Ryder CD a love letter to Canada
TORONTO – “Whoa,” Serena Ryder exclaims, with the phone to her ear. The thin drumming of her tour van’s engine whistling in the background, as her driver overtakes a truck somewhere between Winnipeg and Regina, “driving in the prairies is really quite interesting,” she continues. “It’s windy out here and we kind of lost control for a minute. Where were we?”
Two albums into her burgeoning folk-rock career, the 23-year-old singer-songwriter, is turning back the clock, uncovering a slate of Canadian musical gems for her recently released major-label debut, “If Your Memory Serves You Well.”
Her soulful whisper broods through the Band’s “This Wheel’s On Fire” and her piano-led version of Paul Anka’s “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore.” And her beautifully plaintive take on Bonnie Dobson’s “(Take Me For A Walk In The) Morning Dew” builds on Lanois-like atmospherics that give way to a Wainwright-y blast of popera on her plucky rendering of “Boo Hoo,” a campy 1937 number co-written by Guy Lombardo’s brother Carmen.
Sounding like a less emotionally ground-down version of Fiona Apple, the Millbrook, Ont., native also glides through Leonard Cohen’s “Sisters Of Mercy,” Percy Faith’s “My Heart Cries For You” and Sylvia Tyson’s “You Were On My Mind.”
“I love Canada,” says Ryder, on day two of a cross-country tour that continues throughout the month. “Since I was seven-years-old, I’ve been singing other people’s songs, so it was an easy decision for me to embrace my influences and embrace where I come from.
“I thought it was a beautiful project to do, so I did it.”
Recorded in Toronto and Vancouver the album got a bit of a kick-start from veteran music publisher Frank Davies, who founded the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, hot on the heels of Ryder’s 2004 indie debut, “Unlikely Emergency,” which was released with some help from Hawksley Workman.
“I really wanted to hear material that I’d never heard before, and Frank has that well of information where he’s able to find all these rare Canadian songs,” she says. “We started with over 500 songs, but how I chose which ones to cover was by listening to myself singing them.
“Seeing how the song fit vocally, seeing if I could put myself in those shoes and seeing if I could really believe in what I was singing? The songs I was able to do all those things with, popped out right away and ended up being the ones I picked.”
But “If Your Memory Serves…” isn’t strictly a spin through some classic Canadian covers; Ryder also drops three originals, one of which was co-written with Randy Bachman, at the end of the 15-song set.
“I’ve been writing a lot,” she informs proudly, “but I’m not quite sure what the next record will sound like ’cause I’m constantly changing my mind about what my ideas of what I want to do or what I want to sound like is going to be.
“Usually when I record a record it’s a snapshot of a certain time. It’s a snapshot of a moment in my life.”
The mostly all-covers album, usually reserved to fill an artist’s schedule when they’ve stumbled into a case of late-career writer’s block, clocking in early for the songstress, Ryder says she’s happy to be interpreting a slate of other people’s material to listeners across the country.
“I don’t even think of my own songs as my own songs,” she admits. “I think of music as belonging to everybody. That’s what art is. It’s a universal language that doesn’t belong to any one person.”
And the reason she chose to cover strictly Canadians?
“That’s all I really know,” she says. “That’s where I come from. So I figured this was the best place to start.”
Here are the dates for Serena Ryder’s current Canadian tour:
February 1, Victoria, BC – The Central Bar and Grill
February 3, Tofino, BC – Tofino Legion
February 4, Vancouver, BC – The Media Club
February 6, Kimberley, BC – Bean Tree Cafe
February 7, Lethbridge, AB – Tongue ‘N’ Groove
February 8, Red Deer, AB – Elks Hall
February 9, Edmonton, AB – Sidetrack Cafe
February 10, Saskatoon, SK – Amigo’s Cafe
February 22, Hamilton, ON – Casbah
February 24, Toronto, ON – Mod Club
February 26, Ottawa, ON – Barrymores
February 28, Whitehorse, YT – Atco Place
March 1, Whitehorse, YT – Atco Place
Ryder CD a love letter to Canada