There’s a lot of fight inside MILCK. After a decade of quiet independent releases and tireless gigs around her native Los Angeles, the singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and poet MILCK confidently carried a generational anthem in the form of “Quiet.” Originally penned in 2015 with frequent collaborator Adrianne Gonzalez, the song provided a clarion call for people of all races, creeds, and colors who have suffered and survived gallantly in the face of trauma, trials, and tribulations with resounding piano chords and shuddering, soulful delivery.
“It’s unbelievable to think now, but I was initially told to hold the song,” she recalls. “I couldn’t keep compromising anymore though. It’s my story as a survivor of abuse. I was finally letting myself out of the chains. Recording ‘Quiet’ was a very genuine moment of therapy for me. It’s very real. I thought if the honesty healed me, maybe it can heal someone else? After the election, I said, ‘Fuck you’ and shared it.”
She shared it in the most beautiful way possible. Traveling to the historic January 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C., MILCK teamed up with 25 female singers—whom she had never met before—and delivered seven a cappella flashmob performances of “Quiet” on the streets. A fan video went viral, racking up over 15 million plays in two days. By the end of the week, she took the stage on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee for another riveting rendition as VICE, NPR, Refinery29, BuzzFeed, Associated Press, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and more extolled her. It ignited the #ICantKeepQuiet social media project as everyone from Emma Watson, Debra Messing, and Tegan & Sara to Tom Morello and Denis Leary shared the video. The initiative’s merchandise benefits the Step Up chapter in L.A., which provides after school and mentorship programs for underprivileged girls 13-18.
Crafting “cathartic pop” rooted in classical training and inspired by a pastiche of artistic muses ranging from Hemingway and Maya Angelou to modern art, this style defines her debut EP for Atlantic Records. “Throughout all of those years struggling, a major label never felt like it could be a reality,” she admits. “I’m just being myself, and I don’t want to assume that I can sing for everyone. I want to sing what I feel. If people connect, that’s awesome.”
MILCK has been singing for as long as she can remember. Born to Chinese immigrants in the Los Angeles suburb of Palos Verdes, she enrolled in classical piano at six-years-old and opera classes at the age of eight. Honing her talents during high school, the budding artist headed to Berkeley for college, promising she “would try pre-med” and allaying some of her doctor father’s worries about a potential career in music. Inspired by everything from Frédéric Chopin, Tori Amos, and Elton John to Imogen Heap, Portishead, Radiohead, and Massive Attack, she experienced something of an awakening in the college’s underground piano rooms.
“I realized I could sing and play piano at the same time,” she goes on. “That opened the door to writing pop songs. I felt like I could finally express myself. I’m grateful for my classical foundation. The amazing thing about opera is I learned how to use my vocal cords to sing for hours without getting tired, but rather, becoming stronger. I had all of these tools and decided I would graduate, move to L.A., and get my ass kicked by the music industry.”
Performing under her given name, Connie Lim, she paid her dues tenfold. Throughout the next 8 years, she successfully financed an indie release via Kickstarter and built a sturdy foundation all the while weathering crumbling business partnerships and a series of obstacles. In 2016, she re-emerged under the name MILCK—her last name Lim spelled backwards and first two initials. “I wanted to establish myself, so I did MILCK,” she explains. “It uses the name I received from my ancestors, but I’m changing it and making it my own, so I can actually be who I am. It’s taking accountability.”
She made waves with “Devil Devil,” which went on to receive high-profile syncs in Lucifer and The Royals as it racked up nearly a million Spotify streams and over 1 million YouTube views. However, the stark and shuddering, yet disarmingly catchy “Quiet” finally needed to be heard. “I was pretty sad,” she remembers. “My management disappeared, and I felt like I hit rock bottom. I said to my boyfriend, ‘I lost my team.’ He looked at me and went, ‘But honey, you are the team.’ That really shifted my perspective. Shortly after that, I released ‘Quiet.’ Hemingway wrote, “You are so brave and quiet I forget you are suffering.” MILCK is quiet no more, and her honesty possesses the power to heal.
“I’d rather express than impress,” she leaves off. “When people listen to me, I want them to feel empowered. I want a catharsis. My ideal situation as an artist is to harness my voice so it becomes like the purest form of water. When I sing in a room, I want to wash people and the walls of all the pain and shit they deal with. I come from a family of doctors. Doctors are healers. I want to be a sonic healer.”