EXCLUSIVE: Meet Milck, the Songwriter Who Unintentionally Penned the Powerful Anthem of the Women's March
By Emily Krauser
Photo: Jen Rosenstein
You may have heard by now that Milck can't keep quiet. In fact, if you were in Washington, D.C. last Saturday or have been voraciously consuming every photo and video you can from Women's Marches around the world, then you've definitely heard her previously-unknown song, "Quiet."
The tune became the unofficial anthem of the Women's March on Washington, and it's easy to see why. The stirring song was composed by Milck, and the songwriter and her choir of 25 women performed it seven times in D.C. "Quiet" is not simply catchy -- it's beautiful and hopeful, to the point where it's hard to believe it wasn't written specifically for the march.
"It was a snapshot of what I was feeling as the political climate and world was heating up for a while, and then the election felt like the boil, and we're starting to see the bubbles at the surface," Milck, whose real name is Connie Lim, told ET shortly after landing in New York City on Tuesday, where she was preparing for a performance on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. "So writing that at the heating up of everything, I feel like it's actually a better snapshot of how people felt, the pain that happened. Because, really, the song is more focused on abuse."
"I think because the song got so much exposure at the march, now it's become a political thing," she added. "I'm embracing it."
After filming one of the march performances, Israeli director Alma Har'el shared the clip on social media. The video has since gotten over 14 million views on Facebook and been retweeted by celebs like Emma Watson and Debra Messing, both of whom walked in Washington. Since then, it's been a whirlwind of interviews, trains, flights, conversations with creative feminists -- including brainstorming sessions with Har'el -- and very little sleep for Milck. Not that she's complaining.
"I knew it was special, but I didn't know it was going to be like this," Milck admitted, gracious though slightly overwhelmed.
So how did she get here? Milck, a native of Palos Verdes, California, wrote "Quiet" a couple of years ago after a culmination of frustrations hit their breaking point. She was exhausted, tired of being judged for being a woman with opinions; suffering through anorexia, abuse and depression; needing to conform to the perfectionism expected of Asian-American women; and experiencing racial profiling. She needed to write "Quiet," to exorcise personal demons and grow stronger. That hope bubbling in her lyrics, though? It also happens to be universal.
"It's about someone reclaiming their voice after being silenced, so I guess it could be about our world and our government. It comes from such a specific personal story that it can be general. Maybe that's why it works," she mused. "I've been trying to figure it out, because it was really the song I needed to write for myself or I was going to go crazy."
Plenty of people are glad she put pen to paper. Much like Sara Bareilles and her breakout hit, "Love Song," Milck had been told by A&R people and her old management team that "they just didn't see" her song and that she needed to change her name and persona. So while the current political climate was not the reason "Quiet" was initially written, the election convinced her to release it.
"It felt really suffocating and like that same thing, like, 'Oh, gosh, I'm doing it again.' I'm letting people tell me that I myself as is is not worth it and then trying to conform," she explained. "It's such an ingrained habit, and it's so frustrating. But once the election happened, it was like, OK, no more."
Milck got a boost of inspiration from Krista Suh, a longtime friend who happens to be the founder of one of the biggest movements of the Women's March, the Pussyhat Project. According to Milck, Suh wanted to create a physical object that people could share to embolden the D.C. community. Last Saturday, that small idea became one of the biggest visual elements of the nationwide rallies, with the bright pink knitted hats creating a cohesive statement in supporting women's rights.
"We looked at each other and it was like, how did we two as friends, how did this all happen? It felt a little magical," Milck said of reconnecting with Suh earlier this week, after both of their projects were seen by millions.
It's apropos that Suh's idea emboldened Milck. The Los Angeles-based songwriter had wanted to release "Quiet" in conjunction with the march, but it was her pal who encouraged her to up the ante and "make it spicy." "My vision was, let's start with eight girls. I didn't dare think like, 'Oh, I'm going to get 25 women to commit to this,'" Milck admitted. "I think people just wanted to do something, and it just felt really natural. Everyone's enthusiasm, I felt like, was ramped up. I don't know if it would have been the same state if we were in a different situation with our world."
Using her background as an a capella singer with the U.C. Berkeley Golden Overtones, Milck created hand-written arrangements for "Quiet" and reached out to local groups in the D.C. area, with the GW Sirens, of George Washington University, joining her in mid-December and Capital Blends officially coming on board in early January. A few other ladies from L.A. and New York helped round out the choir. Milck then performed each individual part and send the tracks to her new crew so the women could practice on their own. They also rehearsed together via Skype when they could -- no small feat when winter break rolled around, dispersing the GWU girls across the country. All while doing that, Milck also made a music video for the song that was released on Jan. 16, just ahead of the march.
"It was so awesome to have an 18-year-old girl and a mother of three sons and watching everyone collaborate together," she said. "Everyone's from such different backgrounds, but everyone's so peaceful and giving. I lucked out. Both of the groups have a really good general personality."
Though Milck worried that she was crazy for buying a ticket to D.C. when she could just march in L.A., her fears were lifted once she hit the East Coast and felt her choir members "channeling their energies." The group finally met in person on the GWU campus on Jan. 19, two days before the march. Even though all of the members still couldn't be there, Milck said "it felt like soul food when we sang for the first time together… it felt like magic." The effect lasted through Saturday, when all 26 finally performed live, and Milck now feels propelled to move forward in the fight to make all voices heard.
"It's crazy to me because that was my little healing song, and now it's being called the anthem of the march. I remember being a little girl, wanting to do work that's worthy of being spoken of, and it's happening through this thing that was supposed to be just giving to and sharing at the march," she mused. "It was a very of-the-day type of event, but now for me, I feel kind of lucky. I feel like the march is following me."
While speaking to ET, Milck brought up the idea of intuition a few times. She really tries to listen to the voice inside her and believes she's meant to be on this specific path. It sounds very SoCal, but not remotely false. The end result is that "Quiet" has become, as she calls it, "a therapy project." Not only did writing help her accept feelings she had been pushing down, sharing the final product has resulted in women opening up to her about their own struggles. One gained the courage to tell her family that she had been raped and another revealed to Milck why she had an abortion, a secret the woman hadn't told anybody else. As surreal as it is to realize that her song is causing so much conversation in both public and private, she also hopes the attention will help destigmatize the atrocities so many women feel they have to keep hidden, as well as their post-election fears.
"Some people were really happy about the election, but for my experience, it felt like the light got dimmed, and then the Women's March became this beacon of hope and focus during a really dark time for a lot of people," she revealed. "For me to deal with my own anxieties about it and my friends' anxieties, I can create art. That's how I feel better about things... ["Quiet"] was just a way of giving people some space to feel love and hope in this time of fear mongering."
Next up, Milck is working on a few singles, continuing on what she describes as a hero's journey from acknowledging the pain to taking action, before hopefully releasing a full-length album. After meeting so many amazing people at the march, the most important thing now is working with this "cool team forming of these badass women," then finding a label who will support her and her music, knowing that she's all about rallying cries and "calling for change."
"I just listen to the vernacular and paranoia and fear, and it just makes me so sad, because I feel like there's so many good people in this world and we're not telling those stories. It's making people paranoid and hiding in their homes," she said. "I'm just hoping if we're talking to each other more and interacting, singing, making art and sharing our doubts and our hopes together, we can share better stories than what is being said to us right now."