By MIKE CHAIKEN
When you listen to Serena Ryder’s new album, “Harmony,” you can tell she’s a fan of music.
There are all of these little musical tidbits in the tracks on “Harmony” that remind you of other iconic artists. But she doesn’t engage in slavish imitation. Along the way, she takes the individual musical ingredients of the artists she loves and synthesizes into something entirely new.
Something that is wholly Serena Ryder.
Serena, who is a past winner of the best new artist honors at the Junos (the Canadian Grammys), is coming to Connecticut Friday night as the opening act for OneRepublic at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods Resort Casino, Mashantucket.
Serena, in a phone call from Chicago, admitted to being the ultimate music fan. “It’s my everything,” said Serena of music.
As a fan of music, she was asked what draws her to a particular song or artist?
“It’s how it makes me feel,” said Serena, who has been releasing albums since 1999. She said if an artist can help her detach herself from her brain, strike her heart, “makes me feel that passion and that inspiration… and (I) am moved,” that’s when Serena, the fan, falls in love.
“If an artist makes you feel their song is for you, it’s pretty magical,” said Serena.
And it’s something Serena strives for in her own music.
During her tours, Serena said she often meets with fans and listens to them explain how her music has affected them. “It’s pretty amazing how you can touch people.”
Serena said one of the reasons she thinks people are drawn to her music is “I talk about real things.” On stage, she often explains the songs and herself, describing her struggles with depression and “just my journey in life.”
“I try to be open and honest,” said Serena.
Serena’s been making noise on the charts with her single, “Stompa.” The track earned her a designation as an artist You Ought to Know on VH-1.
“‘Stompa’ was the first song we wrote for the record,” said Serena. “It opened my eyes to the direction of where the record (“Harmony”) was going to go.”
Serena said she had been writing tracks for about 1 1/2 years. “But the songs didn’t move me.”
But “Stompa” was an epiphany. “We wrote it in three hours,” she explained.
Serena said she thinks the song connects with listeners because it’s “simple and profound.” It speaks about the power of music and how it “can change your life and change the world. “
She said the record is about just “getting out of your head… take 4 1/2 minutes, put on your favorite song, and dance. That will change the energy of the entire day.”
As for her tour with OneRepublic, Serena said, “It’s been awesome.” Just two days into the journey, Serena said, she has had the chance to a meet a lot of new people and make some new fans.
And to be out with OneRepublic, she said, “It’s awesome. They’re rock stars.”
Although she has played to thousands in her native Canada, Serena said if she tried to tour the States on her own, she’d probably be playing to 100 to 150 people, maybe 500. On the second night of the tour, 15,000 people showed up for OneRepublic. And as the opener, Serena had a chance to perform for about 4,000 Americans as people streamed in to see the headliner.
“It’s pretty amazing,” she said. “It’s a huge opportunity.”
What is most exciting, however, is how she got picked for the tour, said Serena. OneRepublic’s lead singer and chief songwriter Ryan Tedder reached out to her. He had heard Serena’s current U.S. hit “Stompa” and loved it. And he wanted her as an opener. “That was a huge complement.”
Asked if when she was younger if she had envisioned that her career would turn out as it has been, Serena said she never expected success. She said all she knew was music was what she was going to be doing for her entire life. Whether she ended up just playing to 20 people at a café, 150 people at a bar, or thousands in an arena, she said she knew music was going to be integral to who she is.
“For me, she said, “It was something I had to do.”
Beyond the tour with OneRepublic, Serena said she is going to keep her traveling shoes on, probably for three more years. “I adore traveling,” said Serena. She said she has plans to go to Europe and return to Australia, a country she loves.
With so much time on the road, will she be writing songs for a new record?
Serena said until now, she has never been one who could write on the road. But she’s still evolving as an artist, and she’s open to see where the creative muse takes her.
OneRepublic, with Serena Ryder opening, will be performing at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods Resort Casino, Mashantucket on Friday, Aug. 2 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 and $45.
For more information, go to Foxwoods.com or SerenaRyderMusic.com
By MIKE CHAIKEN