To help ease you into a weekend of springtime revelry we have an exclusive interview with an up and coming singer/songwriter out of Calgary- Ellen Doty. This sultry blues/jazz singer from Calgary is one of the city’s brightest young music stars and we were lucky enough to sit down and interview her and catch one of her recent performances. Doty recently released her second EP to a sold out crowd at the landmark Plaza theatre in Kensington, her biggest and most successful show to date. In a departure from her first EP, which was mostly Jazz standards mixed in with a few original songs, Doty’s second EP features all original music written and composed with long-time collaborator and guitarist Josh Crowhurst, including her hit song ‘Love You First’ which has received airplay on both CBC Radio and CKUA Radio in Calgary. Reminiscent of a pop-infused Norah Jones or Corrine Bailey Rae, Doty has a delicious sultry quality to her voice that fits perfect with the old Jazz standards as well as the newer, more contemporary sounds of the genre.
Ladywood was fortunate enough to attend's Ellen's soldout show at the Plaza, thanks to Ellen, and our listening ears couldn't be more grateful for the knockout performance we witnessed. Comfortable stage characters take a long time for many musicians to develop but Ellen's playful demeanour and loveable lyrics were contagious. She had the crowd locked in with every note and most of the audience had genuine smiles locked on their faces all night. Fierce, fun and brilliantly talented, Ellen's on the road to being a big competitor in the jazz scene and she's the perfect candidate to sing to our hearts about passionate life moments. These frame shots of time define us, and Doty's music brings us back to a healthy place where we can reflect and feel touched by our first loves or the sadness of heart ache. It wouldn't be fair to leave out Doty's band as well. It was a well rounded jazz entourage and these boys deserve a huge round of applause for their energy and infectious love of performing. Overall the show included a lovely mix of songs from Doty's second EP, covers and a couple impromptu beats. Let's just say she shut the house down with a well deserved roaring standing ovation.
We chatted with Ellen at the Purple Perk in Mission on a beautiful spring day in May and talked about her newest release as well as her upcoming Western Canadian tour. They say that we are all a product of our environment, and the lovely Ellen Doty certainly hails from an environment overflowing with musicality. Having a family that loves music as much as she does has been a tremendous help to Doty. “My taste for Jazz was passed down from my grandparents who grew up in LA across the street from Nat King Cole- he would play on his little white piano at parties where they would dance for Duke Ellington.” Doty's natural proclivity to the sounds of classic jazz music rained into her parents homes as well. “They just listened to so much jazz growing up that it got passed down to my dad who passed it down to me. I didn’t sing Jazz until university where I studied vocal Jazz at Carleton but it’s always been around.” Having started her career by performing at corporate events in Calgary, Doty knows that staying up to date with what people are listening to is an important part of her job as a performer, and her taste in music grows with her abilities as a musician. “I listen to a lot of old classic Jazz like Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, and Billy Holiday but paired with R & B like Lauren Hill or Corinne Bailey Ray,” Doty explains about her diverse tastes “I listen to a lot of pop music because I do a lot of corporate events, so I have to know a lot of top 40” she laughs.
It’s natural to assume as a young emerging artist in Calgary, Doty has had a difficult road to success but she says it’s not as challenging as you would think for musicians to support themselves here. The bustling corporate scene provides a lot of musical opportunities yet the city is lacking a general support for the arts, Doty explains. Having the Jazz festival cancelled, as well as funding being cut to the Mount Royal Jazz program, meant Doty had to go elsewhere for the success she craved. Serendipitously enough Dave Mancini a prominent jazz artist and clinician who has toured with Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, Bob Hope and many others saw Ellen perform at the Palliser and noticed her talent. “He (Mancini) was staying at the Palliser hotel and saw me perform there and gave me the opportunity to work with him in New York in September. I was studying Geology at the University of Calgary and I decided not to go back to school for a semester and go out and pursue this opportunity. So I flew out there, studied at Julliard and did a concert with Dave, and then the station asked if I could record a second EP with them, and I said sure. We started recording in December and now here we are!” Doty's music will be making its way across the country in no time with her second EP and a Western Canada Tour.
Sitting in the sunshine with the doe eyed Doty we saw excitement bursting out of her every word . “We are already talking about recording the full album when we get back from tour in August!” she dishes excitedly. Sporting an adorable polka dot blouse and some ruby red lipstick is the perfect accompaniment to her sultry Jazz singer alter ego. Ellen's Western Canadian tour concludes with a show at the Ironwood on August 10th, a fitting venue for the chanteuse. We love hearing about local talent at Ladywood and Ellen Doty is the perfect example of the great, if under-appreciated talent, that our city has to offer. So go see her show at the Ironwood in August and pick up her EP, available on itunes now. It’ll be well worth it.
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