of people around me.
“It’s been incredibly cool and I feel increasingly comfortable re-visiting cities and towns and recognizing people in the crowd as well as the promoter and some of the opening bands.”
Ryder’s hectic tour schedule reinforces that down-time is a foreign concept to the artist. The shows she will be performing in the Maritimes fit nicely into her tour schedule before she heads back to the United States for another round of touring.
Approximately two weeks ago, Is It OK was released in America, which helps to explain the reason why she has spent so much of her time south of the border. When quizzed about the differences in touring the two countries, Ryder confirms that they are numerous.
“Touring in the US is different if only because the cities are that much more concentrated and there is so much ground to cover,” she says. “I worked in Canada for the past seven years and built my success that way. In the States though, it has been a slow building affair which I feel is equally important. The fact is, I am not taking anything for granted. There are not a whole lot of people and bands on tour so it makes me feel extra blessed to be able to tour through two different countries and work on building those relationships organically.
“The US is so incredibly huge that you really have to be dedicated to touring to the same American cities numerous times to really make any dent at all.”
Early indications show that American audiences seem to be taking to Ryder: Upon the release of Is It OK, the ground-work she had laid helped catapult the record to the number one position on Billboard’s New Artist chart, which has Ryder admitting is simply “insane”.
One influential tour that Ryder is hoping that she will able to add to her itinerary in 2010 is that of the revitalized Lilith Fair tour, organized by Vancouverite Sarah McLachlan. Although there are many details still to be confirmed on the female-dominated tour, Ryder has her fingers crossed that she will be able to call herself a Lilith Fair performer.
“I’ve got that in the works now,” Ryder excitedly says. “I would love to do the entire tour but would be content with a couple of weeks too. Lilith Fair is something I have wanted to be a part of since the tour first started.
“Funny enough, I had tried out for a position on the ‘rising star’ Lilith Fair stage when I was 16 or 17 years old and ended up being a runner-up.”
So did Ryder give the stink-eye to the performer who nudged her out of the coveted spot?
“No,” she laughs. “I don’t even remember who it was!”
In addition to maintaining her own hectic tour schedule over the past two years, Ryder had the opportunity to take in a concert by musical legend Leonard Cohen at one of his tour stops in Toronto. A lifelong influence on Ryder and her music, she says the evening was a truly magical affair.
“Leonard Cohen’s show was brilliant but honestly, I was almost a little scared to go see him,” she admits. “I had totally built the show up to be this fairytale story and was worried that it wouldn’t end up being what I expected his show to be. But it ended up being as magical as I had hoped it would be. There were very few moments I had dry eyes. It was a very moving night.”
Once her dates in the Maritimes have wrapped up, Ryder will be returning to her adopted hometown of Toronto to play a benefit for the War Child Organization on Dec. 7 at the Dakota Tavern. Both War Child and The Dakota have had the benefit of having other bands such as Sloan performing for them and as far as Ryder is concerned, there is perhaps no other organization that she would rather lend a hand to.
“I admire the work that they do so much,” she says. “Going into these war-torn countries and helping the people affected by war rebuild their lives is just an incredible thing and deserves being supported.”
New Brunswickers will have three opportunities to see Serena Ryder on her upcoming tour: Her first show will be on Sunday, Nov. 29 at the Playhouse in Fredericton. Her tour will then take her to Saint John’s Imperial Theatre on Monday, Nov. 30 and to Mount Allison’s Convocation Hall in Sackville on Wednesday, Dec. 2.