Serena Ryder’s pure joy

On Christmas Kisses, the singer aims for “innocence and awe and excitement” with her new holiday offering.

INGRID JONES
INGRID JONES

Serena Ryder
Thursday, December 6, 8pm
Casino Nova Scotia, Schooner Room, 1983 Upper Water Street
$60 ticketatlantic.com

In the middle of a conversation about her new Christmas album, Serena Ryder can't help but sing just a hint of it. "Like, what song is this," she giggles, before singing a line—the joy surmounts the shoddy phone connection. "Like what? It's 'I'll Be Home for Christmas.'"

Her new record, Christmas Kisses, includes a peppy original song of the same name plus nine covers of holiday standards. Throughout a brief conversation, Ryder doesn't waver from that feeling of simple, honest joy: This music is pure, she says, and "exciting in a way that releasing a record has never been."

Musically, Christmas Kisses breaks from the folk-rock sound that Ryder is best known for; its sound is indebted to jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone, the artists whose music first captivated her as a child and still bring her back to a feeling of youthful wonder.

"It's my favourite kind of Christmas music," she says. "It's the stuff that just sounds so good, it's the classics."

While her upcoming appearances—including a show tonight at Casino Nova Scotia—may be this record's live debut, the shows also represent a full-circle moment for Ryder. "Jingle Bell Rock," which she faithfully covers on the record, was also one of a handful of songs she performed at her very first gig. Picture eight-year-old Ryder, poised on stage at the Legion in Millbrook, Ontario, singing about rocking the night away for a sparse crowd of family members and aging community members. It's a magical scene, almost too good to be true.  

"That sense of innocence and awe and excitement that you get as a little kid has been coming back to me through this record, which is really amazing," she says. "It's made me fall in love with the spirit of Christmas in a totally different way."

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