INTERVIEW SERIES // MILLY TABAK
This week we sat down with Milly Tabak front woman for The Miltones to discuss their new single Honest Woman, The ebbs and flows of being a musician and the inspiration behind her music.
Milly and I met back in 2008 while I was working at a bar called The Portland Public House in Auckland, New Zealand. Milly is one of those women as soon as you are in her presence you cant help but smile, she oozes a retro coolness about her as if she's stepped in from another time.
The Portland Public House was where we met back in 2008, Can you explain to anyone reading how PPH was a great starting point for your music?
That place was the stomping ground for a lot of creatives and just happens to be the place where I cut my teeth in the Auckland gigging scene. There was an awesome crew of people who began to mix and mingle and have since remained good friends after those good old days!
We have followed your musical journey over the last few years, tell us about some of your highlights?
Moments that really get me smiling are the memories I had playing WOMAD in 2018, that was such a special moment for me, it was my first festival opportunity and I had never played to such a big crowd before, we had over 4 thousand people swaying to us and they just got stuck into the music and made me cry the happiest tears! I was extremely overwhelmed! Another fond memory I have was opening for Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats at The Powerstation in Auckland city. That was a venue I had been dreaming to play and couldn’t have asked for a better band to open the floor. It was golden.
What started your journey with music and what inspires you when you create music?
My jaw used to drop watching my cousin play guitar, she had such a beautiful sweeping feel to her strumming and her voice was magic! I remember she would show me how to do harmonies while she sang and I was hooked. I begged my dad to show me how to play on his out of tuned, dusty guitar and I just wouldn’t put the damn thing down. It happened to be the only thing I seemed to be good at and on a Wednesday night my folks would swap guitar lessons for a meal with an old family friend. He taught me how to play gypsy jazz and soon enough I was his rhythm back up for his indulgent solos haha.
Honestly, inspiration seems to drop out of the sky sometimes. I could be watching a frustrating news segment and disappear for a couple of hours, banging out my anger on my poor guitar. I could be watching a stunning live session of a favourite artist on youtube and just feel the urge to pick up my rig and play.
Tell us about your title Honest Woman and where the inspiration came for this?
There have been quite a few vulnerable years up until now. I had lost my dad after quite some time dealing with his alcoholism and walked into another hard patch with my mothers own sobriety. It took time to get her there but for the majority of my teenage years and early twenties, I had been trying to look after her, desperately trying to get her back on track and completely fearful that I was going to loose her. Among all the grief, frustration and helplessness, I had no idea of who I was. I didn’t know what made me happy, I constantly tried to keep people happy and couldn’t stand letting people down. It was a daily struggle to try keep up and would ultimately be incredibly detrimental to my mental health. Mum became sober and I finally had a break down. Years of pain just broke me and I needed help. I had months of counselling and some extra help to balance out all my chemicals and have slowly started discovering Milly. She was a lost soul and is only just discovering who she is. Honest Woman is an ode to myself, for the years of grafting and sticking it out. I’m bloody proud of who i’ve become and have just learned how to love me.
What influences your personal style and do you find yourself dressing differently onstage to your everyday life?
I’m the definition of pear shape haha I’ve got a big booty, and tiny waist so day to day, I love wearing high waisted skirts or jeans, team that with something a bit bold, a bit seventies and some R M Williams boots and you’ve got me walking into a record store or cafe. On stage Milly is a whirlwind of colour, sleeves, metallics, frills, glitter anything sparkly and dramatic. It was through those Portland public House days that I met the wonderful Brooke Tyson who has her own stunning label called Ritual. Brooke approached me after a show and basically demanded I let her create some stage garments for me. It’s been one of the greatest joys of my performing life. Nothing makes me feel more confident than wearing something Brooke has dreamed up. The trick too feeling incredible is letting her do what she likes and imagines. That woman has this divine way of looking at me and nailing something special and enchanting each time. It’s actually become quite the thing, each time I play people are excited to see what I’m going to walk out with next. Haha so my wardrobe is spilling with these beautiful dresses. Each with their special memory.
Best advice you have ever received and why?
I think the best advice stayed in my subconsciousness through my years of growing up. My parents always told me I could do anything I put my mind to and that I could do anything that any man could do.
It’s made me so driven to get stuck into my work, no matter what it’s been. Currently I’m shovelling and scraping out landscape jobs for housing developments. In the past I’ve concreted and built retaining walls and that seems to baffle some men. I LOVE that. There’s nothing better than turning them into a princess. I feel so strong and capable. Maybe that’s helped build my back bone and also the epic fire pit I have out my back yard haha.
Who are you currently listening to on Spotify?
I have such a buffet of music, i’ve been playing a lot of Joni Mitchels “Court and Spark” record, Shuggie Otis has been pushing my mood to full groove mode and playing one of my favourite records, “Carolina Confessions” by Marcus King.
Who inspires you musically and how do you keep creativity flowing?
The band members that I play with completely inspire me. They’re such monster players! Coming across new music that stirs something in your soul, makes me want to jump up on stage and play, or whip out the guitar and write. I’ll often watch an awesome live show and just crave getting on up there and jamming.
Performing in front of people must be quite nerve racking. How did you build the confidence for this and what tips do you have for anyone starting their career in music?
My house when I was a young girl was grand central station. There were numerous dinner parties of groups coming over. I was literally made to sing for my dinner from my mum. Before anybody could eat, I would squeak out some Dixie Chicks, Stevie Nicks or Sheryl Crowe. Everybody being able to eat dinner was on the weight of my shoulders, It felt like a stitch up at the time but ultimately it got me used to performing and getting out there in front of crowds.
Favourite movie of all time?
The Boat that Rocked, the title says it all.
How has all this craziness going on in the world affected your music during this time? Are you finding yourself more creative or enjoying a slower pace?
Well to be honest it gave me a good chance to breathe. I had just finished recording our sophomore record and had done a hell of a lot of work over the past two years to get that baby finished. Isolation gave me another opportunity to sink my hands into other creative outlets. I crocheted up a storm and have 3 nearly finished jumpers which I can’t wait to go buy more wool to finish! I think the world was moving too fast and we needed to kick back a few gears and really look at what is really important in life.
Do you have anything exciting you are currently working on and can share with us?
I DO! We’ve just released Honest Woman, which is the single off of our record! I am so so proud of this song. I feel so uplifted every time I hear it and what’s more exciting is that our full album will be out soon!
You can listen to Milly Tabak and The Miltones HERE and make sure to follow her on instagram for tour dates and new releases HERE. Listen to their new song Honest Woman HERE.