Born and raised just outside Peterborough in Millbrook, Ontario, songwriter Serena Ryder grew up listening to old Beatles and Leonard Cohen records that she found in her parents’ collection. She started singing publicly as a young child and, having received a guitar from her father, began playing the instrument at the age of 13. Songwriting efforts followed. In 2002, the 18 year-old took several recordings from a live Quebec performance and packaged them into an official demo, which eventually made its way to CBC Radio and got Ryder an invitation to perform on-air. As luck would have it, musician Hawksley Workman happened to hear the broadcast, and immediately contacted the singer at the station to invite her to record an album on his Isadora label.
Backed by Workman and two other players, Ryder recorded her debut, Unlikely Emergency, which was released in 2004 and reissued in the U.S. the following year. The album did well enough to earn Ryder a performance slot at the 2005 Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame press conference, after which it was suggested she cover songs written by Canadian musicians. If Your Memory Serves You Well, a collection of 12 covers and three originals, arrived in late 2006. Ryder soon found herself opening shows for Aerosmith and receiving the 2008 Juno Award for “Best New Artist,” both of which prefaced the release of her sophomore effort, Is It O.K., in November 2008. The album received a stateside release one year later, and Ryder furthered her buzz in the U.S. by dueting with American Idol graduate Jason Castro on his debut album.