Smitty: It is certainly my wonderful pleasure to welcome back to Jazz Monthly one of the fantastic new singers on the scene. Fresh off her debut self-titled album, she has now created a wonderful new record. It is called Make Someone Happy. You must hear this great new record. She sings with such emotion and such a rare splendor of voice. Please give a very warm welcome for the incredible Ms. Sophie Milman. Sophie, how are you, my friend?
Sophie Milman (SM): I’m great. After that little intro, I’m even better.
SM: Thanks, Smitty.
Smitty: Oh, you’re so welcome and it’s great to talk with you again.
SM: Oh yeah, absolutely.
Smitty: You have been on the go and this new record is fantastic, and when I first saw the album cover, I said “Oh, this is just another level of Sophie Milman. I gotta hear it.”
SM: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
Smitty: And the record….such great song selections.
SM: Thank you very much. A lot of me went into this record, so I’m happy that people are appreciative of it.
Smitty: Yeah, and one of the things I noticed right away was the increase of emotion in your singing and the band accompanying you is just fantastic. You both fit so well in putting this record together.
SM: Thank you. Well, the band is definitely an integral part of this record and, really, my career. I got together with these guys, I would say, almost two and a half years ago, and the musical director and arranger, Cameron [Wallis]—he plays saxophone for me—and Paul [Shrofel]—the piano player—we’ve been together for almost two and a half years, and our drummers and bass players kinda changed for us, but John [Fraboni], who’s featured on the record, joined us last year, and Kieran [Overs] actually played just on the session and then we decided that it would be awesome if he could come on the road with us and he agreed, which was great. And because the band and I, really, the core of the band, piano and sax, we’ve been together for so long, they really have been really important in helping me shape my sound.
SM: So when it came time to make the record, we were all super ready, I mean, we’ve been playing the stuff and we just really get each other musically.
Smitty: Yeah. That’s so important.
SM: And obviously with John, him being in the band for a year, and Kieran is just an unbelievable musician, so everything came together really organically.
Smitty: Very cool. You also have just been super busy. You’ve been on the road. Talk to me about the European trip. I mean, you went back to some places where you’ve been sometime back. What was that like?
SM: The experience was great. I mean, I traveled to Paris and London and Berlin and Scandinavia, which was terrific, and playing showcases and doing media, and it’s just fantastic, I mean, to be traveling internationally promoting these records, promoting my career. It’s really something that I never thought would happen. Something that I couldn’t even have dreamt of and then last April to be on stage at the Virgin Megastore at the Champs Elysee, you know, the biggest record store in all of France.
Smitty: How cool.
SM: And they set up this huge stage and there was an unbelievable crowd and posters and everything. It was just really kind of surreal.
SM: But a great, great experience, a great experience.
Smitty: Sounds so exciting.
SM: To meet different audiences in different countries. I mean, every country’s different, they respond to music differently, and it’s just amazing.
Smitty: Absolutely. Now, when you visit these different countries, what was the most remarkable thing about their response to your music? What was most striking about their responses?
SM: Well, the most amazing place was Japan, and Japan is my biggest territory in terms of sales, and there I’m actually kind of a celebrity, sort of a star, if you can say that, because us jazz singers in North America, even if we do well, we live in relative obscurity. Not so much in Japan. I’ve traveled to Japan three times in the last year and going to be going back in August for another tour and we were touring there in December and the response was just incredible and they treat us like rock stars.
SM: They are screaming and yelling and reaching out, and they just wanna touch our hands and people bring gifts. People actually—we were on stage at—I don’t remember whether it was the Blue Note in Osaka or the Cotton Club in Tokyo—and people were bringing us gifts right before the show.
Smitty: Oh wow!
SM: Or while we’re singing, and I kind of arranged them all on stage and it was just really, really cool, and just the level of enthusiasm is completely just over the top, and it’s really—it’s amazing because you feel so much love and you wanna give as much back.
Smitty: Oh, very cool. Now, this interview will be reaching your fans in Japan. What would you like to say to them now about that experience?
SM: Oh, I love you guys. I love my Japanese fans. I love my label there. JVC has done an unbelievable job. The people at Blue Note that we’ve been working with on our first tour—and we’re going back on a Blue Note tour again in August—everybody’s been unbelievable and professional and really taking good care of us, and the audiences are just—they make us wanna sing and play better, you know?