There was always something about soul music. It spoke to Sophie Baudry. Perhaps it was the way those sorts of songs could be so devastating and direct. Or how with just one lyric or melodic turn of phrase a Ray Charles or a Bill Withers cut, for example, could be equal parts heavenly and heartbreaking. Whatever the reason, growing up in Paris, Baudry knew one thing for certain: that music spoke to her. Only in the past few years however, did the singer-songwriter who performs as Million Miles realize she could make this brand of music decidedly her own.
“It was always there but I’ve only recently found out how to make it happen,” the singer says with a chuckle on a recent afternoon when speaking from her London apartment. “I’ve always wanted to write these songs and make this record. It’s definitely been right there in front of me,” she adds, “but you want to explore different things before you pinpoint what you really want to say.”
The multi-talented Franco-British musician is speaking to her stunning Berry Hill EP – a four-track aural education on lessons learned and journeys taken. Equal parts scintillating and serene, the EP was recorded over a year’s time during multiple sessions with songwriter-producer Robin Eaton at his studio in Nashville’s iconic Berry Hill neighborhood. The EP is as much a showcase for Baudry’s sweet and effortlessly bluesy voice as a vehicle by which Million Miles can express her “clear and melodic” point of view as an artist. Tracks like the sweeping “Ice Cream and Cigarettes” and “Can’t Get Around A Broken Heart” stroll with a loose swing and a strut, creating just enough space, as the singer explains it, to be presented in such a simple and straightforward fashion. “It was a very natural process,” Baudry says of landing on a creative hot streak that saw her record more than 20 songs for the project before narrowing them down to the four that made the cut. “I think I sensed there was something special right away. It felt right.”
The singer is effusive in her praise for Eaton as well as other collaborators that worked with her on the project including singer-songwriters Andrew Combs, Philip Larue and Paul Ebersold who produced two tracks on the EP. Specifically, she speaks to how organic all of their collaborative spirit was. But Million Miles’ (she took the name from a photograph by her friend that signifies pushing boundaries and never remaining stagnant) path to Berry Hill was hardly a traditional one. Having moved back to Europe after attending college in Boston at the prestigious Berklee College of Music and then living in New York City for a brief stretch working as a recording engineer and session musician, Baudry was living in London in 2015 when on a whim she decided to high-tail it to Nashville. “I thought “Why not?”” the self-described adventurist says with a laugh. She spent her first days in Music City wandering, exploring, reaching out to strangers as if to say “‘I’m here and I’m a songwriter and looking for people to write with.'” One of those people she connected with was Eaton, and the pair instantly hit it off. “We met for coffee near his studio,” she remembers, “and an hour later we’d started writing a song. It was quite immediate,”
That song, “Your Mama,” is in many ways the centerpiece of the EP. Birthed from Baudry informing Eaton she “wanted to make this bluesy singer-songwriter record that I’ve always wanted to do,” he began strumming a few chords and soon she was singing a sensual and heart-rending tale of love and loss and letting go. “I had something on my mind that I had to put down,” she recalls. “It just came together quickly as if we’d known the song before.” The song also gave her the insight that she was on the right musical path. “I really sensed I had something special once I recorded it,” she says of the track. “The song itself meant a lot to me and I enjoyed singing it and it felt right. But when I heard back the recording it really gave me a hint that this was a good sound.”
Born into a musical family – her dad is a blues piano player – Baudry says she gravitated early on to a career in the arts. “It was never a battle for me to go do music,” she says of her early years as spent gigging around Paris. She’d begun writing songs as a teenager in a home studio at her parent’s house. “I was always recording from very early on,” she says. “Whether it was piano pieces I would compose or full songs when I was a bit older I’ve always been writing what’s in my head.”
In the years following attending Berklee, Baudry wrote songs for other artists but says she was simply waiting for the right songs – her own songs, the one that spoke her truth- before charting her own course. With Berry Hill, that moment has now arrived. “I definitely feel more accomplished artistically,” she says. “I’ve gone through phases and I didn’t quite figure out how to make it all happen. Now it feels like I’ve achieved something profound.”
A stunning and achingly beautiful live performer, Baudry is confident her music is now more tailor-made than ever for the more stripped-down and intimate shows she most enjoys. She references Bill Withers’ famed Live at Carnegie Hall album as a direct inspiration for how she sees a Million Miles show going forward. “I want it to have that quartet vibe,” she explains. “I want to keep it really intimate. I feel like I can present these songs very simply. Now is the first time I feel like I can go on my own and play a gig with just my Wurlitzer and still be happy with it.”
But what’s perhaps most pleasing to Baudry is her open-ended artistic future. For Million Miles, happiness boils down to penning new songs, never stifling her own creativity, maintaining a strong artistic intent.
“I just want to be able to write great songs and work with great musicians and really enjoy myself,” she says with zero hesitation. Her emitting emotion, she contends, will directly impact those who listen to her music. And plus, she notes, while ultimately she creates music to satisfy her artistic impulse, when others response to her music it shall adds to her fulfillment. “It’s even better when other people can relate to what you do,” she says. “Then it’s no longer just a personal thing. It means you’ve done your job.”