Singer Serena Ryder on 'Stompa' Success, Why 'Canada Is Proud' of Justin Bieber (Q&A)

The rock newcomer talks about how she got started and the indispensable advice she received from fellow rocker Melissa Etheridge.
Mary Rozzi

You may not be all that familiar with the name Serena Ryder, but it’s likely you’ve heard her music in some form or another -- whether it be on Grey’s Anatomy, car commercials or The Tonight Show, where the singer recently made her national TV debut.

And it's no wonder Ryder seems to be everywhere -- her single "Stompa," is quickly climbing charts, recently crossed the Top 40 mark, and becoming a soundtrack to summer south of the border, too.

Signed to EMI in Canada, and Capitol in the U.S., the Universal-owned label is betting big that her husky, roots-based sound and free-loving personality, heard all over the album Harmony (out Aug. 27), will rise to the top.

A day after appearing on Leno, Ryder sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to talk about how she got started, what's in store for the next year, fellow Canadian Justin Bieber and the indispensable advice she received from fellow rocker Melissa Etheridge.

The Hollywood Reporter: Your show at the Troubadour last month was terrific...

Serena Ryder: Thanks! I had a really good time. I was so nervous because I’d played there twice and they were both really shitty experiences.

THR: Why?

Ryder: Because there’s so much pressure. It's the Troubadour --  I’ve always built it up and then just really psyched myself out. But this time I got onstage and I was just like, ‘Let’s have fun! I don’t care!’ And it worked.

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THR: How did you first get signed to EMI?

Ryder: I was 24 years old and had been touring and playing in bands since I was 14. My first really big show was in a place called Huntsville and I remember coming up with this idea for a record and knowing I need some help. We invited Fraser Hill, who's still my A&R guy, to see the show, and he loved it. They signed me soon after that. EMI is now Universal, so it's kind of like a big family.

THR: Did you take advantage of artist grants in Canada? And do you think that helps new artists?

Ryder: Oh yeah, it absolutely helps. I don’t understand how people in other countries are able to be musicians without the help of government grants. It’s really hard. My experience has been amazing -- I’ve had a lot of help from the OCFF, and different Canadian councils, factor grants, and the Ontario Arts Council. It’s never-ending.

THR: Does the fact that radio in Canada is obligated to play local artists have a part in rising artists’ success? 

Ryder: The CanCon? I don’t know how much that actually helps Canadian musicians because they can play Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Alanis Morissette ...  I find that they play a lot of people who have really made it. Which is cool -- obviously pop music is popular because people want to hear it.

THR: So you’re saying they don’t really support new artists?

Ryder:  Pop radio doesn’t, but there are a lot of really awesome radio stations that do. Like CBC Radio is my favorite; they’re the reason I have a career, they’re the reason I met my manager, and they’re the reason I have any sort of “cool” or “cred” in Canada because they are so cool. They’re like the NPR of Canada, it’s what I listen to, it’s what I stream, I love CBC Radio.

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THR: You've performed with Melissa Etheridge and toured with her in Canada, did she give you any advice about the music business?

Ryder: She told me to make sure that I loved what I did. And if I didn’t love it, then I needed to do something else. And what I’ve learned from touring and my life -- that you have to follow your heart, which means, if you feel happy and you feel good, follow your heart. It’s the best advice ever, and it’s much easier said than done, I might add.

THR: Justin Bieber is probably the most famous Canadian out there right now. Is the country proud of him?

Ryder: Oh my gosh, yes. I'm proud of Bieber for sure -- I can’t believe he still exists in the world that he does. I don’t know what it would be like to be that famous. It dehumanizes humans.

THR: Especially on that level...

Ryder: Especially on that level. I can’t believe he hasn’t checked into the loony bin -- I probably would.

THR: You're touring with OneRepublic, are you friends with frontman Ryan Tedder? How did that come about?

Ryder: I just found out that I’m getting this tour, which is very exciting, and the reason I’m getting it is because Ryan is a fan of my music -- not because somebody told him that he should, or label politics. He heard my song on the radio, really liked it, got my record, listened to it, and got in touch with his management. Then he got in touch with me and told me that he wanted to take me on his tour, which is so nice. Like, it’s so refreshing, you know? 

Twitter: @THRMusic