He was singing at a sleepy Toronto tavern one Sunday evening, nine years ago.
She walked in with her guitar case, thinking it was open mic night because of a misleading poster.
Instead of playing duelling guitars, the two singer/songwriters made the best of an awkward situation by singing duets together — and the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, Peter Stone and Denise MacKay are married and still performing side by side in an Edmonton-based group called 100 Mile House, which plays on Friday at The Hideout, south of Red Deer.
Their meet-cute moment was videotaped for posterity by Stone’s father, who happened to be filming his son’s show the night MacKay walked into his life.
“You can look back at all of it — it’s crazy. There’s not that many couples who have their first meeting caught on film,” said Stone, with a laugh.
This encounter can be viewed as fateful in another way.
The band that Stone and MacKay formed, which now includes fiddler/mandolin player Scott Zubot and bassist Tom Murray, has gradually been winning fans and accolades, receiving a Folk/Roots Album of the Year prize at the 2012 Edmonton Music Awards and a nomination for Roots Recording of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards.
The group also won the Calgary Folk Festival’s Songwriting Contest for the second year in a row with the song London, about English-born Stone’s hometown.
And in March, 100 Mile House’s third well-received album, Wait With Me, debuted at No. 1 on CKUA Radio.
Stone believes the new release stands as a musical testament to love’s power to withstand tempests: “It came out of 2012, which was our hardest year, yet, as a couple. … Virtually everyone around us had a life-changing year,” he continued. “Some changes were good, like people having babies. But a lot of it was bad, like losing loved ones … it was like 2012 was the end of some kind of cycle.”
The title track is about grieving. While a lot of hurting songs are about romantic breakups, Wait With Me is about enduring an emotional storm together, said Stone. The song, which was written after a friend experienced the death of a spouse, recognizes how lucky are those people who still have a loved one to lean on, added the 29-year-old.
“It’s about sticking together through loss.”
The contest-winning song London reflects on Stone’s “tricky” feelings about his home city. England’s capital “is one of the greatest cities in the world, but there are times when you just want to leave it,” said Stone, who becomes annoyed with all the traffic and congestion.
“My feelings about London can actually be transferred to any place you have a relationship with — on one hand, you’re comfortable to be at home, but sometimes you want to run away and not look back.”
Stone wasn’t exactly running to Canada as a 20-year-old, but he didn’t put a lot of thought into the decision either.
He was studying music technology at the University of Staffordshire when a friend suggested, one drunken evening, that the two get work visas and fly to Canada.
“I guess I said ‘Yes,’ because the next day, I was expected to go to Canada!”
Over the years, 100 Mile House has been based both in England and in Edmonton, which is MacKay’s hometown.
Stone believes the group will remain on this side of the Atlantic, where it’s making inroads in Canadian music circles.
The band is booked to play the Vancouver Island MusicFest in July and to tour Ontario in the fall.
“So far, 2013 seems to be paying off for a (lousy) 2012. Hopefully it’ll keep going that way,” said Stone.
For more information about the show at The Hideout, call 403-348-5309.