It’s not unusual to hear one married person declare to their partner “I don’t know why we even bother talking to each other.” While that statement is usually said as a complaint, in the case of Tom Carleno and Josie Quick, it’s a compliment. “We have a joke that I’ll say something and he’ll be thinking the same thing so we say ‘why do we even talk?’” laughs Quick. “We’re very lucky in that we think alike so much,” says Carleno. This fortunate couple lives together, works together and creates music together. It’s a love story, set to music.
When guitarist Carleno began looking for someone to write and perform music with him 24 years ago, he approached Quick, a violinist. Akin to asking her to come up to “see his etchings,” Carleno asked Quick if she’d be willing to come hear some of the songs he’d written that could lend themselves to a violin playing the melody. “I wanted to ask her out but I was afraid of rejection,” said Tom. “I figured if she said ‘no,’ at least she wasn’t turning me down for a date.” “The only reason I said ‘yes’ was because I could see he was sincere,” adds Quick.
Initially, they collaborated as friends but their relationship flipped back and forth between something professional and personal. The Park Hill residents married 21 years ago. Music fills their days and nights, teaching, composing, recording and performing individually or as an acoustic jazz group called Perpetual Motion. The group has had various incarnations, with up to five members. Currently, it’s just Carleno and Quick, performing at various venues around town.
“We are together 20 hours a day,” says Quick. “Which is fine. We talk about how people have to work at marriage—we’re still waiting for that,” says Carleno. “We don’t really fight. If there’s a disagreement, we work it out right away,” says Quick. That carries over to their musical relationship too, where disagreements are worked out based on what’s good for the music, putting egos aside.
That philosophy was helpful when Quick served as producer on her husband’s album, Perfect Imperfection, released last fall. For Carleno, the making of the album was therapeutic, helping him work through a lot of insecurities about himself and emotions surrounding the death of his mother 19 years before. It took four years to make. “I thought ‘I could just not record this and take the easy way out’ but then I knew I’d be kicking myself if I didn’t,” says Carleno. “That’s why I wanted Josie to be my producer because I knew she’d figuratively and literally hold my hand and other times, tell me to quit stalling.”
Perfect Imperfection debuted on the ZoneMusicReporter Chart at number four and rose to number two the next month. Carleno was shocked. “I thought it would have been nice to make the top hundred so to shoot up to number two in a month was amazing.” The album has received stellar reviews and has received airplay all over the world. In addition, Carleno was nominated for two awards, winning Best Instrumental Album-Acoustic at the ZMR Music Awards in New Orleans, in May.
When asked how she feels about her husband’s first solo effort, Quick warns, “Oh, now I’m going to tear up” and does. “It’s wonderful. He’s been through a lot and I’m glad he has this opportunity.” Carleno quietly says, “I didn’t know you felt that emotional about it.” “I do,” she responds.
The first day Carleno was scheduled to go into the studio, Quick was diagnosed with lupus after having been misdiagnosed the year before with arthritis. Carleno offered to cancel the session but Quick wouldn’t let him. “She was very practical about it, saying that since she was struggling and we weren’t performing much, it was actually good timing,” he says.
Quick is currently in remission. “It was pretty scary for a while,” she says. Looking over at her husband, she adds, “I feel like he’s the one who lived through it. He was a prince. I was just busy trying to survive it.” Throughout her illness, Quick made a point of practicing violin every day even if it was only to move one finger and up and down repeatedly. “I kept trying to play because I was afraid if I stopped, I’d never do it again,” she says. Quick found that when she got up after playing, her whole body would hurt less, not just her fingers. “You talk about the healing power of music—I really experienced it.”
Spending even a short amount of time with this musician couple, it’s clear there is something special between them, both as a couple and fellow musicians. When asked why they think the combination of being married and working together works for them, they respond “It’s effortless; it just kind of happens.”