Songstress Exploring New Horizons

 Photo by Amanda Robinson

Photo by Amanda Robinson

A songbird whose career took flight in Okotoks is on a quest to spread her wings even further.
Singer/songwriter Ellen Doty, a 2006 Holy Trinity Academy graduate, is one of nine professional Alberta songwriters selected to write and record songs for the Canadian Songwriters’ Challenge at OCL Studios east of Calgary July 14 to 17.
In groups of three, the artists will collaborate on two to three demo-ready songs, often delving into genres they’ve never explored, under the mentorship of Canadian singer Mike Plume of the Songwriting Association of Canada.
“I’m really excited and honoured to be a part of it,” Doty said. “I think it’s going to be a really good experience, just to be immersed in music for four days. It’s going to be pretty intense.”
Doty said she looks forward to the opportunity to experience other genres by connecting with new musicians - expanding on her jazz and pop roots.
“It always helps with teamwork and collaboration, learning to write with other people, because it’s a really important skill to have,” she said. “I’ve already started doing that, getting ready for a new album. Learning how other people write is very interesting. I feel like I learn a lot from being in those situations.”
Doty said her producers have been setting her up with various writers in Toronto and Los Angeles over the last several months in preparation for a 10-track album she plans to release this fall.
“When I was getting ready to do this new album I really wanted to collaborate with people of different genres just to have a little bit more mixed influence in my music,” she said. “This way it’s more accessible to different audiences that maybe aren’t that necessarily into jazz right off the bat, but maybe it’s a good way to introduce them into those elements of music.”
In the last year she’s written with such songwriters as Juno winner Justin Rutledge and Calgary musician Danny Vacon of The Dudes.
“Sometimes we will start from scratch and jam and create a song from the beginning.” she said. “Sometimes we will start with a lyrical or melody idea or some chords or they will come in with something and we will work from there to create a song. It’s definitely incorporating more influences - a mix of jazz and pop and folk and soul and all things together.”
Collaborating with other musicians isn’t new to Doty, but this weekend’s challenge is.
“I’ve certainly done writing sessions before, but generally it’s just a few hours a day, not four days in a row,” she said. “It’s going to be quite interesting.”
Doty submitted an application for the Canadian Songwriters’ Challenge last winter after learning about it from friends in the industry who attended and enjoyed the experience.
“We don’t know who is in our group yet,” she said, adding they don’t find out until they arrive. “It’s nice to have the surprise and just see when we get there how we are going to work together. We could be one singer and a couple of instrumentalists, it could be a couple of singers, it could be people who play and sing.”
Following the Canadian Songwriters’ Challenge this weekend and a winery concert in Kamloops in August, Doty will head to Toronto to begin recording her album.
Her latest full-length album Gold was released in spring of 2014, breaking the top 10 on several jazz charts in Canada.
Doty said she already has an idea which songs will appear on the album. There are some songs that have been immediate favourites.
“Sometimes when you write them you know right away, this one is special,” she said. “I often share the songs with really good friends and band members and get their feedback and I’ve been performing some of them live. It’s nice to get feedback that way, too.”
Doty is the headliner for the Fort Saskatchewan concert series at the Shell Theatre Oct. 1. For more information about Doty go to ellendoty.com.