Musicians Emily and Charles (Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Te Ata, Te Ari Awamutu) Looker met in 2013, became a couple in 2015 and married in 2016. The Lookers are parents to Olive, 2. The couple performs together as Aro and are releasing two waiata for NZ Music Month – Know How on May 5 and the te reo Māori version called Aroā on May 19. Emily also has a tune called Warenoa coming out on May 26 under her solo-artist name, Emily Rice.
Emily says …
We met studying, doing a Popular Music major [at the University of Auckland]. I was in my last year, and he was in his first. After I finished my degree, I did gigs to save up to move to Berlin. I remember asking Charles if he wanted to open for my band because I really liked his music.
At one gig, I was doing a cover and I completely forgot the lyrics, one of those blank moments. I think it was Bruno Mars or something, and I remember Charles was very enthusiastically singing along. And I was like, “I need to just lip-read right now”. I think he made it extra obvious, and I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh, you saved me”.
Another fundraiser was a Christmas concert at my great-aunt and uncle’s retirement village in Remuera. The guy I usually sang stuff with wasn’t able to do that gig. I needed to find someone else. I thought it would be cool to sing with Charles – we got along, and it would be fun. We met up and had a practice an hour before the show. It was so easy just jamming together. He played some of his songs, and I would just jump in and do harmonies. And he did the same with my songs. It was very natural and easy.
I was going to give Charles half the koha from the concert, but he wasn’t having a bar of it because it was for my trip. I wanted to thank him in some way, so I asked him if I could buy him a feed. We went out after the gig, and we were there for ages, chatting. That’s when we first started to get to know each other a bit more than two musicians who liked each other’s style. My great-auntie Janet spoke at our wedding later and she said the people at the retirement village thought we were already a couple [at the Christmas concert].
We pretty much started hanging out all the time. I had a one-way ticket to Berlin and then of course, that’s when Charles swooped in, without either of us wanting to find somebody. It was like, “There’s my person that I’m going to be with forever”. It was like that from the get-go. The day before I left – for 10 months – was the day that he officially became my boyfriend.
We got engaged five months after I got back and married five months after that.
Seeing him become a dad has been the most beautiful thing. I also love his dashing good looks!
I love his heart for people and God. When we first got together, he said: “Write your dreams down and let’s do them”. And we have.
Charles says ….
When I first met Emily, she was in a relationship. But I was just vibing her. She left an impression on me that a girl from the North Shore could have so much feel and soul in her music. I just loved it. Em’s physical appearance was appealing to me – she had beautiful legs. We just got along with each other. We enjoyed each other’s music and appreciated each other’s talents and that was pretty much as far as the relationship went [in the beginning].
In between performing at her great-auntie’s retirement village and her flying to Berlin there was a to-ing and fro-ing – are we a thing? Are we not a thing? We were both part of Festival One in late January, 2015, and that’s when we tested the waters whether the other person was as keen as the other one. Being the wise, old soul that I guess I am – which might be due to my upbringing in te ao Māori – I didn’t want to do Em an injustice because I really liked her. But Em was as keen as I was. We were lying outside our tents at the festival, stargazing. Em grabbed my hand, and I turned to look at her and she just smiled, and my words were, “Is that us, then?” And that was it.
There was a conversation before Emily left – it was only five weeks into dating each other. Em said, “You’re it for me” and I said, “Yeah, you’re it for me, too”.
I should include my mum’s thoughts – because she always kept an eye on girls who she thought had an eye on me and gave me her opinion about it. My mum, Amanda, said, “Come, have lunch”. Em met us at a food court in Manukau. I went to get some food and Em stayed there, having a yarn with my mum. I went to get the kai and when I came back, Mum said, “Oh, I’m all good, you guys just carry on”. She sent a text five minutes later. “She’s nice. She feels like home.”
Em is so generous with her love – she gives everything attention. No matter how busy we are, Em achieves her list and more. There’s relentless love.
As told to Penny Lewis