Few occasions trigger a barrage of complicated feelings like the holidays. Canadian singer-songwriter Serena Ryder knows this all too well.
“I used to run away from Christmas,” Ryder says. “It’s such an intense time where you’re expected to have the perfect family, be in perfect health and have enough money to buy things.”
“There (are) a lot of people who aren’t able to peacefully do those kinds of things.”
This year, instead of running away from the holidays, she’ll hit the road, bringing a festive flare to Canadian cities.
On Dec. 8 – coincidentally, her birthday – Ryder will stop in Winnipeg for her Merry Myths tour. Hosted at the Club Regent Event Centre, a mix of holiday covers from her 2018 album Christmas Kisses and festive new singles, like the gender-bending “I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus,” will sparkle the evening.
The premise for the Merry Myths tour arose from Ryder’s desire to explore the mythologies behind classic holiday tales.
Ahead of the tour, she says she’s been researching where different celebrations and the idea of Santa come from. “There are a lot of things that we think are just based on Christianity and the story of Jesus’ birth, but a lot of it comes from paganism.”
Ryder has charmed the Canadian music scene with her fiery vocals and down-to-earth persona for the better half of the last two decades. From her covers of national classics to chart-topping singles like “Stompa” and “Weak In the Knees,” her distinct, raspy tone is instantly recognizable.
She’s also recognized as a fierce mental-health advocate. Since opening up in a Chatelaine interview in 2012 about struggling with depression, she’s won the Margaret Trudeau Mental Health Advocacy Award and co-launched wellness-focused music label ArtHaus.
Earlier this year, she and 50 Canadian artists teamed up with Kids Help Phone’s Feel Out Loud campaign to revamp her single “What I Wouldn’t Do (North Star Calling)” into a mental-health anthem.
Still, Ryder is hesitant to say it’s gotten easier for artists to discuss mental health. Artists are expected to show vulnerability, but this often comes at the cost of breaking boundaries, she says.
“Vulnerability needs to come when you have the safety available to be vulnerable. In this day and age of social media and things like that, boundaries are a bit harder to come by,” Ryder says. “A lot of healing can come in knowing where your boundaries are.”
As she gears up for the Merry Myths tour, Ryder hopes to counter some of the complicated coldness of the holidays with communal warmth.
“It can be really challenging for people’s mental wellness at this time of the year, but also, it can be a time of great medicine and community,” Ryder says. “For me, bringing it all back to community and music is really, I think, the seed to plant.”
Tickets to the Merry Myths Tour on Dec. 8 at the Club Regent Event Centre can be purchased via bit.ly/3SN9kJN. Don’t forget to wish her a happy birthday.
Published in Volume 78, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 23, 2023)