MILCK’s magical musical ride from the Women’s March to Babylon

This is a screen grab from the cellphone video of MILCK singing her song Quiet during the women's march in Washington D.C. after Donald Trump's inauguration.

Connie Lim was in kind of a tough place in January 2017.

The singer-songwriter from Los Angeles, better known as MILCK,  had been dumped by her management team in 2016 after being promised a shot at a record deal. And she was looking for something to care about when she heard of plans for a women’s march in Washington D.C. right after the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States.

She thought she would go and march and sing, because that’s what she does and loves to do. To have a bit more impact she decided to put together an a capella choir of women who would sing one of her songs called Quiet.

She told ARTSFILE the story of how Quiet became a bit of an anthem for the movement that has emerged from the march before her performance on March 8 at Babylon.

MILCK, seen here in a screen grab from the latest Quiet video, will be in Ottawa performing at Babylon on International Women’s Day, March 8 on a bill with Amy Shark.

“I have some family members who voted differently than I did and are passionate believers in the opposite opinion to mine. I still love them and they love me.

“There is this perception of millennials being Liberal and not doing anything about it … that they are clueless about what is going on in the world.

“I wanted to defy that misconception and I wanted to put my money where my mouth is as an artist and use my art to speak out about what I believe. I didn’t know it was going to be a movement. None of us really understood what the woman’s march was going to become.”

When she saw a Facebook post describing the march she immediately wanted to go to speak out against derogatory language being used against women and minorities.

“I wanted to go there because it made sense to me. As an artist, and with my personality generally, I have trouble just participating. I like being part of an event, contributing something bigger than just participating. So I wanted to offer something.”

She decided to bring a song to the party.

“I had written Quiet in 2015 and I had been holding it because my former management wanted to groom me for a label.”

Meanwhile MILCK was feeling uneasy about her management team.

“They were doubting my choices and they wanted to change this and change that. I was starting to feel cramped.”

Then the November 2016 election happened and Trump won a surprising victory. To top that off she was dumped by her management team that week.

Cut loose, MILCK “had this feeling that I wanted to do something and I had this song that I had been told to keep under wraps because management was thinking … it could be on the radio.

“I was kind of fed up with that kind of thinking. They were trying to get things groomed right for a big corporation.”

Watching Trump become president just fuelled that feeling.

“He’s such a symbol of corporate greed. I didn’t want to wait for someone to give me permission to do the song. I was just going to do it.”

She says she really had nothing to lose and it, as it turns out, much to gain by participating.

She wrote an a capella arrangement of the song and started looking for singers.

“I tried to recruit some of my friends to fly to D.C. with me, but no one committed. People didn’t understand what the march was about.”

Rebuffed in California, she started recruiting in Washington.

“I recruited a bunch of strangers.”

MILCK believes the key was “what my generation values most is an experience. I thought that the experience could be washing people with harmony. I know what it feels like to sing harmony and what it does to my body. How healing it is.”

The march went off as planned. Her choir gathered and they all set off sporting the now famous pink ‘Pussy’ hats and singing MILCK’s song.

People in the march caught the performance on smart phones and they posted their video. Millions of views later MILCK is a celebrity and her stalled career is taking off.

She had spent about eight years in the trenches hoping for a break and now that it has happened she’s happy for the experience.

“I was in awe and a little confused by what was happening with so many people watching the video. And I was moved by the stories that were sent to me. People were listening to what I was saying.

“I used to sing in hotel lobbies to make a living and I was very used to people not listening to me. So for people to be listening and relating to my words that is the biggest gift. I was grateful also because this was truly me. It wasn’t planned by producers to create a hit song and dress me up. It was just me doing harmony as I’ve done my whole life.

She says she has been inspired by the history of the protest movement in the U.S. espcially the role played by singer-songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and other.

“When the video started going viral, the woman who filmed it said ‘We need a Bob Dylan, we don’t have a Bob Dylan. I was like ‘Are you talking to me?’ That’s a big ask, but there was another side of me that was going ‘Yeah.’

She says she believes her job now is to “write the most honest songs I can. And to not shut myself off from world. If it’s not what people want that’s OK. I’ve done eight years of singing in obscurity. I have made peace with my art.”

Things are moving at a rapid pace for MILCK. She has an EP out called This Is Not The End. Quiet is on that, as is a cover of the song O-O-H Child originally put out by The Five Stairsteps in 1970. MILCK’s version was used on a widely distributed TV commercial for Proctor & Gamble released during the Winter Olympics.

“I’m so grateful I had to go through a lot of ups and downs before things hit. The schedule is intense and I can see that at 2o I’d be ‘Why do we have to do this?’ Now that I’m older and I have struggled, I have a bit less energy so gratitude makes up for it.

“Integrity is a big thing for me,” she says. So she is watching other movements with interest and trying to see where she might fit in, including the movement that is emerging out of the Parkland, Florida high school shooting.

“I want to be respectful of these kids and what they need. So I am trying to listen more and observe to get a better idea of what’s needed instead of just assuming people will want to sing my songs.”

She has seen Ottawa on a map but she never thought she would ever travel here.

She has performed in Canada before in Vancouver and in Toronto where the appearance also included a song at a meeting that included Michelle Obama and Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau.

Amy Shark and MILCK
Where: Babylon, 317 Bank St.
When: Doors at 8 p.m., show at 8:30

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.