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