Tammie Rollie, Western Wheel
Hope is the message an Okotoks-grown singer wants people to get from a heart-wrenching single she released this week. Calgary pop-jazz singer/songwriter Ellen Doty is celebrating her newest single Just So You Know, released on April 13, and is getting a highly emotional response to the touching song.
“It's a sad song for me to sing,” she said. “It's very emotional and really raw. It's one of hope.” Just So You Know was inspired by conversations Doty had with her friend Lester Evangelista after his wife Sheree was killed in a car accident early last year. “I felt absolutely heartbroken for Lester, as well as his family, Sheree's family and all of her friends – I still do,” she said. “When he called me to ask me to sing at the funeral for her, it was one of the most difficult conversation I've ever had. It seemed like just yesterday that I sang at their wedding.”
Doty said Evangelista told her about the fear of forgetting his wife's smile, smell and laugh. He said the biggest challenge wasn't immediately after his wife's death, because he had so many friends and family around, it was later when everyone returned to their normal lives. “I can't even begin to imagine all of the struggles he's been going through, but I hope that this song will, in some way, offer comfort to him and all those that are experiencing grief in their lives,” she said.
Doty finished recording the single last summer and connected with friend and former high school chum Brock Mitchell about creating a music video for the song. “It was his idea to film it and record it live just to capture the emotion of the song,” she said. Doty said she had faith in Mitchell because he has created videos through his Calgary company Shot at the Dark for such artists as Michael Bernard Fitzgerald and Ruben and the Dark. Mitchell suggested he record the music video during one of Doty's live performances. They selected a performance at Festival Hall in Calgary's southeast last year and Doty dedicated the music video to Sheree and Evangelista. “He didn't think any kind of narrative would speak to how important the song was,” she said of Mitchell. “I think he was absolutely right in that just being able to see the emotion that brought, to me performing it, was the best way to share the story.”
Doty said Evangelista attended the performance and his presence saw her get choked up at the end of the song. “Just to have him in the room made it difficult to sing it, but it made it very special,” she said. The performance at Festival Hall wasn't the first time fans heard Doty's single. She performed it while on a cross-country tour last year and said the response was excellent. “After every show we always got so many comments about that song and people were sharing their own stories, they lost a husband or lost a friend,” she said. “I thought it would be a good thing to share with other people. It's something that people connect with. If there is anywhere that can be healing for people it's very important.” Doty previously created two music videos, both narratives and the most recent for the song No Good Men, which was shot in the foothills featuring a '50s theme. She released her first full-length album Gold a year ago.
Doty's love of music began at an early age. She recalls her first performance in the Grade 1 talent show at Good Shepherd School where she played the piano and sang Elton John's Can You Feel Love Tonight. Her talent led to her singing O Canada at Holy Trinity Academy, participating in the Calgary Stampede's youth talent show and studying jazz at Carleton University in Ottawa. Doty performs in the area next at Fort Calgary on May 8 and 9, and said Okotoks is also on her radar. “I always love coming back to Okotoks,” she said. “I'm sure I'll be back there again soon.”
Doty will record her next album this fall to be released in 2016.
Tickets to see Doty's Calgary performances can be purchased at ellendoty.com