She could sing before she could even talk. She would dance, sing and put on shows for everyone at an early age. It was that natural talent Grace Doty's family noticed while she was still a child.
"It's just my entire life," Grace Doty said of what music means to her. "I've never seriously considered any other path because music is 100 percent where my heart is."
The 20-year-old pop/rock singer is a classically trained vocalist and self-taught on guitar and piano, so she could write her own material and accompany herself on stage. Doty is also an avid songwriter and has written more than 50 original songs.
Her dynamic voice has been described to display "both crystal-clear angelic tones as well as bluesy/husky qualities which enable her to sing soft whispery tunes, ballads, rock n' roll, jazz and everything in between with great skill."
Doty, , comes from a musical family – her grandfather was on Broadway and her father was a musician as well. Music has been a part of her since birth, she said.
"I decided that I wanted to really pursue a career in music during elementary school, because I kept getting lead roles in the school musicals," she said. "I remember in 5th grade telling my teacher that when I grew up, I wanted to be 'the kind of singer that makes CDs'."
Doty began taking vocal stage performing classes when she was 12 and classical voice training at 14. She went on to perform numerous times in high school, covering songs by many of her musical influences. She discovered her love of song writing when she was 16 and began teaching herself piano.
The young woman picked up her first acoustic guitar when she was 17 and having had no lessons or experience under her belt, she taught herself the guitar. It quickly became a passion, and she eventually traded in the piano for the guitar as her main songwriting tool.
Doty, has written more than 50 songs on both piano and guitar. She sings jazz standards for the Jon Doty band, singing blues and rock n' roll with D-3 Band (comprised of three of her uncles) as well as playing solo sets of her own music (acoustic and full band).
Her musical influences include the complex harmonies of Crosby Stills & Nash and the classic rock tunes of The Beatles, as well as as Paramore, Susan Tedeschi, Alison Krauss, John Mayer, Kelly Clarkson and Demi Lovato.
The young woman has also had her share of adversity she has had to overcome. In the fall of 2008, the budding singer and musician was competing in the adult division of Amateur Night at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theatre. That's when one of her fellow competitors brought two bus loads of fans along with him to boo anyone who was his competition.
"I went third, and the two people who went before me immediately got booed off stage," she said. "When I got on stage to sing, before I even opened my mouth, they started booing me. So I decided to walk over to the section where all of those people were sitting and sing right to them. I was pretty proud of that particular moment."
Doty has made quite a name for herself. In 2010 she competed in a web-show talent search sponsored by Alloy Entertainment and Jive Records. Out of thousands of entrants competing for a contract with Jive, Doty placed fourth. In a more local singing competition hosted by Mercy College in 2011, she placed in the top 10 out of thousands of competitors from all over the country.
"I really enjoy performing because it's the only time I feel completely comfortable," she said. "I like to say that I only get stage fright when I'm not on stage. But when I'm performing for people and playing music, I'm completely at home."
When she writes her own songs, she said, she loves being able to express what she is thinking about or feeling in a way that makes sense to her.
"I find that I can even just write a melody, without any words, and it can accurately describe and convey the way I'm feeling," Doty said. "I think that's really cool, there's really nothing else like it."
Her music has already earned her thousands of fans over the Internet, as she currently has 2,961 people following her Twitter account @GraceSings91, and 3,351 subscribers on YouTube. One of her videos has even been featured on Paula Abdul’s "Top 19 Favorite Videos."
"I would be playing music even if five people paid attention, but knowing that I have a few thousand people listening and caring about what I do is an absolute dream for me," Doty said. "It's also really reassuring."
In January of 2011, Doty released her first original demo song titled "Let Go of Me" – a slow, acoustic pop song about a struggling relationship. Following her first demo single came the rock ballad "Off The Ledge."
"I would be a completely different person if I didn't have music," Doty said. "It's literally what I spend every waking moment of my life doing now, and I wouldn't have it any other way. It's how I express my feelings and it gives me something to pour all of my energy into – positive or negative."
She is currently recording her debut EP Stuff From My Brain, which will feature a handful of songs exclusively composed by her. She has been working on her album with her uncle Jon Doty, who is a well-known Westchester jazz artist and professional drummer.
When asked about what her goals and dreams for the future are, Doty said she would love to spend her life playing music.
"Of course I hope that one day I'll get signed to a label and be able to have my music heard around the world, because that would guarantee a lot more stability for my music and my life," she said. "But the main goal for now is to keep doing this because it's what I love."
Doty will perform at the Winery at St. George in Mohegan Lake on Wednesday, April 4 at 8:30 p.m. Click here to get tickets. Her next performance will be on Friday, April 27 at The Boathouse in Ossining at 8 p.m.
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