Exclusive: Serena Ryder's "What I Wanna Know"

Exclusive: Serena Ryder's "What I Wanna Know"

Millbrook, Ontario native Serena Ryder has already become a household name in Canada, winning Junos for Best New Artist in 2008 and Adult Alternative Album of the Year for her third full-length "Is it O.K." this year. With an expressive, powerful voice that has been compared to Melissa Etheridge and Stevie Nicks, the singer-songwriter recorded "Is It O.K.," her Atlantic Records debut, in the same Los Angeles studio where Fleetwood Mac created 1977 classic "Rumours". "Is It O.K." will be released in the U.S. on Sept. 15, but Billboard.com has an exclusive preview of rocker "What I Wanna Know" right here.

"What I Wanna Know" - Serena Ryder
Listen to our exclusive stream of Serena Ryder's "What I Wanna Know"

What inspired "What I Wanna Know"?

The song is really about that personal yearning for the thing you can't have. There are so many things in the world that people want to know, but when they uncover that mystery, they figure out it's something that wasn't as special as the mystery that they created in their own heads. One of those stories that you blew up out of proportion in your brain and kind of obsess about. Once you actually have it, it's no longer a mystery, and no longer a story, so it's embracing the passion of that story, and the imagination. I was kind of angry at that part of myself, or in general angry at that part of people that feel like they're completed by being with somebody else.

"Is It O.K." has been out for a little while in Canada and won the Juno this year, but will be mostly new to U.S. fans. What is the significance of the title, and what are some of the themes that connect the songs?

It's about checking in on yourself and your internal conversations. The reason there's no question mark is that the record was definitely a very cathartic record for me to write-I had been touring a lot, as I am now, I mean that's really how I live my life, just been living a very concentrated amount of life, and experienced things I had never experienced, real polar extremes of emotions. When I was writing the record I had recently lost one of my best friends, who was also my co-manager, so that was really big in the process, and also a lot of the songs are about embracing love and realizing how to love yourself, that human process that we're always going through. But it also changed a lot when I brought it to the studio and was able to work with all these amazing musicians-it really became a celebration for me, and that really came out in the recording of it. So there's a real balance to the record for me personally.
How is this album different from your two previous records, was there anything about the process that was a big departure from what you've done before?

It was definitely a different approach because I met this producer, John Alagia, and we just clicked right away and started hanging out a lot. The pre-production process wasn't really a pre-production process, it was me and him just hanging out and getting to know each other, which is really important. And the difference was I did this record out of my comfort zone, in a totally other place-I flew out to Los Angeles and recorded in this amazing studio called the Village Recorder, which has so much history behind it, with all these phenomenally talented and vivacious musicians, I felt like I just kind of opened up. This was the other different thing, I hadn't met any of the musicians before, I told John to just pick his dream band, because I trusted him so implicitly. I said let's just do this. I'd love to do the rest of my records like that, where you meet this producer, and you just trust his vision, that's what a producer is supposed to do. When I write my songs, it's just me and my guitar, so when you bring in these musicians who have a totally nonbiased perspective on your music and they play what they're feeling, it really stretched me as a person and as an artist.

You have a very strong and confident voice-is this something you've worked on to fit the kind of songs you wanted to sing and messages you wanted to convey, or do you write music to fit your voice?

It's funny because I've almost had to tone down my voice a little bit. Since I was a little kid, I was singing Buddy Holly covers and Linda Rondstadt covers, and I've always felt this impulse to express these gigantic emotions all the time, and that has come out in my voice. But just as important for me is sharing those gentle emotions. So this record for me what definitely trying to find that balance, because they don't exist without each other, so it was a honing in.

What are your touring plans for the rest of the year?

Right now I'm on the road with the Wallflowers, and I'm going to be going on tour with Need to Breathe for a couple of months through November. Then I do some writing, and then do some more shows in December, and then come January I'll just be touring my ass off. That's really what I love to do.