Soulmates!

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Dusty & Mykel as “just friends” – Feb/Mar 2006

Ten years ago today my friend Adrienne and I decided to go downtown in Vancouver for some Friday-night busking. Little did I know that night would change the course of my life. While we were playing music a friendly fellow stopped to listen to our music, gave us some money and I invited him to hang out. He told us that he also made music and lived in the same area of town as me. Adrienne and I had plans to go back to my place and watch an Ed Wood movie. At the tender age of 19 I lived in a party house where people came and went and stayed over often so it was natural to invite a new friend along to watch movies with us and stay for breakfast the next morning. That weekend was the Super Bowl and he had plans to watch it, but later that same day I received a text that said he was bored and asked if I wanted to hang out. I wasn’t doing much and I thought he was a pretty cool guy so I said yes. And if you haven’t guessed by now, that fella’s name was Mykel Exner!

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later in 2006

Mykel and I were inseparable friends from the day we met. By the late spring we were dating and by the summer of that same year we were living together. I had never felt as understood or comfortable around anyone as I did around Mykel. I loved everything about him – his music, his attitude, and just passing the time with him. I had never felt so endeared to anyone as I did to Mykel; something about him just drew me to him and made me want to make him happy.

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Dusty & Mykel 2007

Every week Mykel would read the Georgia Straight to see if anyone in the “I Saw You” column had mentioned him. He was a hopeless romantic, and that part of him called out to me. More than anything Mykel wanted someone to see him and it broke my heart a little that he seemed to be always waiting to be noticed, because I noticed him. When I decided to place an ad in the I Saw You’s, my original motivation was just to put a smile on my good friend’s face, nothing more. I was working as a fundraiser in Vancouver and often my crew would be sent to the corner of Davie and Granville. Mykel worked only a block away and we once bumped into each other while he was on his way for lunch. After that, whenever I’d work at Davie and Granville I’d wonder if I’d see him. On that Thursday, I worked at the corner and I was so excited all day long wondering if he’d seen my I Saw You ad and if it had made him feel happy. It’s funny, because it’s not like in the I Saw You I was professing any kind of deep romantic love – more just a love note as a friend from the heart. Finally at the very end of my shift, I saw Mykel come into the coffee shop where I was finishing up my day and my heart was almost bursting. It was in that moment that I realized that there was something more between us and that if it made me this happy and excited to make someone else happy, that there was something special going on.

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Dusty & Mykel Halloween 2008 – Dressed as Butlertron & Principal Scudworth from Clone High

When I fell in love with Mykel, I decided to trust my heart. I’ve always been the kind of person who has second-guessed myself, been easily persuaded or confused by others, or doubted myself or what I’m doing. I had never felt so clearly or strongly that being with Mykel was the right path for me. Since that time, we’ve had many challenges, both external and internal. A lot of people tell me that they admire our relationship because we’re so close. The truth is that in some aspects the “honeymoon phase” of our relationship has never ended because we’re just as in love as the day we met, but on the other hand we are both strong personalities with a dramatic flair – so fighting happens!

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Dusty & Mykel 2009

One of the things that drew us together was our mutual love of music and our ambition. It’s because of the strength of our relationship that we were able to turn Kill Matilda into the beast that it is today; because we loved our music and our band almost as much as we loved each other and we were to sacrifice and work as hard as we could to see our dreams through. Many bands fail because it’s a hard road and you lose people; people burn out or they have other priorities. One of the most challenging aspects is the partners of your bandmates; frankly, most of them only want to put up with indulging their partner’s rockstar dreams for so long. Once that dream means that your girlfriend or boyfriend is off gallivanting around on tour and quitting their job while you hold down the fort at home, I can see how that would put a serious strain on any relationship. In this aspect, Mykel and I have always considered ourselves very lucky because we were each just as crazy as the other for a life of excitement, adventure and passion.

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Exner Wedding 2010

Things have recently changed for us and it’s been challenging over the last few weeks to adapt to a different pace. We pushed ourselves too hard for too long and really burned the candle at both ends. There was a certain point earlier this month where I realized that my role as a wife putting her husband’s mental health first was more important than being a band leader pushing her bandmate to keep his head up (and vice versa, because I was also really mentally worn out). Mykel and I realized that prioritizing what the band needed had taken our lives so hostage that our relationship was starting to be nothing more than that of caretakers of a big, big project. Frankly, it was too big for the two of us to manage and without more outside assistance we were being crushed under the weight of it all.

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Dusty & Mykel 2011

What we’ve decided to do now is change the pace down so that we don’t end up a) going crazy b) breaking up or c) generally hating our lives because of our band. It’s challenging because making music and playing in a band has been so central to the fabric of our relationship that it’s strange and new to explore what it means to be together without the frenetic pace of always having to deal with some piece of band drama or band homework. Our plan for the future is to continue to release new material and new content for our amazing fans who have supported us, but to focus more on the aspects of making music that cost us a little less financially and mentally. As much as we knew it was important to prioritize each other and our relationship, we also don’t want to “break up” with music because we are just so stressed out by what it’s done to us. Changing the pace of Kill Matilda will allow us to be the best musicians we can be; musicians who love each other, who love to make music together and who are happy making the best music that we can.

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Dusty & Mykel 2012

I feel so grateful and fortunate to have Mykel in my life now more than ever as we go through this strange transition of de-emphasizing touring at a breakneck pace. For the last ten years I have felt that Mykel understood me in a way that no one else could and as our lives began to take a very unique path, fewer and fewer of my friends could empathize or understand me, but since Mykel was always right there beside me I knew he knew what I was going through. Now that we’ve been “off” for the past few weeks and trying to adjust to this different pace, we’ve had to rely on each other and help each other work through a lot of emotions.

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Dusty & Mykel 2013

It’s fitting for our style that this change comes right around the ten-year anniversary of the day we’ve met, because in a way we’ve come full-circle, both geographically and lifestyle wise. We now have a chance to explore our lives in a way we haven’t done in the past ten years and to face new challenges and balance out our imbalances. Words can’t describe how lucky I feel to have been in the exact right place at the exact right time to have met my soulmate!

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Dusty & Mykel 2014 in New York City

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Dusty & Mykel 2015

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