Marlee Walchuk and Tully Callender of Sugarbeach balance marriage, music, a new book and running a global music video awards.
How they met
Marlee: We met in Sydney, Australia in 2001. I had gone there to pursue a relationship with another woman who I had met through Aussie friends and Tully was a good friend of hers.
Tully: I had just married a lovely man and had never been in a lesbian relationship or even thought about it.
Marlee: The four of us went to dinner one night. Tully and I had an instant spark as friends and we found we had many things in common. She had played music her whole life and I had been a professional musician since I was 14. She had lived in Canada for a year and loved my hometown. We talked all night about music and Vancouver. I’m sure our partners were totally bored!
Tully: Even though we had a strong connection, we didn’t consider the possibility of being together for another five years.
On making art together
Tully: Eight months after becoming a couple we moved back to Canada. We had jammed together at parties in Australia but once we settled in Vancouver we started to look at doing music together professionally.
Marlee: One afternoon I came up with an idea for the chorus for “I Just Love Girls” and brought it home to see what Tully thought. She started plucking out some melodies under my lyrics and before we knew it, we had written our first song together.
Tully: We knew early on that we had a great combination of creative and business skills so working together was inevitable. We recorded our first EP two months later and in July 2007 Sugarbeach was born.
On living and working together
Marlee: I would say if there is one challenge, it’s that we have to work at taking breaks from our projects and music to just be a couple. We try to keep our relationship as the first priority. Sunday is our day. We sleep in, cook, talk, play and we try to get away for an occasional weekend on an island without our computers.
Tully: Honestly, it was like we had always been together, it was easy and all we wanted to do was be with each other and work together. Is that too nauseating?
Why they work so well together
Marlee: When you start a working relationship with this much love, there’s no competing. We also have the same crazy work ethic, which makes it all so much easier.
Tully: We both have different roles and different skill sets so whether we’re writing, recording, marketing or trying to create more exposure for artists on RightOutTV, we rarely cross over on the same task. One thing we do well together is strategize. We talk constantly about what insane, completely unrealistic idea we’re going to do next and how we’re going to do it.
How they resolve differences
Marlee: Well we’ve never had a fight. That was one of the things that prompted us to create a relationship workshop along with our performance at the National Women’s Music Festival this year. We really analyzed what we were doing that was making this journey together so peaceful and happy. We do disagree on occasion but we try to express our opinions without hysterics and huge emotion. We talk everything out calmly and circumvent any potential drama without suppressing anything.
Tully: I have a process that I go through before I respond, if Marlee says that she is unhappy about something related to me. I go through each of these steps and it stops a potential fight every time. I ask myself: Is she right? Is what she said fair or justified? Do I just feel like a fight—or does she? Am I really interested in her not feeling upset? Is it really about something else? By approaching an issue this way we avoid saying hurtful things that can never be taken back.
How their workshops can help other couples
Marlee: After creating our workshop we realized that we do have some valuable info to share so we are in the process of writing a book on what we’ve learned. Tully has a degree in psychology and both of us are voracious readers of anything that helps us to grow as people and as a couple. We’re covering everything from introversion vs. extraversion to lesbian bed death. We give examples through our stories and those of our friends, of course we’ve changed their names or they’d kill us! If any of your readers would like to be notified of its’ release, or where we may be presenting workshops, they can email us at [email protected]
Why they married
Marlee: I’m sure our getting married might seem strange especially considering that Tully had just left a marriage. Once I realized I was gay, I had deleted the possibility of ever marrying; in fact I wasn’t even sure I believed in it. All of that changed when we got together and I knew that I had waited my whole life for a love like this and I was so fortunate to have it. I proposed less than a year after we got together, at the top of Grouse Mountain with one knee in the snow, crying my eyes out…I’m surprised she understood a word I said.
Tully: I believe that you know you’re with the right person if you are able to be, create, grow, learn and achieve so much more than you can on your own. Getting married just seemed to make sense to me…. Once we were married we had a sense of people taking our relationship much more seriously, perhaps because we legally committed in a way that they understood and viewed as something to be respected.