Serena Ryder finds 'Harmony' in wake of depression

There's a simple message in Serena Ryder's hip-shaking recent single “Stompa,” as the Juno-winning Torontoan rhythmically chants: “People working every night and day/Never give yourself no time/Got too many bills to pay/Slow down, nothing's gonna disappear/You've gotta get up, listen to me/Clappa your hands/Stompa your feet.”

Culled from her new album “Harmony,” the positive song(also featured in a Cadillac commercial) wasn't intended for fans alone. It was initially penned, with new co-writer Jerrod Bettis, as a message to herself.

Ryder, who plays Saratoga this weekend, recalls touring for three exhausting years behind her last outing, 2008's “Is It O.K.,” but barely noticing the clinical depression that was glacially engulfing her.

It basically broadsided her. From suffering occasional anxiety attacks, she descended into a reclusive existence. She stayed home, curled up in bed, while laundry piled on the floor and dishes sat dirty in the sink. She managed to write 60 songs during the dark period, but – dissatisfied – she trashed them all.

Ryder can't pinpoint the exact moment when things began going wrong, and she doesn't like discussing details of what she went through.

“But the first signs that I recognized were when things started going really well – when I started writing this record,” she says. “It was like coming out of a fog or a haze, because I forgot to think about the good things in life for a really long time, and the reason I got into music in the first place, which was because I love it so much.”

Wisely, the singer decided to know her enemy. She read up on depression, enrolled in therapy, and found a perfect antidepressant. Using modern cognitive techniques, she rationalized herself out of the abyss.

“It was quite a battle,” she says. “But the best advice that I got is to separate how you feel from who you are, because depression can lie to you and convince you that you're not a good person. That was huge for me – learning that I am not the 'depressed person,' I am merely the person who is experiencing it.”

“Stompa” was the first track Ryder finished, post-breakthrough, and the rest of “Harmony” – like the joyful new single “What I Wouldn't Do,” another Bettis co-write – poured out at her home studio, The Cottage.

“So I'm proud of myself for coming through to the other side of this,” she says. “Because depression is rampant everywhere and something you can really lose yourself in. I had no idea the damage that it could do in your life.”


Serena Ryder

opening for One Republic

Where: Mountain Winery, 14831 Pierce Road, Saratoga

When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $39.50 to $79.50

Contact: (408) 741-2822,

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