Juno award-winning songstress Serena Ryder has been moved by music since she was in the womb. “My mom is a singer and a go-go dancer. Well, she was when she was younger. There was always lots of singing when I was in her belly,” says Serena, describing how she was born into a life full of song. It makes sense that the first time Serena sang her heart out on stage was at the tender age of two. “I don’t remember, but there is photographic evidence.”
Beyond growing up in a family that placed great value on music, Serena credits her artistic journey to where she grew up. “There was a lot of trust in my small town. I was able to walk by myself downtown when I was eight years old.” She tells me that the village she grew up in was located in a valley, surrounded by woods, farmers’ fields, and swimming holes. “As a nature kid, I loved going on trails and having imagination parties in the woods.”
After a few minutes into our conversation, I decide that Serena is probably one of the most grounded celebrities I’ve ever chatted with. It may be due to her small-town roots or her kinship with nature, but it could also be because her career as a musician is more of a long-building fire than a sky ablaze with fireworks. “A lot of people release a record and it’s really great and it explodes right away. It’s like they get shot into the sky like a big firework and then fizzle out. I’ve been really blessed to move more like a turtle.”
While the arc of her career has been slow and steady, the excitement she has for her upcoming record is palpable. “I feel really proud of it. It represents who I am, where I’ve been and where I want to go. I feel really at home with it.”
As someone who has battled openly with mental health issues, it’s joyous to witness the confidence and excitement in Serena. I ask her if she thinks that finding her voice has to do with maturing. “Oh fuck yeah,” she replies. “I’m thirty-three now, and it was really hard being in my twenties and my teens. Not so hard being a little kid, but once your hormones and your brain start changing, it’s fucking hard. I feel like the closer we get to the middle or end of our lives, the closer we get to the truth of ourselves.”
In a sense, Serena has had a bit of a rebirth and shares with me how her experience with depression has helped restructure her life. “I go through phases of creativity and phases of hibernation. I hibernated for about a year and a half and was on medication for depression. I just needed to have time for myself. I gained a whole bunch of weight – that’s what I do when I hibernate; I’m literally a bear. I stopped my medication and I replaced it with meditation, which I now call my meds. I wake up in the morning and tell my fiancée, “I’m going to do my meds now.”
Beyond meditating, Serena often returns to her childhood roots, continuing to find magic, respite and energy from nature. “I try to get my feet on the ground as much as possible – literally. I go for walks every day in the woods. I think walking is really underrated. If anyone can do one thing every day, it should be to go for a walk.”
She may have had her first spotlight on stage at age two and her first performance at age eight, but Serena Ryder is the opposite of an entitled diva. She’s as grounded as the forests she walks in. Walk on, woman…walk on. Your tracks cut deep and your journey is an inspiration.