Doty Keeping It Real

Lana Michelin, Red Deer Advocate

There are almost as many kinds of love songs as people falling in love — and Ellen Doty ought to know. 

The pop-jazz singer who performs a Valentine’s Day concert Saturday at Fratters Speakeasy in Red Deer, released a debut album of love songs called Gold. It’s made up of all-original material she’s co-written with various Canadian artists, including Ontario folkie Danny Michel.

Different meanings of the L-word factor in her tunes, from the initial excitement of romance in Wait For Your Call, to paternal attachment in Lullaby, and table-turning modern love in Say You Will, which features a girl proposing to a guy.

Doty even pays homage to love crooner, Nat King Cole on the album that’s reached the top 10 on several jazz radio charts in Canada.

Her song Diamond from Cole, reveals a family connection to the late American singer.

“My grandmother grew up in LA and lived right across the street from him, so that’s really cool,” said Doty.

Her grandma knew Cole in the 1950s and recalled him as “a really nice guy, who played at a couple of parties they went to. He had a white piano,” and a “cute” little daughter who would become singer Natalie Cole.

Doty’s mom and dad also played Nat King Cole records at home when she was growing up in Okotoks, “so he was a big influence.

“Jazz was a normal part of my musical upbringing,” said Doty, who quite naturally decided to study jazz vocals at Carleton University in Ottawa.

She now lives in Calgary and performs weekly at the Fairmont Palliser Hotel. She’s also a guest soloist with Calgary’s Primetime Big Band and has had the opportunity to work with many of her jazz heroes, including Al Kay, Pat Labarbera, Bobby Shew, Dave Mancini and PJ Perry.

The singer recently wrapped a 30 city, 46-stop tour cross Canada, and is looking forward to performing original songs and jazz standards on Valentine’s Day at Fratters. 

Break-ups are another ever-popular love song theme, but when it comes to tear-jerkers, Doty can probably top that kind of melancholy with her next single, Just So You Know, due for a March release.

She wrote the song after a conversation with the husband of a 26-year-old friend. The friend had been killed in a car accident a year ago, and her spouse talked to Doty about working through his grief, “and his fear about forgetting her. He didn’t want to forget her smile or her laugh.”

But those attending Doty’s Valentine’s show are bound to hear lighter-hearted fare, including I Think I’m In Love, which can be considered the emotional flip side to Just So You Know. “It’s about the quirky things you notice about someone you are dating” that you eventually begin to accept as you fall in love, said the singer.

These quirks might even become endearing over time. “It’s like, it’s cute that you laugh like a sheep!”

Doty believes the key to a good love song is keeping it real.

“The lyrics need to be something that people can relate to, or about something they’ve experienced or felt before, so that when they hear the song, they remember that feeling.”

Tickets to the 8:30 pm show are $20 from Fratters.