Remix On Record: Milly Tabak of The Miltones

From growing up in the music industry through to touring New Zealand as 1/5th of The Miltones, Milly Tabak says she never imagined people would liken her to a 'young Stevie Nicks'. 

After first picking up her guitar at age 14, Milly's star is continually on the rise. Her passion for her craft is electric, noting The Boss and Janis Joplin as just some of her many musical inspirations. 

We spoke to Milly ahead of The Miltones performance at WOMAD, taking over TSB Bowl of Brooklands in New Plymouth, from March 16 - 18. 

What or who inspires your music? Do you have a go-to source of inspiration or does it vary from song to song?

I’ve had hundreds of moments of inspiration in my lifetime, that little light seems to appear spontaneously, so I capitalize as much as I can and run with the wind. From being a young girl, not knowing that I would grow up to be in the music industry, to today, where I can look across the room at the band and think, wow those guys just killed it! I get inspired watching old bands wide eyed at country halls, I remember standing dumbfounded watching The Boss sprint across the stage and in those moments realised that they made me feel on top of the world and excited about doing something bigger in my life. There could be a particular lyric line, melody or a moment where Janis Joplin starts wailing in ”Maybe”, where I feel this spark and become lost in a piece of magic.


You’ve toured extensively throughout New Zealand – where was your favourite gig to play? And where would you absolutely love to play – either here or overseas?

The band was incredibly fortunate to play some stunning venues! If I had it my way, we would still be on tour, there’s just a lot of good times on the road and the people who you meet are incredibly heartwarming and welcoming. New Zealand is a gem for touring.

Ok,  I have to name three places because one is never enough! The Tuning Fork - Auckland,  Purple Rain Cafe - Dunedin and Blue Smoke - Christchurch. Purple Rain in particular was such a gem, that was one of the most dreamy, secret venues I have ever come across.

I think the ultimate gig would definitely be Byron Bay Blues Festival, I’m not stopping until it happens! I went along 5 years ago and wanted to cry the whole time, I had found my paradise.


What does it mean to be on the WOMAD bill with so many other strong – and unique – artists? How will WOMAD be different from other gigs you’ve played?

The artists coming through WOMAD are a treat, it’s New Zealand's opportunity to see some unique, phenomenal, international acts, that you typically might not get the chance to see. WOMAD is a great platform for these kinds of musicians, it doesn’t hurt that it’s set in such a beautiful location and has a wonderful sense of community brimming at the seems!

I love how WOMAD involves artists with the people, hosting workshops and really letting the audience be a part of the music. Never in a million years did I think we would share the stages with the likes of Rodrigo y Gabriela or Bixiga 70. Our hearts are warm, I never thought we would get to be a part of one of the most special musical gatherings in New Zealand. I can’t wait.


You have a talent that transcends your years and harkens back to a bygone era – Milly you’ve been described as a ‘young Stevie Nicks’ – but when did your musical career/s first begin? How old were you when you first picked up that guitar?!

I was 14 when I first became enthralled with playing the guitar. I used to swap guitar lessons with an old friend of mum and dads, for meals. We would all sit in the lounge and just jam until as late as 12am. Those were some awesome times! Funnily enough, I idolised Rodrigo y Gabriela. I loved how Gabriella played rhythm, that was awe inspiring, plus she was a woman kicking ass in the music scene. Now we get to be on the same line up, funny how things work out!


Who would you most love to work with – here or overseas; either alive today or from a previous time in history?

Oh man, that’s a difficult question..

I would have loved to create records with the likes of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Crosby Stills, Nash and Young.  In terms of recording, I wish soo badly, that I could have had the chance to record using Sound City’s Neve 8028 console ( that thing made some great records). Or have recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio or FAME studios, what a dream. I’m just incredibly thankful for what came of all of those studios!


As the frontwoman of the band Milly, you are strong, beautiful and clearly very talented – what would your advice be to other young women who want to pursue a career in music, or even just start playing an instrument or writing music?

Keep going, even when feel like you can’t. There have been numerous amounts of times where I’ve looked back and things have clicked into place that I think, “wow that was worth it”.  The journey of music is going to be completely unique and special to everyone who plays. Don’t set expectations and compare your journey to others, just enjoy the ride and see where the road takes you. As a friend of mine explained, “sometimes you’ll feel as though you’re pushing a gigantic boulder and then other times you’re running after the thing trying to catch it”. Be incredibly thankful of the people who want to hear your stories, who turn up to your shows (even if it is just your mum), who help carry your gear, or just plain and simply help you on your way. They are the people who make your experience in the industry completely special and worth it. Music is beautifully unpredictable, treat her with kindness and that kindness find its way back to you.


What is on the cards for the Miltones in 2018?

I’m off to Kansas in three weeks to participate in Folk Alliance International, which is a great conference and platform for artists to meet contacts within the music industry from around the world. I’m hoping to open my eyes to the industry outside of New Zealand and meet some offshore contacts. Hopefully this will open the opportunity of playing shows over in Australia this year, I think it’s time we start spreading a little Miltones magic to our neighbours. Currently the band is focusing on writing, we’ve been in the studio creating new songs, which we can’t wait to share at WOMAD!