Mike Bell, Calgary Herald
A loss is only a gain if you do something positive with it. Only if you use it to help others, help yourself while healing. Ellen Doty has gained that insight recently, tragically, as a result of some losses — and they’re thoughts and experiences she has now shared with others in her new single Just So You Know.
The contemporary jazz ballad, which the local artist released last month, had its beginnings in grief, as she was dealing with the death of her close friend, Sheree Evangelista, who was taken suddenly in a car accident.
￼Conversations with her friend’s bereaved husband in the aftermath deeply affected her, as well, and would eventually help produce the lyrical heft of a deep, weighty and truly emotional song. “For him the hardest part of it all wasn’t at the beginning when he was surrounded by all his family and friends, it was later on when he was supposed to go back to normal life and everyone else has gone back to their jobs and (other) things, and trying to move on from that,” says Doty, who had also released her debut Gold around the same time and was planning her first cross-Canada tour.
“And another thing being his fear of forgetting. So forgetting her smile or her smell or her laugh, and not even being able to do anything about that. What can you do about that? “I tried to put his feelings and story into words to something that was meaningful for both of us.” Those words and music — co-written with longtime musical partner Oliver Miguel — have also been given a remarkably powerful visual treatment, thanks to a stark, haunting video produced by local filmmaker Brock Mitchell of Shot at the Dark/Deluxe Design Group Calgary. The seven-minute clip features a performance of Just So You Know done live and off-the-floor at Festival Hall, in a fittingly intimate manner, with a small audience including Evangelista’s husband.
“The take that we ended up choosing I got choked up in — the audio take,” says Doty of the video, which includes a dedication to her friend at the end. “But it was just a really special thing that we wanted to keep. You can just hear the emotion in it. I just thought that was something we should share.”
She did so a couple of weeks ago with a release show that she calls a “wonderful celebration” of her friend’s life and spirit, while also a collective sharing, again, of that loss specifically and loss of loved ones in general. “It was a really emotional night, actually. When we played the video and we performed a few songs, a lot of people were crying and it felt pretty heavy,” she says.
“But ... through all that I’ve had a lot of people approach me and share stories of their own grief, which I think is pretty special, that they feel comfortable saying, ‘You put this out there as your thing and I want to share this with you. And thank you for putting these feelings into words,’ that maybe that they weren’t able to describe themselves.” That’s why the video also features a dedication to “all those we have lost.” It speaks to the universality of grief, but also, Doty admits, alludes to another life that touched the songwriter and was taken around the same time as Evangelista’s.
As she reveals, Just So You Know was also inspired on an emotional level by the death of another friend, Kaiti Perras, who was taken tragically in the Brentwood slayings. That, too, weighed heavily in the writing of the song, something Doty shared with Perras’ family before the track was released — a gesture she thought was important and, perhaps, a positive, something to help with the healing.
As for the rest of those wishing to gain something from Just So You
￼￼￼￼Know, the song is available now from iTunes or from her Doty’s website ellendoty.com. She’ll also give the song a proper, larger launch this weekend with Friday and Saturday night shows at Fort Calgary. They will, undoubtedly, be emotional concerts again for Doty, but also ones that show the importance of moving forward. “And I’m going to be playing a few new tunes, actually,” she says.
“I’m just songwriting for a new album right now, so I’m going to set a few of those free.”
Ellen Doty performs Friday and Saturday evening at Fort Calgary. Tickets are available from ellendoty.zoobis.com (http://ellendoty.zoobis.com/) .