Serena Ryder grew up in Ontario, but when she comes to the East Coast, it feels just like home.
Ryder will once again grace a Nova Scotia stage at the Rock The Fiddle Festival at the Sydney Waterfront in Cape Breton on August 12, 2023.
“It’s just going to be a really awesome time. My favourite part of summer is the festivals. They’ve always been my favourite,” said Ryder during an interview with Nova Scotia Buzz.
“Both myself and audiences get to see other performers and hear other music, and there’s so much joy in summer. Being outdoors and enjoying art is so fun. I can go on tour and give one show with all my music – But being at a festival is to be part of a community.”
Ryder has an affinity for heading to the Maritimes, and Nova Scotia in particular. No stranger to Halifax, she also loves heading to Cape Breton to play, and can’t wait for what this opportunity will bring her.
“I get to play with great artists. For instance, Matt Mays will be there, and he’s just great. I’ve been to Cape Breton many times, and it’s always a blast,” she said
Other artists on the docket include Hearts Of Kin, Jimmy Rankin Band, The Privateers, Andre Pettipas and the Giants, and more. For Ryder, it feels like coming back home.
“One of my first tours, we went out East and stopped in Cape Breton. I’ve always felt if I could move anywhere else in the country, it’d be the East Coast,” she said.
“There’s such a love of art and music there. It seems like everyone is always so joyful.”
Last time she was in town, it was what she considers “one of the best” tours she’s done, and featured a big run of shows.
“I got to have a day off there. I grew up in a village of under 1,000 people (Millbrook, Ont.). When I’m in Cape Breton, there’s a sense of small-town feel, and there’s a love of art and community,” she said. “It just feels like home every single time.”
She’s been a lover of Atlantic Canadian fish & chips her entire life, and knows she’ll be grabbing some while she’s down.
“It was one of the biggest treats my dad would get us. I remember when it was served on a platter with newspaper in it. I know exactly what I’ll be eating while I’m there,” she said.
An activist for mental health, 2023 saw her 2013 hit song “What I Wouldn’t Do” reach a new audience with a Kids Help Phone campaign.
“I ended up changing the lyrics specifically for that purpose. It was covered by 50 artists across the country,” she said. The song became a charity single for the organization’s Feel Out Loud campaign for youth mental health.
“I wrote that some so many years ago. I was being vulnerable, and as my career has gone on, I’m realizing I’m not alone in dealing with mental health & wellness.”
Ryder is currently enjoying the success of her March 2021 album The Art Of Falling Apart, one of the most raw, emotional and honest efforts in her career. It is an album where she is focused on talking about issues that really matter.
“We need to talk about things and show people in the community that we can talk about how we feel. There’s this idea we need to have our shit together, and all we see are people’s perfect lives on social media. But it’s not true, and we need to be able to talk about these things to heal,” she said.
“We need to come together, realize it’s okay to not be okay all the time, and speak candidly. My last record was about mental wellness, and audiences have changed since I released The Art Of Falling Apart. People are discovering me who didn’t know me before. The world is changing so fast, and we need to speak about uncomfortable things.”
It’s been a few years since her last album release, but Ryder has spent that time doing things that allow her space to truly enjoy where she’s at.
“I’ve been writing for other artists and doing some producing. It’s been so much fun for me. I’ve had some time for self-discovery when it comes to my art. I’m looking at how I used to do music when I was a kid and re-discovering that. I’ve been patient with that process,” she said.
“I do have a new single coming August 18th. I’m doing a cover of a song by an unbelievable, amazing artist. It’s a new version of a modern, popular song by a young artist. The song is on the radio, but I’m keeping what it is a secret until it’s released.”
As she gets ready for Rock The Fiddle, Ryder can’t wait to head back to the place that makes her feel comfortable.
“Having grown up where I did, when I go to the East Coast I just feel a connection. I always have felt it’s somewhere I want to go and tour,” she said.
“It feeds my soul when I go there. I have such a good relationship with that area, and going there brings me true joy.”