Serena Ryder Recovers From Depression Bout, Scores Chart-Topping Hit
"There was a long period of time that I had to spend at home and try and get my shit back together," says re-energized singer.
"Stompa," Canadian singer/songwriter Serena Ryder's muscular pop-rock single and lead track from her forthcoming album "Harmony," spends its sixth consecutive week at No. 1 on Billboard's Triple A chart. It's a joyous song about the rapturous power of music -- its title is found in the onomatopoeic refrain: "Nothing is wrong if you move to the beat/Clappa your hands, stompa your feet" -- and has grown its audience thanks to showy placements on "Grey's Anatomy" and in a Cadillac SRX TV ad.
Despite being a fresh face to U.S. audiences, the 30-year-old Ryder was long ago pegged to be Canada's Next Big Thing: Her 2004 debut, "Unlikely Emergency," was produced by prolific Canadian artist Hawksley Workman, and after inking a deal with EMI Music Canada, Ryder won the 2008 Juno Award for best new artist. But her most successful U.S. single to date ("Stompa" has sold 61,000 downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan) was preceded by a lengthy hiatus from the music scene that nearly became a permanent departure. After releasing sophomore album "Is It O.K." in Canada in 2008 and in the United States through Atlantic the following year, Ryder toured behind the album with minimal downtime for nearly three years, to a point where she felt "exhausted" and needed to get away from music altogether. With preshow panic attacks mounting, Ryder returned to Canada and spent weeks in bed.
"I went through a really intense bout of clinical depression after I finished touring for 'Is It O.K.,'" Ryder says. "There was a long period of time that I had to spend at home and try and get my shit back together, learn about myself and learn about what depression really is."
Blissfully free of any expectations -- "Is It O.K." has sold only 21,000 U.S. copies, and Ryder amicably parted ways with Atlantic following its promotional cycle -- Ryder slowly pieced together "Harmony" at her home in Toronto, gaining "a sense of freedom and comfort" by working in her own studio at her own pace. Co-produced by Jerrod Bettis, "Stompa" captures Ryder's attempt to overcome her depression and describe what music meant to her when she started playing guitar at 13. "It's the best medicine in the world," she says, "and I wrote the song to remind myself that."
After its release in Canada last November, "Harmony" will hit U.S. stores in September on Ryder's new U.S. home, Capitol. "Stompa" will continue to gain exposure through the Cadillac ad, which debuted the week of April 22, and after conquering triple A radio, the song will be crossed over to adult top 40 and eventually mainstream top 40 later this summer. According to Nielsen BDS, the song is up 22% in plays this week at adult top 40.
For many stateside pop fans, "Stompa" will be their first encounter with Ryder, but Capitol doesn't see that as a problem. "In some ways, she's a new and developing artist in the United States, but the great thing is that she's an incredibly accomplished musician and can stand in front of a lot of people," Capitol Music Group executive VP Greg Thompson says. "I mean, look at the fun. guys -- they had a whole career before they were fun. Sometimes that happens, and you have to embrace it."
As "Stompa" continues to grow at multiple formats, Ryder hopes to increase the numbers on her social platforms (20,000 Twitter followers, 26,000 Facebook likes) while continuing to pop up on TV (a "Tonight Show With Jay Leno" appearance has been slotted for July). Meanwhile, a proper U.S. tour is eyed for an August start, and despite the result of her last major run, Ryder couldn't be more enthusiastic.
"I love playing this record," she says. "I love performing these songs live ... this record's given me a great opportunity, and ["Stompa"] has given me an open door."