Lethbridge Jazz Festival fans will remember the gorgeous voice of Ellen Doty when she performed here a few years ago. Since then she has been busy recording and touring and is set to perform again in Lethbridge on March 1, 7:30 at CASA. I was able to catch up with her this week to find out a little more about her life, career and what we can expect at her show.
You are described as a soulful Canadian vocalist and songwriter with a world-class voice and your music being rooted in jazz. What pushed you into that genre?
Well, my grandmother actually lived across the street from Nat King Cole in Los Angeles so jazz music was passed down to me through them (and my father). My grandparents loved to go dancing in Hollywood and saw so many of the greats live including Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman, and so many more. While I love jazz, I also enjoy many other genres of music, so there are certainly many different influences in my own music.
Who were some of your influences growing up?
I listened to many different kinds of music growing up, but some of my favourites were of course Nat King Cole, soul singers like Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross, and everything from Diana Krall and Amy Winehouse to Lauryn Hill.
Who were some of your mentors?
I started music lessons at a young age, so my first music/guitar was Terry Siqueira from Okotoks, and then my voice teacher was Naomi Koch (also from Okotoks). I had the opportunity to study with great jazz drummer Dave Mancini for a little while in New York, and I also had many mentors in my University music programs including Dr. Jeremy Brown (University of Calgary), Dr. James Wright (Carleton University) and many more. I’ve also taken some lessons with many great jazz musicians including singer Jay Clayton (NYC) and Dr.Robert White (Juilliard).
You have appeared at the Lethbridge Jazz Festival. How was that experience?
I LOVED performing at the Lethbridge Jazz Festival. We had an absolute blast doing the show with Michael Kaeshammer, and the audience was so wonderful. Don Robb is also so supportive of artists and was a pleasure to work with as part of the festival.
You recently did a cross Canada tour. How fun/challenging is that?
I did do a cross-Canada tour, yes! It was an amazing experience! Despite the lack of sleep, late nights, and long days in the car, it’s such an incredible feeling to be able to play music that you love every night, and to be able to share music with so many different audiences. I was overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of people along the way too. So many people offered to put us up, make us dinner, or really help us in any way we needed.
Who are some artists we might be surprised to hear that you have them on your IPod?
Haha. Good question! I’m looking right now. I’ve got such a variety of things on here but some surprises may be: Bruno Mars, Beyonce, and Frank Ocean…there’s even The Eagles! I think good music is good music, regardless of genre.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned so far in your career?
Some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned so far in my career are: 1) Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is part of the music business, and you just need to pick yourself up and keep trying when things don’t go the way you had planned. Sometimes these things are blessings in disguise and end up working out for the best in the end. 2) Be patient. When I first started, I really wanted to get signed by a label right away. After being in the business for a little while now, I’ve realized how important some of these decisions are and how much they can impact the rest of your career. You need to make sure you’re well prepared and everything is in place before deciding to take some of the big jumps.
What’s been your favorite gig?
One of my favourites was at Upstairs Jazz Club in Montreal on our last tour. The audience was so enthusiastic and we really fed off of their energy during our concert.
Every musician has had one, what’s been your nightmare gig?
I’ve had plenty of nightmare gigs– I think it’s all part of the learning experience. One of the ones that stands out is a tour show we did at a bit of a rough bar where the crowd was quite rowdy even before we started playing. Men started taking off their shirts and spinning them above their heads and whistling as I came on stage to start the show. They also insisted on our bass player spinning his bass around, and always cheered loudly every time he did. We were all laughing for the whole show because we didn’t know what else to do. Someone even asked me to sign their chest at the end! I felt like a jazz rock star, ha! At least they cheered a lot for us, though. I can’t knock their enthusiasm.
How do you like the writing aspect of music? Where do you get your inspiration?
I love writing music. It’s such a great creative outlet. The majority of my writing is inspired by personal stories from my life. I think it’s important to connect with the music you create and perform, and the audience can feel that too. I used to be more shy about sharing my personal stories, but now I feel much more comfortable with it.
Would you ever do music that is outside your comfort zone?
Absolutely! I enjoy collaborating with artists that are completely outside my genre. In December, I wrote/released a song with Danny Vacon, who is the frontman from Calgary rock group The Dudes. I think it’s a great challenge to work on music that is outside my comfort zone.
Talk about the show Lethbridge audiences are going to see on March 1 at CASA and where we can get tickets.
The show on March 1st is going to be a lot of fun. We’re going to take the audience on a journey. We will laugh together, cry together, and everything in between. I will share lots of stories from my life, some funny ones, and some more meaningful. We will play my original music, including some songs that will be on my next album, and we will also play some re-imagined jazz standards/soul tunes. I will be joined by long-time collaborator and guitarist Josh Crowhurst, and special guest Eli Bennett on sax from Vancouver. Thirty-five-time internationally award-winning jazz saxophonist and four-time Leo-Nominated film composer Bennett has performed twice at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles and shared the stage with the likes of Oscar Peterson, Hank Jones, Barry Harris, Terence Blanchard, and Dave Holland. He’s incredible! We look forward to returning to Lethbridge for a wonderful evening of music.
Tickets are $20 for Adults and are available at: http://ellendotyleth.brownpapertickets.com
There will be tickets available for students for $10 at the door as well.