By Alix Bruch
CALGARY – “This is it” was the first thing Ellen Doty declared after a demo session in Toronto that would lay the groundwork for her new album ‘Come Fall.’ As a result of creative experimentation and growth through personal experience, Doty has unearthed a stripped down version of her already nuanced jazz-pop sound.
“We were in the studio with a six-piece band doing this demo session of a song, but even though they are all incredible [musicians] it just wasn’t sounding right,” the Calgary based Doty explains.
“So Davide Di Renzo [the producer and drummer on ‘Come Fall’] said, ‘How do you feel about just the three of us – piano, drums, vocals – playing together.’ So we tried it, and it was magic!”
By pushing her artistic boundaries and refusing to be placed in a box, Doty achieved musical brilliance that sets her apart from her peers. What she describes as “a mix of jazz, pop, soul, indie, and folk,” Doty’s sophomore album clearly proves her voice knows no limits. But it is perhaps her modesty and the purity of her intent to create good music that continues to define her as a blossoming Canadian artist.
As a nod to her talent, passion, and work ethic, Alma Records came knocking, adding Doty to their roster in 2017. Doty expresses her excitement to be signed alongside artists such as Phil Dwyer, Hilario Duran, and Eliana Cuevas.
“I’m really honoured to be in a group with so many Grammy-nominated and Juno award-winning artists. I feel so lucky to be a part of it!”
Doty admits she is no longer worried about trying to fit into a certain genre. She has adopted a “whatever comes out, that’s it” approach to creating music, demonstrating you don’t need to stick to one genre to be a successful recording artist. Remaining true to herself and conveying her distinct creative vision are qualities that have, and will continue to, do her well.
“Everyone has goals they want to achieve as an artist and we all have those ‘pie in the sky’ dreams to get a Grammy, but I think just being able to make a living and enjoy what you do everyday is a pretty special thing to have. I think everyone that chooses a path like this knows that there’s a good chance you’re not going to be wealthy and rich, but rich in spirit. And I think that’s what’s important.”
Considering her grandmother lived across the street from Nat King Cole and spent countless nights dancing at the Hollywood Palladium, it isn’t hard to believe that Doty was destined to become a musician. If it weren’t the jazz influence that runs deep in her roots, then it was the universe conspiring to bring her to the stage. Originally pursuing a degree in Geology, Doty was looking ahead to a comfortable future: one that promised security in the form of a nice house, a nice car, and nice things. But for Doty, nice wasn’t going to cut it.
“I was three years in and it was interesting, but it wasn’t what I loved,” Doty explains.
“That was the first time I hadn’t really been doing music. I had been performing a bit on the side, but I wasn’t practicing all the time and I really missed it. My body and soul were screaming ‘no! Stop this!’”
Fate brought Dave Mancini, an accomplished jazz drummer and composer, to the Fairmont Palliser on an ordinary Friday night in 2012, where heard Doty’s mesmerizing voice for the first time. Quickly recognizing her undeniable talent, Mancini made a move that would pluck Doty from the path already laid at her feet and kick-start her career as a singer-songwriter.
“We finished a set and he came up to say hi and said, ‘So what are you doing, do you have an album, do you do this professionally?’ When I told him I was doing geology in school and playing music for fun he said, ‘You should be pursuing music as your job. Take it from me, it’s possible, you can do it. And if you need help, I’d really like you to come to New York and I’ll mentor you and help you get connected.’ Before leaving he told me he expected to hear from me, and that was it. He called me the next week asking when I was coming, and I told him I would be there in September, which was about a month later.”
Doty stayed true to her word and took the plunge, taking lessons at Julliard and getting her feet wet as a professional musician. And she hasn’t looked back since.
“I really felt an urge to pursue it [music] further and I think I just realized that if it’s something you are really passionate about, you’ll put more work into it than anything else.”
In addition to studying vocal jazz, Doty has staked her place as a prolific songwriter. Drawing from personal experience, Doty injects raw emotion into her music, which accentuates her vocal performance.
“Being vulnerable not only helps me connect with the music but with people too. A lot of people have shared experience through grief, love, and loss, and finding ways to communicate that through song can be really powerful.”
Further exploring the writing process, Doty has taken an interest in collaborating with other artists, including fellow local musicians Danny Vacon and Scott MacKay.
“I wake up everyday super excited to work on my music. I feel like I can put in endless amount of hours and never feel like it’s work because it always feels like I’m moving towards something that is really important to me.”
Ellen Doty releases ‘Come Fall’ on Saturday, Mar. 3 at the Bella Concert Hall (Calgary). She will also perform on Thursday, Mar. 22 at the CKUA Performance Hall (Edmonton), Friday, Mar. 23 at The Rex Hall (Kamloops), and Saturday, Mar. 24 in Vancouver, venue TBA.Bella Concert Hall, CKUA Performance Hall, Come Fall, Ellen Doty, The Rex Hall