By Jessica Goodman
In September 2016, AJ was really only interested in meeting a romantic partner who could appreciate his career as a musician and all of the uncertainty that came with it. He’d had previous partners who weren’t supportive of his endeavors, so he was hoping to find someone who might understand that his life was a little bit unconventional.
Though he was based in Washington, D.C. at the time, he was going back and forth to New York City for band rehearsal. It was during one of those 24-hour visits that he saw Brianna’s profile on Bumble, and he was immediately intrigued. She had photos of herself doing ballet professionally, so AJ thought that she’d relate to having a career in the arts. “Between her bio and photos, I pieced together that she was a creative, passionate, artistic person and I could tell we’d have a lot to talk about,” says AJ. Little did he know, Brianna was also looking for a partner who was creative, and was struck by AJ’s profile, which was all about music.
After messaging back and forth for a few days on Bumble, they took their conversation to text and then video call since AJ had already gone back to D.C. But the two were anxious to meet up in person. “I told her I had another rehearsal in the city but I didn’t really,” AJ says. “So I scheduled one immediately and took a bus up to see her.”
Their first date was the stuff of rom-coms: First, they met up for a tapas dinner—but the conversation took off, and they didn’t want to leave one another since AJ was only in town for a short period of time. So the two headed to an Italian street festival where they slid down an inflatable bouncy slide and snacked on risotto balls and mozzarella sticks. The night stretched on for six hours as they trekked to a bar across town, walked around Bryant Park, and visited the iconic Grand Central Station. They had their first kiss that night, then saw each other the next day for brunch—and the next day, too, before AJ had to leave. “It felt like I had known him a long time,” Brianna says. AJ agrees: “That weekend I went home and was like, ‘I think I met the person I’m going to marry.’”
Soon after meeting, they made their relationship official and immediately became each other’s biggest cheerleaders when it came to pursuing their artistic passions, especially since they were experiencing big career changes. Brianna had just left a ballet company in Miami to try to break into Broadway in New York. Often, she wouldn’t even get seen at auditions because there were hundreds of people in front of her in line, no matter how early she got there. Meanwhile, AJ had gone from career highs, opening for big bands, to experiencing the blow of his musical mentor’s death. Rent in New York had also become untenable on his “starving artist budget.”
“Both of us were trying to reinvent our careers, which bonded us,” says Brianna. Though they supported each other’s ambitions, timing wasn’t always on their side. After nine months of dating long distance, the two moved into an apartment together in New York. Only a month later, Brianna booked her first national tour. She was traveling on and off for seven months, but thanks to the strong foundation they built while maintaining a long-distance relationship, she and AJ were able to keep their connection intact. “We were so used to it that we knew how to handle it,” says Brianna.
Then the pandemic began and their lives shifted yet again. Brianna’s tour shut down and AJ was offered a business opportunity in Nashville. The couple decided to take a leap and move to a new city. “We had nothing to lose,” AJ says. Since making their new home together, their luck has turned around. Briana recently appeared in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, and AJ’s put out new music while performing on stages like The Kelly Clarkson Show.
They attribute their rising success to their ability to empower one another without getting jealous. “It’s really great to be around someone who’s going through something similar,” AJ says. If Brianna doesn’t get hired for a commercial that she really wanted, he’s there to cheer her up with a pint of ice cream. If AJ didn’t sell as many concert tickets as he’d hoped, Brianna is there with a pep talk and empathy. “We’re not competitive with one another,” says AJ. “We recognize that we’re on the same team.” They also support each other in real, tangible ways: AJ helps Brianna with her self-taped auditions by setting up the lights and camera, as well as making “offscreen sound effects.” And Brianna stars in and choreographs many of AJ’s music videos. She recently went on tour with AJ and acted as his tour manager, helping load equipment and sell merch.
The pair was originally going to get married in Italy in June 2022, but have postponed their nuptials to next summer, when they hope to throw a weekend’s worth of celebrations with all of their loved ones. In the meantime, they’ve been brushing up on their Italian and building an artistic community in Nashville, where they love to go duckpin bowling, have low-key board game nights, and throw elaborate themed parties. And of course they’ll always continue to work together. They haven’t just found love, but collaboration. “I think there was something incredibly wonderful about finding a person who I could be honest with about my dreams, aspirations, and struggles right from the beginning,” says AJ. “Being around her helps me be the best version of myself. Weʼve been able to grow together.”