INTERVIEW: MILCK Talks Songwriting, Women’s Movement

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Photo: John Hutchings

There’s a lot of fight inside Los Angeles native MILCK, After a decade of quiet independent releases and tireless gigs around LA, the singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and poet 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.

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.

Currently you’re out with fellow lady rocker Amy Shark. How have these sets been going this tour?

The tour has been going amazingly. I was nervous before the tour, because there’s no way of knowing if a band’s following is going to like the opener. What I realized as Amy and I were touring together is that she and I express from the same place: a genuine, and vulnerable place. I think her fans connect with lyrics and emotional music, so it has turned out to be a perfect pairing. I couldn’t be more grateful to be able to be on the road with a badass like Amy. There’s a lot of respect between us, and we always work to put on the very best show wherever we are.

For fans who haven’t seen MILCK yet, what can fans look forward to in these sets? Roadtesting new material?

I have crafted a solo set that includes looping, drum triggers, and synthesizers to envelop my piano playing and vocals in a warm sonic bath. It’s a one woman riot type of show, for sure, as it’s just me, my instruments, my stories, and my songs. Oh yes, and my dad jokes. Between my emotional songs with dramatic beats, I have a lot of dad jokes that I force people into laughing at. And sometimes I take silly selfies with the audience, or even convince the crowd to chant things like “Happy Birthday” to my little brother. I have so much fun with the audience. Interacting and riffing off the different energies of each city is probably one of my favorite things in the world.

You released a seven track record in January. When did you start working on the record and/or how do you approach the songwriting process?

All the songs were written from 2015 and onward. “Quiet”, in fact, is the most mature song in this batch, as it was written at the end of 2015. I didn’t know I was creating a themed body of work until I started looking at my catalogue of songs, and found that I was creating an EP with the theme This is Not The End. From 2015-mid 2017 I had written 50 songs that I was choosing from, so I picked my top favorites.

I didn’t start recording the EP until June of 2017 with producer Nick Ruth. I produced the stripped version of “Quiet”, and coproduced “Ooh Child” with Adrianne Gonzalez.

When I write, I am very instinctual. Over the years I’ve learned to recognize the feeling in my body that I get when I know something is magical. I try to follow that feeling whenever I sense it. I don’t settle for any ideas until that specific sensation comes over me. The other thing I follow are goosebumps. If I don’t give myself goosebumps, there’s no way I’ll be giving anyone else a moving experience. When I record, I am very feelings based. I want to express rather than impress, because I think timeless music tends to pull at the heartstrings more than anything.

Are you currently working on a new album/full length or is that still a while away?

I already have a collection of new songs that I’ve written this past year for the new album, and I’m dedicating a month this year to write out more material. As I’ve been on tour, I’ve been collecting ideas in my journal and voice memos. There’s so much to say.

A new song is due to come out this summer, and I’m very excited about it. The song is a different side of me that I have been trying to express for a while, and I am so proud that I’m writing new songs that capture even more of who I am.

The next body of work may be an album that releases next year or we may split it into 2 EP’s, with some music coming out in 2018, but we’re still figuring that out. I do know what the concept of the next body of work is, and I’m very excited to share the word with you soon.

“Quiet” Really became a movement with the women’s marches How has that experience been?

Watching the world take my song and make it their own has been an incredible experience. As a songwriter, my goal is to create art that can serve people as deeply as possible, and I think “Quiet” holds a very personal meaning for a lot of people, as it does for me. This whole experience has been proof for me that we are more united than we tend to believe, and that community building is possible, even in an age where we’re all short on time.

We are still early in 2018. What is the focus for these next few months/goals?

I tour for all of March, then in April I am traveling to different cities to speak and perform at various conferences and colleges. I have also planned a week in isolation in nature to start creating the next chapter of my music, as I have a new body of music brewing inside of me. I plan to set the tone with my own production sounds and concepts before I do a bunch of writing sessions in Los Angeles in May. At the beginning of summer I will be releasing a new song, which is not on the EP, and I hope that people will connect with this song, as it represents a side of me that I haven’t quite been able to express until now.

About Author


Colleen has been writing about music since 2009. Interviewing bands since the glory days of Warped and has continued to do so for now over fourteen years. As well as doing freelance for other publications, the love for everything rock continues today.