Pure raw amazing talent is what has garnered Canada’s own Serena Ryder such great success and genuine accolades so early in her career. Now after a challenging year of heartache and heartbreak, she has pushed herself as a songwriter and performer to make a uniquely personal and very honest album entitled, is it o.k.
EMI Music Canada releases is it o.k on November 11, 2008, with a U.S. release (via Atlantic Records) scheduled for February 2009. Produced by John Alagia (Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer, Jason Mraz), she recorded the album in the Santa Monica studio complex Village Recorder, where her all-time favourite album, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors was recorded. “I was in Stevie Nicks’ vocal booth with candles all around and stained-glass windows and mirrors everywhere. It was totally fabulous. I definitely felt the energy. I wanted to tap my veins into the walls, you know?” says Ryder.
Known for her powerful vocal range, Ryder who hails from the small town of Millbrook, Ontario, has logged some serious tour miles going across Canada multiple times, as well as the U.S. (including Bonnarroo, Lollapalooza, South by Southwest and Denver’s Mile High Music Festival), Australia and Europe. She has already earned a Canadian GOLD record, the 2008 JUNO Award for New Artist of the Year, a #1 holiday single for ‘Calling To Say’ and been part of Bravo! TV’s highfalutin ‘Live at the Rehearsal Hall’ series.
On her late-2006 debut for EMI, If Your Memory Serves You Well, she covered some of Canada’s finest songwriters, including Leonard Cohen, as a way to learn from “these masters of story” and further develop her own songwriting skills. Ironically it was the plainspoken heartache of Ryder’s own, entirely self-penned ‘Weak in the Knees’ that really propelled the record and even earned her a GOLD Single award.
On is it o.k, she is at times palpably sad, vulnerable and even confused, but always strikingly real and in the moment. “There is a greater good to be found in the darker moments of one’s life…there are lessons in the dark, more potent than any facades of happiness. I’m frustrated at how greatly misinterpreted the word ‘happiness’ has become by pop culture…most of us spend our whole lives trying to achieve this horrifically impossible state. I’m feeling my way around in the dark to stop using my ‘book by the cover’ eyes,” says Ryder.
The album is also tough as nails where it counts – just listen to the caustic roar Ryder brings to the standout rocker and first single ‘Little Bit of Red.’ Other tracks such as ‘All For Love,’ ‘Blown Like The Wind,’ ‘Stumbling Over You,’ ‘When The Truth Just Walks Away’ and title track ‘is it o.k,’ uncover a plethora of emotions.
“This whole record is about realizing that the more we think we know the less we do know,” she insists. “It’s about me coming to terms with the fact that I’m imperfect, about being comfortable with feeling what I’m feeling and embracing being human in any way I possibly can.”
Fortunately the process of making the record felt at times effortless for Ryder, who was completely at ease in the studio with such lofty session heavyweights as guitarist Lyle Workman (Pixies, Beck, Sting) and drummer Matt Chamberlain (Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, David Bowie). Everything came together so organically that they ended up tracking a lot of the album live off the floor. “It was great because the process of writing the record and recording it were so cathartic,” says Ryder.
Her immense growth as a songwriter is evident throughout the album, especially as Ryder is able to bring optimism and energy even to the record’s darker moments. The accomplished result is the strength and new conviction evident in one of Canada’s – hell, the world’s – most intriguing newest songwriting voices.
With is it o.k, Ryder has clearly set the bar higher for artists of her generation…including herself.