Jeffrey Ougler, Sault Star
"I wish," laughs Ellen Doty, when asked if her grandfather, who just happened to be neighbours with Nat King Cole in Los Angeles, ever had the music legend sign an album.
"My grandpa does have a ton of records, but he never got one autographed "¦ I'm not sure why."
For Doty, having signed Nat King Cole LP would have special meaning, far and above the fan factor. The Calgary vocalist cites Nat King Cole, along with Ella Fitzgerald, as prime influences in how she delivers her original compositions.
(She plays the Fromagerie Elgin, 5 Cedar St., 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $10.)
Recollections of relatives attending neighbourhood house parties at which the legendary vocalist would drop by and entertain will have to do.
"So (Nat King Cole's) music was passed down to me from my father," Doty said. "I listened to lots of jazz growing up and I guess that's how I was first introduced to it."
Doty, 26, considers herself a sort of musical anomaly in that her tastes, or at least influences, are hardly current. She salutes what she dubs "modern artists" such as Michael Bublé and Norah Jones, who share Doty's love of that particular musical period.
But that's as far as pop edges into her work.
Doty's term for it is "easier listening pop."
"Some people compare (my music) to a Norah Jones-type style," said Doty. " Just more mainstream jazz, more accessible to a larger audience, I think."
On this day, Doty and her touring band are in Fredericton, N.B. -- an ideal spot for whipping up support given how material from her debut full album, Gold, as well as the 2013 six-song EP, That's Love, are being broadcast.
Her hotel is just across from the CBC and she's just up the road from the University of New Brunswick. Gold's first single, No Good Man, has received CBC airplay out west and college and university radio stations are giving Doty's stuff ample airplay in that region. The singer planned to pop over later to both CBC and UNB to pitch her product, hoping both broadcast her tunes.
Securing solid help along the way is nothing new.
After being selected in 2012 as a Top 20 finalist out of 4,000 submissions on Canada's Got Talent, the Canadian reality talent show series that debuted on the City television network, Doty completed a 15-city crowd-funded tour of Western Canada.
The next year she received an album production grant for Gold from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, which looked after studio production costs.
"That helped us out a lot, paying the producer and the sound engineers and flying the artists out record on it," she said. "So, all of that was mainly all covered by the grant, so that was amazing."
A few of these flown-in artists tag along for the current 30-city Canadian tour, as well. A Sudbury stop is slated for Oct. 14.
Her touring quartet features Daniel Reynolds (piano), Conrad Good (upright bass) and Oliver Miguel (sax/percussion).
"They're all very familiar with the material," said Doty, who penned much of her stuff while completing a Banff Centre artist residency for collaborative songwriting at the prestigious facility.
"That experience was a great time to just take time away from the busyness of everyday life to just focus on writing, which I think was really important for my development and to work with an amazing group of writers," she said.
One was Danny Michel, who co-wrote a Gold's number.
Doty said being among such kindred spirits paid rich dividends.
"There was a lot of variety in terms of musical genres," she said.
"There were lots of classical artists and indie rock, but everybody had their focus and was there to work, write and collaborate, so that was a really neat environment to be in. It was very inspiring to be around such a great group of musicians."
The tour, launched in Sydney, N.S., has been "amazing so far. Everyone is so friendly and amazing."
The Cape Breton kickoff was especially special.
"We just had an incredible crowd there "¦ standing ovation and lots of CDs (sold)," Doty said.
"The mayor came down to the show. It was really cool. It was a wonderful experience."
What's perhaps most satisfying for Doty and her crew is winning converts to the genre along the way.
"The majority of our audience is into their forties and fifties, but it's actually become a lot broader than we thought originally, which is really cool," she added.
"So, a lot of people who come to the show say, 'I didn't think I liked jazz, but I like your music,' which is really cool to hear. With the pop influence, it's a little more accessible to people. Sometimes people get a little scared about the word 'jazz' and get intimidated, but I'm really glad that it's opening up more ears to listen to it."