Ellen Doty on influences, new music, and artistic growth

 Photo by Brendan Klem

Photo by Brendan Klem

 

Interview by Yasmine Shemesh for Van City Buzz February 15th, 2016

"My philosophy is that good music is good music no matter the genre,” says Calgary-based singer-songwriter Ellen Doty. It’s an appropriate mantra for a vocalist raised on everything from Ella Fitzgerald to Lauryn Hill and whose jazz-rooted music has enchanted listeners with its soulful nuances of folk and pop.

“I listened to a lot of Nat King Cole — he actually lived across from my grandma when she was growing up in Los Angeles,” Doty recalls. “My parents also, especially my dad, really like folk music. He really likes some lesser-known folk writers like Tom Russell, one of his favourites, so I listened to a lot of that growing up and The Eagles.”

After receiving a production grant from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts for her debut album, Doty released 2014’s Gold to widespread acclaim. The record broke the Top 10 in jazz charts across Canada and was highly praised by critics, including the Calgary Herald’s Mike Bell who described it as “an immediate, handmade, warm-hearted statement.”

“It felt pretty special just to be able to share your music with people, outside of just giving a concert for a few people in your hometown,” Doty confesses. “I’m honoured that people have enjoyed the music and I look forward to continue to grow in the music and see how it changes and evolves with every project.”

Growth is, in fact, what’s on the agenda for Doty’s forthcoming album. Set for recording in Toronto this spring, the new music will slightly differ stylistically than the singer’s previous work, incorporating a broader range of her genre-spanning influences. “There’s kind of more [of] a mix,” she explains. “It’s all jazz, pop, folk mixed together versus it being really jazz-based with the last one.” This blend can be tasted on the album’s first single, “Just So You Know” — a haunting pop ballad that features Doty’s smokey vocals alongside delicate piano.

The new release will also see Doty collaborating with more writers — something she hasn’t done much of before — including Juno Award-winning alternative country artist Justin Rutledge. For now, the singer is keeping busy with a touring schedule that includes a stop in Vancouver set for April.