Originally Published by Oakland Tribune Friday August 6, 2004


Shelley Doty finds opportunity 'Over the Line'

By Megan H. Chan - CONTRIBUTOR

SHE calls herself "geeky." But to those who know her for her musical contributions to socially conscious efforts such as Oakland's alternative Lip magazine and "Healing Sex," a movie about surviving child sexual abuse, singer-songwriter Shelley Doty is anything but.

On her new CD, "Over the Line," she continues to fuse jazz and rock. The 37-year-old's edgy, insightful lyrics earned her the chance to perform onstage at 1999's Lillith Fair at Shoreline Amphitheatre. First known as the leader of local group Jambay, which disbanded in 1996, Doty today performs with the Shelley Doty X-tet, a band featuring rotating musicians.

The Oakland native and resident says she hopes to inspire young girls to pick up instruments -- like she did at age 13 after seeing Nancy Wilson strum the guitar in concert.

Doty is careful to add that boys deserve the same musical inspiration, but at the same time, she says they have more role models on the music scene than do girls.

"I think female instrumentalists are often overlooked as instrumentalists, and people tend to overlook you and see you as a singer if you're a female in a band," Doty says.

A former biology major at the University of California, San Diego, Doty says her experience studying abroad -- and having a lot of time to soul-search -- made her seriously consider a career as a songwriter.

"Songs definitely require nurturing. They require care and feeding," Doty says. " ... And I hear how they affect me and how they're constructed and something might hit me on a very visceral, emotional level. ... If you look at songs you really love, there might be similarities in the [harmonic-- progression that are not emotionally, but intuitively, broken down."

As the founder and sole artist on her record label, Howlin', Doty, like many other grassroots artists, is responsible for publicity and production as well as writing and performing her music.

She's also co-writing and directing the music for a science-fiction animated feature movie called "Strange Frame."

"The business side of it is really tedious, and it can be a real creative drain. And it's interesting that musicians sort of have a jokey reputation that musicians are lazy, and nothing can be further from the truth," Doty says. "If we all put this much effort into a corporate day job, we'd be making six figures."

While the songwriter is serious and concentrated on developing her craft, she remains lighthearted about life's challenges.

"One of my catch phrases is 'improvisation is the key to life' and 'there are no mistakes, only opportunities,'" Doty says. "They call it playing music, not working music."

Shelley Doty X-tet celebrates "Over the Line" at 10:15 p.m. today at the Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. Tickets are $7-$10. Visit www.shelleydoty.com or call (510) 841-2082.