You might not know her yet. But just wait. “I can’t keep quiet,” she belts out. “I’m a one-woman riot.” The singer/songwriter and producer Connie K. Lim, professionally known as MILCK (her name spelled backwards), is a musical sensation to reckon with. Her powerful message of finding your inner voice is empowering dis-enfranchised workers leaving their jobs in droves during “The Great Resignation” and waking up business leaders with much-needed fresh ideas on corporate structure. Her music affects people in a visceral way, giving a voice for the advancement of human rights and diversity—including gender, racial, LGBTQ and social equality. She is best known for her 2017 viral performance of “Quiet”—the musical barn burner that became known as the unofficial anthem of the Women’s March, Billboard’s No.1 Protest Song and a featured selection on NPR’s American Anthem Series.
I had an opportunity to sit down with MILCK and discuss her views of racial and social justice, “The Great Resignation” and the current revolution among the American work force. For many workers, the pandemic put a focus on the fragility of life, leading them to reevaluate how they want to live their lives, and MILCK was no exception. During the quarantine in the moments of quiet, she pondered that question and started to understand her role in the oppression of people. As a daughter of immigrants, she was taught to climb the ladder faster, better, more efficiently and intelligently to earn a seat at the table. “I had to work three times harder than everyone else. And that ambition—that’s still within me—had me climbing ladders that continued to reinforce oppressive structures for people of color.”
As a musician, she started asking the kinds of questions business leaders have failed to ask in order to retain their best and brightest employees from the mass exodus that led to the hiring crisis. She wondered how she could shift the rigid corporate structure and create something that opens up curiosity, imagination and exploration. “The industry model is to create the music, do the corporate structure and then trickle down to causes with the priority on streaming numbers,” she said. “I wondered what if I follow what I want to do and flip the structure upside down and put advocacy work at the top. Then I can design my work and projects around that to tell the story, bring attention to these things and really hold that to my heart.”
As a result of her soul searching, MILCK took the risk of leaving a major record label to work independently. Now the singer’s projects aim to change the typical ways of the music industry, shifting her focus and rebuilding her team to ensure that the artists she works with are creating music with a purpose and all parties involved are properly represented and compensated. Atlantic Records wanted her to create songs first, then find philanthropic ties for the music afterwards. With MILCK’s current approach, she’s crafting the music with intent, focusing on the goal first and foremost.
When she walked away from her major label deal, she said, although there were moments when it was scary and she questioned what she had done, at the same time she felt she was taking care of herself. “Since I was young, I watched my ancestors doing jobs where they couldn’t express themselves and keep their heads down and work,” she said. “I remember thinking I want to be free. I promised myself that when I became an adult I would do what I needed to do to build a life where I could express my ideas.” She went on to establish the Somebody’s Beloved Fund—a social justice project fueled by songs. Her new single “Steady As We Go” is the first single from her forthcoming full-length album out spring 2022.
“I hope that ‘Steady As We Go’ will make people feel good in their bodies, spirits and minds as they listen to it,” MILCK said. “I wrote this song in pieces—the chorus emerged as I was in D.C. during the Biden election. I remember thinking to myself, Regardless of who wins at the top, we the people on the ground will need to keep causing ‘good trouble,’ as the late John Lewis coined. This is life long work, and we gotta have reminders to pace ourselves.
“Steady As We Go” was featured in the NowThis NEXT star-studded primetime special on OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) on October 25, 2021. MILCK released a poignant cover of U2‘s classic “One” with singer/producer AG as part of a 7-song EP performed by all-Women, and almost entirely Women of color. Proceeds from “One” will go to MILCK’s Somebody’s Beloved Fund which supports racial and social justice.
Crafted with intention and purpose, the new single aims to breathe positive and encouraging energy into listeners’ lives as they navigate the unknown terrains of modern-day change and to create a platform for conversation to those left without a voice. “Pacing ourselves and inter-generational connections are very relevant today,” the musical artist said. “As we are all processing our collective trauma of the pandemic while still navigating the continuation, it’s easy to feel worn down. Our weary souls need some catharsis now, and I hope this song provides that. We still need to pace ourselves. As I was making this song, I would put it on during my outdoor strolls, and my body would naturally move to the pace of the song. It feels so physically good and is the perfect pace for a brisk walk to self rejuvenate. While not all of us can do brisk walks with our different sets of physical abilities, I think the song can also keep the spirit and heart rate up, energizing us to persist through these trying times.”
The singer prefers to talk about uncovering her voice instead of finding her voice because uncovering indicates that it’s internal—versus external—and has always been there after years and years of societal pressures. Her message centers around personal growth which she believes ripples out to societal growth. Personal healing, she says, is the ultimate tool toward global healing. “My music is my tool to get there,” she said. “Healing is the main power I have. My father always wanted me to be a physician and I’d say, ‘Did you say musician?’ And he’d say no, no.” Her physician father heals the physical, and her goal is healing the human spiritual, emotional and psychological aspects.
“Many of us are stuck in jobs we’re not passionate about, compromising our own identity in order to serve our fears,” the musical artist said. I asked her what her message is for workers contemplating being part of “The Great Resignation.” And she said, “Change is possible, and your inner compass knows when it’s time for you to reclaim your voice. There’s a voice within each person that will get louder and louder until the point it starts screaming if we’re not serving our lives in the highest way we can,” she concluded. “If we start developing a really great relationship with our internal voices, we will have the compass we need to lead us to the places we need to go.”