Take It From the Top: Our Love Story

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When people hear us play for the first time, or stumble upon our music, one of the first questions they’ll lob at us is, “So how did you two meet?” It might sound silly to say, but we’ll typically answer, ”Doing this! Playing music together.” While that’s mostly true, the reality is that when we started playing music together, we were already well on our way to falling in love, even though we weren’t dating yet. We met years before that, when we were punk kids, and you wouldn’t be far off to say it was the opposite of love at first sight.

When Corey and I met, we were playing music together in little bands around Oregon when I was 17 and he was 20. He played bass and acoustic guitar and electric guitar, and I played keys, and we both sang, and either he or his brother typically led the band. Being surrounded by kids our age, there’s no surprise that every girl wanted to date Corey. His talent went so far beyond his years, so far beyond anything any of us had seen in person before…everyone wanted to be his friend or his girlfriend. How did 17 year old me have a chance at getting this guys attention? Well, picture this: if he was surrounded by a group of girls (including me), and he told a joke or a story, all the girls would lean in and then laugh hysterically. Me, being a 17 year old punk who was raised by a sassy know-it-all (that’s right Mom, I’m talking to you!), would choose the classic eye-roll, walk away tactic of getting his attention. I then began employing this method when we would play music together, being an ass in band practices, creating quite a stir and not so much getting Corey’s attention as I was just completely pissing him off. Leave it to me to have the right idea of how to play my cards, but to WAY overplay them.

One day Corey decided he’d had enough of my silly, stubborn ways, and he said, “Hey can we talk?” I probably said something like, “Uh, sure? I guess? Whatev’s.” (It was 2004, after all.) He said, “Okay, well, here’s the thing. I need you to respect me.” 

*insert wide eyed emoji here*

In retrospect I completely understand where he was coming from. We’ve talked about this since, and what he was actually saying was right on. He was calling my bluff and telling me that I didn’t need to be the one to “humble” him with sarcastic, passive-aggressive comments and eye-rolls, which was correct. But being 20, he also wasn’t the most diplomatic, so it came off as aggressive and dominating. I balked. I said, “Um, I’ll respect you when you earn my respect.” I honestly can’t believe how ballsy I was at 17. We didn’t really come to much of an understanding that day, but somehow it changed everything. It showed me that he cared enough to say something to me when I made him mad, instead of writing me off. It showed me that he was paying attention and that maybe I even had the power to hurt his feelings, which I wouldn’t have guessed before. 

From that point on, mutual friendship began to grow. Long conversations softened our hearts and our defenses weren’t as needed. We started to discover the depth of each others knowledge and wisdom. And with everything we discovered, we started to like each other more and more. 

And THIS is when our music happened. I was working at a resort in town and one day the Restaurant Manager said they needed someone to play some music on the patio for a special dinner. I casually said, “Oh, well I sing, and I have lots of friends who play guitar, maybe I could put something together?” I had no ulterior motive, other than to provide music to rich people and to find myself a life of enduring love and happiness. I swear. So I asked Corey if he’d want to put together some songs with me and play at this resort, and he said a big yes because we’d be making money and getting free food. One show led to another, and the summer that I turned 18 we played about 8 shows together. Singing songs by Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Jaimie Cullum, Norah Jones, all the most romantic songs you’ve ever heard, under burnt orange desert sunsets…let’s just say that tensions ran high.

By October of that year, we were dating. By October of the next year we were married. 

Of course the story doesn’t end there - we had jobs and then kids so I kind of had to take a break from music for awhile, but our love and understanding of each other has only been growing, deepening and securing these 13 years later. Then last year I reached a pivotal moment when I realized that I was ready to jump back in to music, so we formed The Parnells. 

The Parnells is two things for us. Of course it’s our attempt at reaching for the stars, aiming as high as we can, and reaching for the success for which we’ve always dreamed. But it’s also a look back at where we started, at the shows we played for 10 people, where we only had 12 songs and had to repeat them all twice to fill up two hours, and where we were falling so in love with each other that nothing else, not even those orange sunsets, mattered. 

Consider this a cautionary tale - boys pull ponytails and girls run away…it’s been this way from the dawn of time. But if we soften up, mature a little, and let friendship and love and vulnerability have a little time in the spotlight, the payoff is so worth it.

Thank you for reading our story - we’d love to hear your favorite love story of all time in the comments below, as those stories make for some amazing inspirational material for the songs we write! So share below, and of course, mark your calendars for the release of our first album, Own Your Soul, coming to music streaming services everywhere on March 1!

-Whitney for The Parnells

Why We Turned Down NBC's The Voice

Have you ever just needed a little validation? Whether you're In the middle of a massive life change or just trying to find balance and gratitude right where you're at, we all need a little magic from time to time. Something that tells you you're headed in the right direction.

Well, we had ourselves a bit of that magic in the spring of this year when we were contacted by a talent producer at NBC's The Voice who had discovered us through Instagram (hashtags work, people!). He wrote to invite us to a private audition for the next season of the show. Corey and I were thrilled. Corey had just decided (literally that week) that it was time to take the big leap, focus 100% on his music career and begin the process of transitioning out of his full time job. This opportunity, and the way it came about, was so encouraging. We've never really fancied ourselves as "reality show people." We don't really watch them and to be honest, it's not at all the path we envisioned for our music careers. Nonetheless, the timing was crazy. We had to at least give it a shot. 

We flew down to Sacramento for the audition in late August and were ushered through the process by a staff of great folks from the casting agency. We've performed in just about every environment you could imagine, from stadiums to backyard weddings, but let me tell you that THIS was a nerve-wracking performance. I don't care who you are, put anyone in that dark room with that giant camera staring you down and a handful of strangers (who are only there to critique you) judging your every movement, you WILL be nervous. And we were. Nonetheless, we sang our little hearts out and in the end we really did feel proud of how it went. We made it through 3 songs when the casting director stopped us and said, “Okay guys, here’s the deal...” I’ll tell you right now that since I’m an alarmist, my brain told me right away that we hadn’t made it. Come to find out, Corey’s brain told him the exact opposite.

If you’re going to rent a car, pick the most obnoxious one available. That’s our rule.

If you’re going to rent a car, pick the most obnoxious one available. That’s our rule.

And he was right.

Her plan was to fast track us to the blind auditions starting the Very. Next. Month. We were stoked, honored and still totally and completely nervous. The next hour was filled with a casting interview, nervous laughter, contracts, signatures, more nervous laughter and lots of looks between each other that said, “What just happened? Did we really just get fast tracked to a friggin nationally televised mega popular TV SHOW?” When we were finally finished at the studio, we walked out into the 80 degree sunshine, got in our rental convertible mustang (yes...we did), and screamed. Then we drove through Chic-Fil-A because...duh.

We had an amazing day in Sacramento, went wine tasting, almost went to Chic-Fil-A again and flew home the next day. By the time we landed in Oregon, we began to understand the realities of being involved in this kind of show. We knew it was going to require some sacrifice, possibly moving our little family to LA for filming, working remotely and flying back and forth a lot. It still felt doable, but we had a lot of questions slowing us down. The deadline to send the contracts in came and went, but the talent agency staff still graciously worked with us to answer our questions, until we finally got the only answer that could make us turn down an opportunity like this. We realized we couldn’t bring our kids. There’s a strict “no family” policy on the show, because they operate as a reality show, and need to keep information under wraps during filming. They keep the contestants in the same hotel, and no family is allowed there. Not only could we not bring our kids, but even if we were able to, we couldn’t bring anyone to help watch them while we were filming. (We want to go on record saying we totally understand the need for this policy - they’ve gotta do what they’ve gotta do!)

Our boys are 6 and 3. Greyson is in first grade and Finn is still home everyday with one of us. Our boys are never going to have these years again. They are smart and sensitive and they LOVE music. I couldn’t stand the thought of them missing us for that long.  We thought about our values and how we wanted our boys to look back on their childhood. Do I want them remembering back to a time when both of their parents lived in a different city than them for six whole months, missing parent-teacher conferences and Greyson’s birthday and Facetiming whenever we could squeeze it in? Is that what we want music or hard work to mean to them? No, I really don’t want that. In fact, I can’t live with that. No opportunity, no matter how great, is worth that price to us. So...we turned it down.

This was taken right after our audition, during gin and tonics, and right before our Schnitzel came. I’d say this was one of life’s most perfect moments.

This was taken right after our audition, during gin and tonics, and right before our Schnitzel came. I’d say this was one of life’s most perfect moments.

I’ve reflected on this opportunity a lot lately…I thought about it when October 1st came and I woke up in my own bed. If we’d agreed to the show, we would’ve been waking up for our first day of rehearsals in LA. I’m thinking about it now as the filming of the blind auditions began this week. I’ll definitely think about it whenever I see something on tv or social media about The Voice Season 16, and Corey and I aren’t on it.

But I have LOTS of hope. 

Brandi Carlile says in her song The Mother, of her daughter, “I’ll never hit the big time without you.” My hope is that my boys will know that we’ll choose them every time.  Will there be times we have to leave them for shows or work? Yes, of course. More than ever though, we’re determined to make it on our own terms. If opportunity knocks and we have to leave for 2 weeks or 3 months or 2 years, we’re bringing them with us. We want to bring them along on this adventure and show them whatever parts of the world we get to see. We want to raise musicians, world travelers, hard workers and mostly, men of character, who have their priorities right. 

I also have hope because we have a KICK-ASS record coming out really soon. We're just starting to get mixes back and you guys, these songs sound incredible. We can't wait to share them with you. 

We're thankful for our little moment of "magic" with The Voice. It may yet yield something incredible for us, but if things keep moving like they're moving, we don't think we'll need any TV show to live our dream. And we'll get to live it with our sweet boys by our side. 

Falls Like Rain: The Story Behind the Song + Music Video

I think my favorite thing about summer storms is that if you've spent the whole day in air conditioning, you walk outside to FEEL the storm before you even SEE it. You walk outside in the early evening of a summer night to realize big thunderheads have rolled in and settled low in the sky. It's neither dark nor bright, the air is charged with electricity. You look up expecting to see lightning streak across the sky, your ears are perked waiting to hear thunder roll in the distance. It's like everything around you can sense the inevitable - there's a storm on the way.

Throughout our life together, we've known it would be important to prioritize our love for each other. That's not hard to do, as we're VERY in love. However, we've found that prioritizing romance can be tough because it's kind of ambiguous. Well, the feeling of a summer storm is how we're best able to identify the feeling of romance in our own relationship. The anticipation, the electricity, the excitement...all signs of romance.

We wrote this song drawing a comparison between romance and love, and a summer storm. It's one of our very favorite songs we've ever written and I think it always will be. We hope you enjoy!

How Our Acoustic Duo Came to Be (Part 2)

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So you're back for more, are ya?! Thanks for following our journey, friends! Part 1 of this post got so many reads and such good feedback, and I made the rookie mistake of asking a question without checking to make sure I allowed comments on this blog...*FACE PALM*. Fixed the problem, so get your answers ready to throw my way!

In the last post (HERE) I mentioned how Corey and I are involved in several different musical genres. The amount of bands and groups we've been in since we were 13 years old is VAST. We've had amazing experiences that left us absolutely speechless and amazed, and we've had horrible experiences that left us feeling embarrassed and ashamed. We've played for groups of 10 people in a coffee shop, and crowds of 20,000 in stadiums. Corey's work now fully consists of music, though it's spread across a few different ventures. 

So the question is: what drew us to country music? As I said in Part 1, there's a piece of this acoustic duo that's about our marriage, but we could've chosen French gypsy music and still had a few gigs here and there (maybe). The answer may surprise you.

WE. LOVE. STORIES. Both of us have always listened to a really wide variety of music. We love rock, pop and everything in between and in our opinion, country music has the monopoly on storytelling. Artists like Dolly Parton and Willy Nelson show us cities and scenes we've never visited. Modern artists like Alison Krauss, Chris Stapleton, and Lady Antebellum take us on a journey to emotions we've never felt, (or have felt so strongly that it feels like they're reading our mail).

One surprising and unexpected outcome we've stumbled upon on this country road (ha) is this: 90% of the time when we ask someone if they've listened to much country music, they'll immediately get this faraway look in their eye and say, "Oh, yeah, I grew up on 70's/80's/90's country. My grandpa/dad/uncle/mom/sister used to play it non-stop in their car/barn/kitchen/living room." So, you know what happens when that person is sitting in the crowd and we start playing "The Gambler?" That person is transported back to a time when they were CONNECTED. 

And honestly, creating connection through story-telling and musical moments is what we exist to do in every note we sing: whether through Precious Byrd, church worship music, The Parnell Brothers or through The Parnell's (that's us!), we want to take people back, or send them courageously forward, with a song that tells a good story. That's us at our best. That's what we were made to do.

Hoping you each find an unexpected, magical moment of connection today,

-The Parnell's

Question: if we asked you if you listened to country music, what would your answer be? Do you have a "faraway look in your eye" kind of story? What artist comes to mind? What friend or family member blasted this music into your memories? We want to know!

How Our Acoustic Duo Came to Be (Part 1)

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"Corey, Whitney, why on earth are you taking on another music project? Where do you find the time?" 

These are commonly asked question, and we totally understand why. We are, self-admittedly, a tad bit confusing, especially if you've known us for awhile. On an average weekend, you might see Corey rocking on stage at a Precious Byrd concert, where thousands of people literally worship the ground he walks on and dance their butts off to the most incredible Prince and Beyonce covers you've ever heard. Chances are good that on that very same weekend, you'll see Corey leading church worship with a band of (amazing) volunteers, to a crowd of a few thousand people (or he might be playing drums or piano or bass or electric...maybe even the zylophone from time to time). Continue on to Monday and you'll find me (Whitney) producing video marketing commercials for local and national brands with my friends at The NW Collective...not a not busy job, to say the least (with as many negatives as possible). Aside from those ventures, we're equally mystifying because you really won't see us around town much on our "off" time. We hang at home with our two boys, or we're with family or close friends, because we're actually relatively introverted, the two of us. I know, sometimes we forget we're introverts, too.  ;)

So, what could have possibly led us to believe that we A. had some spare time in our lives for gigs, B. wanted to be out and about more than we already are, or C. should be using Corey's voice of gold in yet another musical venture? Aside from the obvious conclusion that we're completely insane, there are a few good reasons. I'll tackle one of them now, but this post is getting rather long already, so I'm gonna do the next reasons another day.  Here it is, folks.

OUR RELATIONSHIP. All around us, seemingly healthy, unshakeable relationships have been falling apart for the last few years. And you know what? We're not entirely surprised. There's nothing like marriage to take you by the shoulders, put you in front of a mirror, and shout "YOU'VE NEVER KNOWN HOW SELFISH YOU REALLY ARE BECAUSE YOU'RE WAY TOO SELFISH TO SEE IT." Marriage is tough. We get it. It hasn't been made easier by having kids, because it tends to separate Corey and I when we could've gone and done certain things together before having the boys. Oh, and the sheer volume in our home alone makes it hard to hear each other talk. It hasn't been made easier by losing a home in the financial crash, or buying a home that needed more work than we thought, or losing my dad from a horrific disease 2 1/2 years ago, or by watching precious, dear friends go through the hell of divorce. I digress. Back to the original question. How do these acoustic gigs help our marriage?

Answer: playing at a restaurant or bar or coffee shop gives us vitally important ingredients to make a really wonderful, built-in date night.  And those ingredients are... 

  1. Time to be together without our kids. This allows us to use our brains to think. So hot. ;) 
  2. Free food and drinks! Again, super hot.
  3. Romance. It gives us the chance to sing love songs together and remind us how we fell in love and why we stay in love. We will literally tell each other things we love about one another in the middle of songs, and it takes us back to the beginning of our romance like nothing else ever has.

I know there are stronger relationships than ours that haven't made it, and that a simple date night is no novel concept, but for us right now, the intentionality is what serves us. Intentionally viewing these gigs as a chance to fall in love again.

In the next post I'll get into the specifics of why we love country music, but for now, I'll leave you with this. We saw a chance to tackle a project together that brought more joy and love into our lives, and so far, it's doing exactly that. And who doesn't need more joy and more love in their life?

QUESTION: What's the project that you've taken on that's brought the most joy to your life? Did you know it would add joy to your life, or were you surprised by it??