It was only a handful of days before Los Angeles Pride last June that MILCK learned that the annual event would be hosting a march instead of a parade. The L.A.-based singer-songwriter who earned viral fame with a performance of her song "Quiet" at the Women's March in Washington D.C. earlier this year decided to bring her hit back to the streets. In an off-camera interview after the taping of her Studio A session, MILCK explained that she called up people to join in another flashmob-style performance. They made signs, printed t-shirts and attended the march.
"One thing about Los Angeles is that the culture is so supportive of the Pride culture," she says. "It was really joyous."
MILCK adds, "What was amazing to me was that the people who volunteered to sing, a lot of them had just met, but they wanted to sing that song over and over again. I kept thinking, they might be tired, let's rest. I don't want to overwork them. I learned something that day, that people want to act."
On-camera, MILCK explains her origin story. Her stage name is her last name — Lim — spelled backwards and followed by her first two initials. "It's a little bit of a puzzle," she says. She started playing piano in childhood and began taking voice lessons a little later. By high school, she was writing pop songs, but she went to UC Berkeley and studied other subjects. "I tried to ignore it because I knew that the life of an artist could be unstable and scary," she says of her musical impulses. Later in college, though, she couldn't ignore her calling anymore. She moved back to Los Angeles and has spent the past eight years working independently on her career. "The lesson that I learned as an artist was how to speak up for myself and how to not try to please other people and just take up space without apologizing," she says. "I think once I learned that, that was really important for me."
For Studio A, MILCK performs the song "Waiting," which delves into her artistic struggle and the realization that she needed to trust her self. "That's when everything started changing," she says. "I actually realized that in November of 2016. It was kind of this ricochet. It was the election and then my management at that time had dropped me. I actually told my boyfriend, I lost my team and he said, you are the team. That changed. I think something clicked."
And that leads to "Quiet," the song that propelled MILCK into the international spotlight. "'Quiet' has become an anthem and that was kind of secretly my dream," she says. But, that almost didn't happen. MILCK, who has also performed as Connie Lim, had been floating under the music radar for years, so she wasn't necessarily expecting anything big to happen when she wrote a song about her own experience with abuse. "I'm doing it because I think it's my job spiritually and creatively to give my truth and offer it to society and if society wants it, they'll take it," she says. "And, if they don't, I'm trying my best."
MILCK wrote "Quiet" a while back and her management had wanted her to hold onto the song until they could get a record label to back her. Then, she says, there were suggestions that she change her name and her image. That wasn't something she wanted to do, so they parted ways. Meanwhile, Trump won the presidential election and plans for the Women's March in D.C. happened. MILCK connected with a a group of women from various parts of the country to perform the song together out on the streets. They had worked together online and most of the group rehearsed together in person before the protest, but that day was the first time all of them were together to turn "Quiet" into a flashmob moment.
"The experience of just being in D.C. for the Women's March was absolutely electric," MILCK tells KCET. "I remember standing in the subway station in the central area where all of the marches were going and tears filled my eyes as the subway came up to the platform and it was completely filled with women in pink pussy hats."
She continues, "It was just a big love fest. I remember that marchers were hugging cops, security people, making sure that nothing would happen violently and people were giving each other hugs. There were people in the high rises as we were marching through holding up signs. This one woman had a cat and she held up a sign that says 'Pussy Approves' and the cat was just waving in the window."
"Quiet" was captured on video, spread around the internet and MILCK's song was now a bona fide viral hit. Major publications wrote about the song. She appeared on "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee." Other people started covering it. "As 'Quiet' became other women's song, it was no longer about me," she says. "It's about women, and also men and all genders in between, whoever has ever felt or a minority in their own home or felt like they weren't being heard."
Feminism isn't the only issue that's close to MILCK. She is also an environmentally conscious person and this goes back to her childhood. "One great thing about my childhood that I so appreciate from my mother, she always taught us to be super resourceful and not wasteful," she says. "We don't take our things lightly. We respect them." Her time at Berkeley also influenced MILCK's environmentalism. She was a vegetarian for seven years, but started eating meat again due to health reasons. "I remember feeling a lot of guilt not being able to have zero footprint," she says. "I'm human, I'm going to have a footprint." Her song "This Is Not the End" delves into these issues. "It doesn't have to be the end. It can be, things can be reversed," she explains of the song. "We can make different decisions. We can have a better future."
At the time of her Studio A performance, MILCK was preparing to record her new EP. She has also recorded a new version of "Quiet." The new version of the song is inspired by a rendition performed by some local high school students. MILCK met with an orchestra at Pasadena's Westridge High School where the students at the all-girl institution had transcribed the song for strings. "I went and it was a semi-circle of 24 girls, holding violins, playing piano, cello. They started playing the song and I was in tears. I thought to myself when I heard them play, 'This is the way I want to record my new version,'" she says in an off-camera interview. "So, the new version is very orchestra and choral based, which makes sense because it's all about community, it's about togetherness."
Top Image: MILCK | Jimmy Fontaine