When Detroit singer Maggie Cocco took an unscheduled detour to Whangārei, she didn't have love on the brain when she came across her future husband at McMorrissey's.
The 29-year-old, who is performing in the Whangārei Fringe Festival, was touring the North Island late last year when a change in schedule landed her in Whangārei and in a bit of a predicament.
"There was a big sequence of events which led me to be there that night," she said from the Town Basin apartment she shares with her fiancé.
Cocco had been touring with The Maggie Cocco Band and had been asked last-minute to play at the Poroti Tavern. But after the gig her accommodation fell through and she found herself surrounded by some unsavoury characters, so she wasn't in the best frame of mind when she bumped into Micky Nogher, whom she'd met earlier on her tour.
"I had met Micky while performing at Parakao [last October]. He is also a musician and we got chatting after the performance but I was in performer/work mode at the time, so didn't think anything of it," she recalled.
When she recognised him at McMorrissey's Irish Bar, again there was no immediate spark, due to her "precarious situation" but she was certainly pleased to see his familiar face.
"We had a conversation and ended up hanging out and getting to know each other for the rest of my time in New Zealand and then I realised: Oh my God - this is actually an awesome person!"
Nogher, 45, originally from Ireland, had been living in Whangārei for 12 years working as a high school English teacher. When it came time for her to leave, Cocco said she felt sick to the stomach.
"I got on the plane and felt nauseous all the way home and that's a long flight."
Following a two-week visit from Nogher over Christmas and New Year, the pair knew they had to be together and, as she says "Covid made that plan for us."
The singer-songwriter had booked another tour of New Zealand for late February this year and was several shows in when the country went into Covid lockdown.
"I was so pleased to be locked down here," said Cocco, who still only has the three bags she arrived with. "The whole entertainment scene doesn't exist back home at the moment [due to Covid] so I'd have no work and nowhere to live."
Cocco has lived and breathed music from the very beginning, when she responded to bass guitar in utero. She wrote and performed her first song at age 7 and, after gaining degrees in music education and voice performance, moved from Detroit to San Francisco to further her music career.
The couple spent lockdown in Nogher's apartment creating music. Cocco began teaching guitar to Nogher, who plays the tin whistle and bodhran and, together they fused their genres – his traditional Irish folk and her timeless Carole King-style - with their first gig booked for November.
Both are also performing in the Whangārei Fringe Festival.
Maggie Cocco's Science for Sociopaths is the name of Cocco's multi-sensory performance, combining her piano playing and singing with other artists willing to interpret her music in real-time based on the emotions she gives them in an "exchange of energy".
Last weekend she collaborated with two Whangārei-based dancers who moved, without choreography, to her sound.
Local expressionist painter/mural artist Olivia Garelja was in the audience and suggested Cocco try an adaptation. As a result, next weekend the two will collaborate and Garelja will use a large canvas to live-paint her reaction to Cocco's music.
Cocco said she is enjoying living in Whangārei, which has all the benefits of a small community but is "bursting with creativity and talent".
At the end of lockdown, Cocco proposed to Nogher by performing a song she'd written for him. However, it didn't get off to a good start.
"I had been practising all day while he was at work and the neighbour called the landlord to complain about the repetitive noise. Micky came home, having got the call, and asked what I'd been doing all day. So I sat down at the piano and played it for him."
The song was a hit with Nogher, who has asked her to sing it at their November nuptials.
• Maggie Cocco's Science for Sociopaths is at Cirque du Fringe October 23. Go to www.whangareifringe.co.nz for further details.