Connecting With Authenticity
Penning her first song at just seven years old, Los-Angeles-based MILCK (born Connie Lim) began her musical journey with classical piano and opera lessons. As a quirky, energetic child born to traditionally minded Hong Kong immigrants, her creative energy made her parents nervous, while her grandfather—who had a penchant for living-room karaoke—quietly embraced her colorful self-expression. Returning to artistic independence, her expressive side has re-emerged, this time with more raw, powerful writing—and strong advocacy.
MILCK credits her confidence and songwriting skills to the unique “can do” attitude and encouragement of her first piano teacher, Mrs. Mendenhall. Says MILCK, “She had arthritis of the hands, but she still played [and] taught music until she passed [at] age 97.” Capturing “song seeds” on a dictaphone borrowed from her mom’s office before she learned how to score music, MILCK says that the song written for her school arts competition changed her life. “I look back at naming my first song “Healthy People” with a lot of joy because art was my tool in imagining a better world.”
After further vocal training in high school, MILCK joined an a cappella group and started a band before dropping out of her university pre-med program to pursue music full-time. Writing and performing independently for eight years, she met Adrianne Gonzalez at a show backstage. Later offering to intern for her, MILCK advises to, “make time and energy your currency in exchange for some life experience,” confessing that her life changed when she stopped seeing networking as transactional.
The friendship with Gonzalez evolved and they co-wrote “Quiet,” the song becoming an anthem for the women’s movement after MILCK's performance footage went viral (later named Billboard’s No. 1 protest song for 2017). Borne from therapy sessions to work through MILCK’s childhood abuse, the song helped reconnect her with the ideals of her youth.
“I can't buy into this myth anymore that wanting a better world is ‘hippie,’” she says, “because if I believe it, then I am solidifying that truth.” Struggling to find her career footing after losing her management, she felt called to the Women’s March in D.C. to lend support and express herself. “It was a beautiful time of deep storytelling and exchanging between fans,” she says. “I will never forget that. One of my greatest gifts in this life is to have experienced that with other people who wanted to tell me their stories.”
Following a surge in media attention and offers from various labels, MILCK signed with Atlantic Records and, while they have since parted ways, she is proud of being one of the first Chinese American women to sign to the label and remains very grateful for the experience, adding that “it was the kindest and most generous parting of ways between a label and artist I’ve heard of.”
Ranging from first responder to proactive art, MILCK’s music is either created as a “quick, messy, and very gritty” response to events taking place, or it comes from concentrated time alone—since her sensitivity to others can become a weakness when there are a lot of outside opinions. “The reason “We Won’t Go Back” (responding to Roe v. Wade) came about is because I decided to show up. I was tired. I wanted to watch Netflix and eat room service, but instead, I went to the protest and I listened,” she says.
Being comfortable saying “no” and taking time off to “be unimpressive” are keys to her current success. “I've had the experience of rushing a project for the sake of the commercial process,” admits MILCK, “and I don't ever want to bring that into my art again. It's not a good feeling. By allowing others to produce me, my chops got softened.”
The pandemic returned MILCK to her writing roots, reconnecting to her passion and sharpening production skills, as evidenced by independent releases, “Steady As We Go,” “Power” and “We Won’t Go Back.” Single, “I Belong” forms part of the GRAMMY Museum Songs of Conscience, Sounds of Freedom exhibit alongside H.E.R., Ziggy Marley, Chuck D, and others.
Contact Cory Councill - [email protected];
Experience MILCK at milckmusic.com, somebodysbeloved.com