Interview: MILCK Creates Harmonies Across the Globe

MILCK is a musical artist who is in the midst of harnessing and nourishing what she refers to as a “therapeutic moment” for herself and others around the world.

The vocalist, keyboardist, and songwriter from Los Angeles was already experiencing significant career success when she co-wrote and sang Quiet in flash mobs at the D.C. Women’s March. This song was hailed as the anthem of the historic Jan. 21 rally for women and has since been connecting people around the globe with the #ICantKeepQuiet social media campaign.

“I’m in awe of and inspired by what has happened with the song,” MILCK told Legendary Women. “I’m realizing the song is a kind of therapeutic moment for people, to soothe them and encourage them.”

In case you haven’t encountered this song yet, here’s a video of one of the flash mobs, produced by film and music video director Alma Har’el, who played a big role in the song’s viral ascent online:

MILCK performed Quiet with 25 other female singers she connected with virtually before the march, 14 of whom were members of George Washington University’s GW Sirens. MILCK’s site with Red Boot PR explains that the group “also served as Pussy Power Pack Women, wearing bright pink backpacks and distributing Pussy Power Hats.”

MILCK was gracious, thoughtful, and passionate in our phone interview. She spoke about how her past inspired the song, Quiet, the power of harmonizing, and her hopes for future endeavors in creative activism.

Get to Know MILCK:

Photo by Rachael Lee Stroud

MILCK was born Connie Lim; MILCK, which she goes by exclusively as an artist, is a combination of her last name spelled backward and her first two initials (CK). During her youth, she experienced abuse as well as suffocating demands to fit in. She developed depression and eating disorders and struggled with self-expression. She has now decided to “put it all out there.”

MILCK explained that after struggling with anorexia, she moved onto other eating disorders, some “that are less spoken about.” This era in her life was characterized by a perpetual cycle of addiction and shame. She’s recently decided to discuss this struggle because, she said, “If I was going through it and I read that someone else was going through it, maybe it would give me more strength to get over it.”

I didn’t know about anyone having this until years after, when I researched it online and it turns out there is a whole community. It’s called chewing and spitting … when it becomes a disorder — which is what happened to me — I would seek out food to chew and spit out because I was hungry but wouldn’t let myself eat and also I kind of used it as a stress reliever …

She feels these eating disorders were the culmination of her experience of abuse and trauma, which she didn’t know how to express. She used these self-harming methods to communicate and vent her “quiet rage.”

MILCK lost many relationships because she didn’t have the tools to discuss tension or discomfort; she “literally did not know how to express it.” With her family, though she was physically present, she often felt she “disappeared.” She said people could only get “the beginning of her,” which she said ties directly into these lyrics from Quiet, which she co-wrote with Adrienne Gonzalez: “no one knows me no one ever will.”

MILCK’s original, handwritten sheet music for the choir

While music served as an outlet for her, her musical self felt a bit like an “alter ego,” with a voice that didn’t transfer into her day-to-day life. MILCK feels that she “didn’t really learn how to communicate” until her mid-20s and credits therapy with helping her to find her voice.

She learned to take baby steps in communication and to honor her own pace and needs in life. As she evolved, she began to learn “how to integrate her voice into real life and integrate that voice with music,” and to “not live in a fantasy world.”

During an exploration of the commercial music industry, which she described as draining and unfulfilling, she “met a lot of people who forgot why they were doing what they were doing and were focused on fame and money and the shiny things.” Unfortunately, she also found herself falling back into “toxic relationships” at this time because “being abused younger as a kid allowed more abusive relationships to walk into my life because I felt like it was normal.” She expressed this frustration in her debut single, Devil Devil, in which she sings, “you can’t buy me, devil devil.” MILCK has now returned to pursuing her true voice through an “Indie/ DIY” approach.

Paradoxically, this song had huge mainstream appeal; it was the #1 popular tune on Tunefind twice in 2016 and was featured by the programs Pretty Little Liars, The Royals, Marco Polo and Lucifer. MILCK was also listed by Shazam as an artist to watch in late 2016, shortly before she released Quiet.

The Women’s March and Future Projects:

“Everyone was polite and eager to become friends but it wasn’t until we sang together and we finished singing that we all laughed and there was this immediate bond that goes deeper than words can express,” MILCK said, describing singing with the group of women who made up the Women’s March flash mobs. She met some of them on the Thursday before the march and said while “we were all strangers at the beginning,” she now feels an enduring connection with them. She said, “there’s something very healing about being in a room and then singing with a group of people in harmony.”

MILCK herself has “been harmonizing since middle school choir,” and continued with high school and college a cappella groups. She said,

Harmony, which is invisible — so you can’t touch it or anything — is stronger than that tension between two strangers; the perception of a wall between two people that don’t know each other becomes diminished.

One of her personal goals going forward is to “stay very informed, actively peruse information “and try to decipher for myself what I feel is true or not.” She also wants to stay true to herself and “have a lot more conversations with people about what they need to heal and to feel empowered.” In fact, she shared, “three year ago, I set the intention: whatever I do, I want to be an empowerment therapist. I’m seeing that manifest now.”

When Quiet was widely called an anthem of the Women’s March, she “realized the opportunity and the responsibility and the depth of what that means as an artist.” She takes the platform she’s been given very seriously and can “feel this energy; the rise of the resistance.”

“With that in mind,” she’s working on her portfolio of songs and doing some rerecording with hopes of releasing a collection in late spring.

The #ICantKeepQuiet campaign is going strong and “is dedicated to celebrating our unique voices and identities, in an effort to break the cycles of oppression perpetuated by today’s media.” Money raised from project merchandise benefits the Los Angeles chapter of Step Up, a nonprofit providing after school and mentorship programs for underprivileged girls ages 13–18.

MILCK fans will also be glad to hear that she has an #ICantKeepQuiet Day in the works! She has been contacted by choirs around the world and wants to rally all of them virtually on this day (TBA). Check out this mashup she shared on Twitter:

She also wants non-singers to share their stories through writing or recordings and may include visual artists and photographers as well. You can stay updated on MILCK’s plans by following her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Speaking to MILCK was a personal honor and the depth and sincerity of her lyrics was quite evident.

“I can’t keep quiet (no oh oh oh oh oh oh) / A one woman riot (oh oh oh oh oh oh oh)
I can’t keep quiet / For anyone / Anymore.”
Photo by Jen Rosenstein

Julia Travers is a journalist and author. She’s on Twitter @traversjul.

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