Serena Ryder's eclectic music career

Toronto musician headlines Squamish Constellation Festival—after playing a cruise ship and opening a music studio

Serena Rider has a lot of interesting gigs lined up for the summer.

So, naturally, I open our interview by asking which she's most looking forward to.

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She cuts me off: "Squamish Constellation Festival!"

I laugh, thinking she's pandering to Pique's Sea to Sky readers.

"I'm not joking," she insists. "I'm super, super excited about that. What a great lineup. I'm super proud to be on that lineup. There's a lot of pride surrounding that for me."

Ryder, a Canadian indie singer-songwriter who has a pile of Juno Awards to her name, is one of the headliners of the inaugural Squamish festival. Despite the fact that the 36-year-old has been performing since she was eight, and is celebrating the 20th anniversary of her debut album Falling Out, this type of enthusiasm for performing isn't out of character.

Another memorable show—or rather series of shows—she performed earlier this year was on The Melissa Etheridge Cruise in the spring. "It was life-altering amazing," Ryder says. "There were two-per-cent male (performers). It was 98-per-cent female. It was unbelievable. I'd never been around that many women before in my life. It was a complete sense of comfort and home. It was beautiful, just a friendly energy. No tension, it was really, really cool."

But what was it like to be a celebrity trapped on a ship with throngs of fans? "You have this idea of a cruise ship in your mind—and it wasn't like that at all. It was expansive, gigantic. It felt like summer camp for female musicians. I totally walked around and people were really respectful and cool. It felt comfortable and fantastic," she says.

Sailing the seas aside, Ryder has also added a few more unique items to her resume this year. For one, she hosted a five-week radio show in her home city of Toronto on CHYM ("It was a completely new experience," she says). But an even more labour-intensive project: Art House, a recording studio and soon-to-be music label.

Initially, she planned to use the space for her own music, but it quickly morphed into something bigger.

"I have a lot of really amazing, talented artists coming in and recording and writing," she says. "It's a really interesting space and it's about community and helping each other out and learning from each other. I've always wanted my own recording studio. I started building it, designing it, and had a lot of help from a lot of people. Once I finished, I was like, 'I want to share it.'"

That community-minded approach echoes the changes Ryder says she's seen in the music industry in recent years. Instead of lamenting the way the last decade—and the internet—has levelled the industry, she highlights the positive shifts. (Though, she adds, it is really hard for musicians to make a living these days.)

"I feel like there's the collapse of this hierarchical society," she says. "There's a different perspective now. We realize it takes a village. It's important to respect everybody and treat them as you want to be treated yourself and realize we're all in it together. It's taken us long enough in North America to realize community is everything. When I started it was, 'Be an island, girl.' ... That's changed the most.'"

Catch Serena Ryder's set at the Squamish Constellation Festival on Friday, July 26. The festival runs from July 26 to 28 at Hendrickson Field in Squamish. Weekend passes ($199 for general admission and $425 for VIP) and single-day tickets ($65 for Friday or $80 for Saturday and Sunday general admission or $170 for VIP each of the three days) are on sale now at constellationfest.ca.

Read the original story at Pique Newsmagazine here.

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