Having a song stuck in one’s head can be an excruciatingly irritating experience. Yet, over the past month, I have found myself delighting in the fact that Claire Ridgely’s lyrics, “All I ever wanted was a kick of serotonin” have not left my mind. This wildly relatable sentiment—particularly in today’s dispirited times—comes from Ridgely’s catchy indie-pop tune “All I Ever Wanted,” the first song on her EP, Flowers For A Friend.
Claire Ridgely (BA ‘17) has been singing her whole life: Raised in Virginia, the Montreal-based singer participated in choirs and acapella groups for 10 years in Switzerland before moving back to Virginia, and finally joining McGill’s a cappella group Effusion. After putting out her first single in 2018, Ridgely continued to sing professionally, and ultimately released her EP on Jan. 21, 2021.
Ridgely recalled that it was the vibrance and friendliness of Montreal’s music scene that guided her toward singing professionally.
“It wasn’t until I really came to Montreal that I found a crew of musicians and I started to realize that there’s a whole lot of other people who have the same kind of dream as me,” Ridgely said. “Once you get on that wave, you start to know all of these people, and it’s a very supportive place to be.”
After riding the waves of Montreal’s music scene for three years, Ridgely released Flowers For A Friend, an indie-pop ode that navigates the tumultuous nature of relationships, romantic and otherwise. The melodically addictive first track “All I Ever Wanted” paints a picture of potently uncertain euphoria, as the upbeat blend of instrumentals seamlessly harmonizes with Ridgely’s relaxing, mellow vocals. Only the nonchalant plucking of guitar strings stands out, punctuating the simultaneously tense and easygoing tone of the song.
Every song that follows on Flowers For A Friend gingerly explores the limits of trust and unreciprocated love; Ridgely urges her listeners to choose strength over bliss and accept harsh realities. Ridgely’s EP concludes with the breezy and steamy track “Island,” which adds a range of emotions into a five-track album, demonstrating both versatility and authenticity to her art.
Ridgely noted that each track encompasses elements of positive and negative emotions. Despite this, the final products still stand alone as songs to invoke happiness and an urge to move.
“There’s [a] contrast between the stories behind the songs,” Ridgely said. “They have that bittersweet sort of tinge. But at the same time, the production makes it so that you can dance to something that is somewhat traumatic.”
Although Flowers For A Friend indubitably prompts listeners to sway to the beat and sunbathe in the chilled-out sensation of the music, more solemn undertones pervade most of the project. Tapping into her emotions to write the EP was a challenge for Ridgely due to the vulnerability she had to reveal in the lyrics, but the final result unwittingly turned into a sense of emotional closure. The music takes on a life of its own, and exists in the world independently from its creator.
“The songs are deeply personal,” Ridgely said. “When the project came out it felt like a breath of fresh air, like a reset [….] Subjects that I didn’t really think would reveal themselves ended up being the focus of a song. Then it was out, and I do my best to just let it live.”
Ridgely describes her music as a living entity, a vehicle for listeners to apply their own stories into the subtle, ambiguous details within her lyrics. Her songs come from a place of genuine authenticity—“homegrown,” as Ridgely describes it—encouraging her listeners to reflect and to grow. Ultimately, Claire Ridgely’s music is about choice: The listener chooses between giving oneself over to the lyrics and meditating on one’s memories of both trauma and joy, or simply seeking solace in the captivating beat of the tunes. Either way, it most certainly will be a kick of serotonin.