The artist called MILCK (neé Connie Lim) started trending in January when she sang her song “Quiet” at the Women’s March on Washington. The track became a viral phenomenon, garnering more than 15 million views on Facebook within a matter of two days, and has even gone on to be the unofficial anthem of the Women’s March.
In the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault allegations, with women and men speaking out against many other predators, the singer-songwriter couldn’t have released the groundbreaking track at more of a fitting time. Women from all walks of life have been using their voices to bring awareness, including Atlantic Records chairman and COO Julie Greenwald, who circulated an email on Wednesday applauding the singer for her single “Quiet.” In the email, she emphasized the importance of music and her support for MILCK’s ambitious career.
In September, the activist released an acoustic version of “Quiet,” playing the piano alongside longtime collaborator Rod Castro. Now, MILCK has yet another version of the moving tune, for which she debuted a music video on Friday (Nov. 3) and it strikes a more hopeful tone than the original version.
The eclectic 30-year-old spoke with Billboard about the song’s success, her indescribable reaction to Atlantic Records chairman and COO Julie Greenwald’s encouraging email and who she is dying to work with in the music industry.
“Quiet” has been a huge inspiration for many women, but now you have a new version. What went into the process of reworking the song?
When I signed with Atlantic after the song went viral, we were discussing creating a hopeful version of the song and I wasn’t quite sure what it was going to be. So I was searching and figuring it out — meeting with producers — and then I got a link to a YouTube video of this high school orchestra. It was an all-girls orchestra. They were [from] Westridge High School in Pasadena. They created their own version of “Quiet.” I was so moved by it, so I posted it on my Facebook page. Then, they reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, would you come sing with us?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ I thought it would be pretty magical to be around teenage girls and to listen to their interpretation of the song. They formed a circle around me — 20 something girls — and they played. I just started crying. And I thought in that moment, this is it. This is what I need to encapsulate towards in the new version.
And now you have a music video for this version of “Quiet,” which premiered today. What direction did you want to take with this video?
We got like 10 to 12 music video treatments. We really wanted to love one of them and we felt like none of them felt quite right. I actually wrote an email to [director] Alma Har’el… I said, I’m kind of stuck and I don’t know what to do. As I was writing the email, I’m like I don’t know what to do. But I have this idea and I started typing this idea, which was like maybe it centers around the orchestra and then it turns to some of the girls’ stories [from Westridge High] and show how we all go through different struggles but then we come together and make music… How we harmonize and find joy together. We started talking about possible narratives and stories.
I’ve always been super hesitant to make a music video with narratives just because narratives are so powerful and direct and have to be done right. We chatted a lot about what kind of energy we wanted coming to the world. And we ended up coming down to two storylines. The storyline about the trans girl, that is more of a lighter, more positive turn to her journey. She’s getting bullied by kids, which is kind of awkward but it’s the truth to society. Is her traditionally masculine father going to support her? And we see that he does. It’s kind of us manifesting and trying to put that energy to the world. We were breaking stereotypes of a masculine man not being able to accept his trans daughter. The other storyline is based more on my story. You see this boyfriend and girlfriend and they have this really unhealthy dynamic. You see her try to say no but it doesn’t work and she gives in.
Definitely layered storylines and so powerful. What were you hoping to accomplish with those storylines?
We find out that the trans girl and the girlfriend with the boyfriend…they’re friends and they’re singing together [in the music video]. And in that moment, the girlfriend’s story isn’t resolved and I left it unresolved because I think that’s where we are at right now with stories of abuse. What’s the balance? And making people realize abuse comes in many different forms. It can happen in our relationships. It’s interesting and I want to put that there and have that conversation. I’m really intrigued to see what the reactions will be. And I wanted to be respectful of survivors too, so we were careful in how graphic we can get. We didn’t want to hide some of the narratives but we don’t want to trigger people to a point that it’s counterproductive. We worked really hard on that balance. And the other great part is that we were able to get the original Pasadena all-girl orchestra. We got some off them to come and sing in the music video and it’s just a full-circle thing. It was really cool to have them there.
Speaking of women and lifting each other up, Julie Greenwald, Atlantic Records chairman and COO, circulated an email praising “Quiet.” What was your initial reaction to this?
I haven’t quite found the right words so far… In terms of how it’s making me feel. I feel so proud to have written a song that can become a vehicle for Julie Greenwald to take her stance. I want that with my music. It’s a big honor and Julie is not only a big inspiration to me but her staff. They just love her and her sense of mentorship and realness, which is a company I’m so drawn to. It was a huge record label and it kind of scared me at first. I remember walking into the office and there were huge posters of Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars. But when I sat down with her and the team, I’m like wow, these people are about building artists and celebrating whatever we want to do. And for me, it’s something deeper that I’m doing and they were down, so I’m really grateful.
When did you realize the power of the song and how it was continuing to inspire people in their daily lives?
I performed in Cincinnati and I sang the song and someone came up to me afterwards — and this was after the Las Vegas shooting. They just wanted to come up to me and say I felt so lost last week, so tired, but your song is helping me feel rejuvenated and reminding me of what I can do. That was the cue. That was a sign for me that this is the right move to contribute to the conversation. Whoever relates to this song and can garner some type of joy or support and to think on it and feel less alone… This is what music did for me growing up and still does now. I feel less alone when I hear an artist expressing a feeling I’ve felt before and it encourages me to keep going and keeps me going throughout the day. I’m hoping it’s a home base that people can come back to if they are feeling a little lost or discouraged. I want to empower and heal people during this time. I think activism and standing up for what we believe can be a very tiring and exhausting path, but self-care and self-nurture is important. If my music can be that for people, that’s my honor.
You life has changed tremendously. From your song going viral to getting signed with Atlantic in May. What has been your favorite part of your journey this past year?
I think my favorite memory stems from the messages I get from people. There was a boy on Instagram who messaged me and said he heard the song and it helped him come out to his family. He’s a beautiful boy and an artist as well. He’s like I want to sing too. I thought that was so amazing!
That is amazing! Looking ahead, who would you love to work with?
I always think about them and I’ve been listening to them a lot recently, which is U2. I love that band. I love what Bono stands for and he’s such a feminist. I went to their concert and he had a whole production dedicated to women. He said years ago at this concert — behind him were projections [and they] had Maya Angelou [on them] — and he’s like, how amazing that this movement is being led by women because women will light the way. I just remember cheering at that. He sees it! So, I think that would be the ultimate dream come true.
In the wake of many allegations in Hollywood, there has been a huge movement of women and survivors speaking out against this matter, specifically the #MeToo movement. What is your personal message to girls everywhere?
For girls right now, it’s what I said about self-care. People deserve to pick a time to care for themselves and examine their demons and examine their pains. And step aside. I remember being a teenage girl and feeling like I had to put aside my own needs and keep up with the world. I think it’s time that girls take the time and take space and challenge themselves to continue to grow and be leaders. I think bravery to me is a muscle. I spent a lot of time hiding from my own lessons and so they presented themselves over and over again for me. I had to learn to take my life lessons to speak my truth. There were so many times I would undermine my own value because I thought other peoples voices were worth more.