"In Bed With" is a Dallas Observer series in which we delve into the homes and personal lives of Dallas music industry professionals.
Kenneth Pritchard just cut his hair short after six years of whipping it back and forth onstage. On paper, he’s a music teacher and a dedicated homeowner along with his fiancée, Caroline North, who works in advertising. But Pritchard is best known as the frontman for garage rock band Dead Mockingbirds, and just a few months ago, North stepped down from running the music and culture sections as an editor for the Dallas Observer.
Their house has a large backyard fit for their latest dog, Dayla, who’s nearly the size of a pony and one of a rotating cast of greyhounds that the couple fosters, for a month at a time, until they’re off to their permanent homes. The East Dallas home’s retro decor pairs well with its habitual vintage sounds of old jazz swirling on vinyl.
North and Pritchard have an unarguable gift for storytelling, which is evident in their casual conversation. The recounting of the story of their first meeting has evolved into an exercise on the art of improvisation and a shared anecdote in itself.
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“I was driving for Uber and she had ordered an Uber ...” Pritchard begins. North cuts in.
“The story goes that I called an Uber to go home,” she says, “and when a blue minivan showed up, I got into the car and directed this person to drive me to my home. This person was Kenneth, and he dropped me off, and once we got to my door, I realized that he was not my driver.
“This is our official ‘how we met’ story,” North says.
“Whether or not it’s true,” they say together, “is a separate matter,” she finishes.
Theirs was a love at first sight, but their eyes were locked on pictures through a phone screen.
“The real truth is that we met online,” North says.
“People would ask how we met,” Pritchard explains, “and one of us would start a story that the other would have to corroborate without knowing where we were going.”
“It was just a game,” North continues. “I’m not ashamed of online dating; it’s just not a romantic story to tell your grandkids. It’s not a meet-cute, so we enjoyed coming up with these fantastical explanations of how we met.”
Their initial meeting is straight out of a Polaroid from 2015’s Dallas indie scene. It was at coffee shop Mudsmith in Lower Greenville, where North ran into an Observer editor.
“I’m clearly on an online date, and my new coworker is sitting directly behind me,” she recalls.
They walked to the now-extinct Crown and Harp bar and spent some time talking about Stephen King. Pritchard remembers the evening vividly.
“You were wearing a cheetah-spotted coat,” he tells her, “and people commented that I was doing a great job.”
He walked her to her car, where they shared a first kiss that lingered as she dropped him off across from the bar, where they’d inadvertently made a bit of a scene.
“As I walk across the street, everybody in the patio starts clapping and whoo-ing,” Pritchard remembers, “because they’d obviously seen our secret makeout session.”
The couple spend most of their time outdoors, though not only kissing. Pritchard lists their mutual hobbies: “tennis, golf, roller-skating, bowling, fishing, camping and pinball.”
North shows off the collection of dioramas she’s made for Pritchard every year on Valentine’s Day, displayed on a shelf in the sitting room.
The first one — made out of a golf ball display case and “Wite-Out from the Observer” — shows a miniature couple sitting on a bench admiring Jackson Pollock’s "Convergence" painting, as they had done at the Dallas Museum of Art. She reads aloud the inscription on the bottom: “The more time I spend with you, the more I see in you.“
Other memories immortalized in North's craft projects include a camping setting, representing them and their permanent cohort, Dead Mockingbirds drummer Matthew Crain. She signs her inscriptions with “Bunny,” Pritchard’s nickname for her. She calls him “Kenneth” because a term of endearment has yet to surface spontaneously.
While speaking of their compatibility, Pritchard paradoxically elevates the conversation to the deepest trenches of thought.
“We both kind of stare at the void and understand the futility of being alive in the same way,“ he says. “To be together in this is to experience it in its fullest.”
“When you think that life is very fragile and there’s not any real purpose to anything, that also makes it more beautiful,” she says. “It pushes us to appreciate a lot of everyday things because we have this respect for life.”
Both North and Pritchad spent large parts of their adult lives in the Midwest. Pritchard went to high school in Plano during its heroin heyday and spent a decade in Chicago, playing in an experimental jazz-noise band and earning a degree in instruments performance at Columbia College, a music school.
After 15 years at the Episcopal School of Dallas, from age 3 through high school, North went on to graduate with an English degree from Ohio’s Kenyon College and hopped around the East Coast for various jobs, including as nanny to twin girls, and studying psychology at Columbia University for a year.
“She is the most thoughtful human being that I ever met,” Pritchard says of North. “I’m kind of an asshole, and most of the world makes me angry, but meeting her has made me less angry,” he says.
North respectfully disagrees.
“When I first met Kenneth, he had this button — where is it, did you lose it?” she asks, with the thoughtfulness Pritchard describes, ”and it said, ‘Don’t worry, be angry.' And he always used to say, ‘That’s really me,’ but all I saw was this person who would make me collages made of artifacts from our dates and send me little poems in the mail; I didn’t see the anger.
“On the one side, he has this rock 'n' roll persona that I find very attractive,” North says of Pritchard. "He can definitely turn it on and have all that charisma, but there’s this whole other side that makes it so great to share a life with him.
“You have a very strong sense of duty to the people who you care about,” she says to Pritchard, “and when it comes to taking care of our house, he’s very meticulous and invested.”
Pritchard makes the case that artists often use their creativity as an excuse to wallow in dysfunction.
“I think it can be a cop-out easily for a musician to be that way,” he says, “but I don’t think it has anything to do with music.”
“I’ve done that, too,” North admits. “At my most dysfunctional, being like ‘I’m an artist,’ and I hadn’t even done anything [to show for it].”
In the past, Pritchard has worked at an animal hospital and played guitar for a Ukrainian pop star, but for the last eight years, his day job has consisted of teaching music to children. At the moment, he’s recording songs for his parallel solo project, named Frances Heidi in honor of his grandmother, who introduced him to music via Hank Williams and was in a country band with his grandfather.
“It came out of a very tumultuous time in my life, and I was writing songs that wouldn’t fit in Dead Mockingbirds whatsoever,” he says of the upcoming release, for which he’ll begin touring next spring. “It’s much more down-tempo, hardly any distortion, clean guitars.”
Pritchard also just celebrated an album release party for Dead Mockingbirds’ latest, called Greatest Hits.
“Which is true,” Pritchard says with a laugh.
North initially thought she’d return to Dallas temporarily, but she ultimately found in her hometown what she had sought elsewhere. She says her life began to change when she started working at The Wild Detectives bookstore in Oak Cliff.
“I got to experience such a cool cross-section of the city at that job,” she says of the cultured creatives she came to know there, “and it really opened me.”
North performed a reading of a personal essay for the series Oral Fixation on the same day she interviewed with the Dallas Observer for a position as copy editor.
“The Observer was ... ” she begins. “This is a cliché metaphor, but it was a gradual emergence from a cocoon. Being the copy editor was the best thing that could’ve happened to me because I got to read everybody’s writing, and that taught me a lot about what they were looking for, and that was really instructive.”
North was promoted to culture editor and was eventually made music and culture editor. The interspecies dating between a musician and a music critic didn’t alter their dynamics, Pritchard says.
“We never let those bubbles mix,” he says of North’s job. “It was never like, ‘What do you think as an arts and entertainment editor?’ It was, ‘What do you think as Caroline — do I look like an idiot?’ That’s what I want to know.
“She’s always been completely honest with me,” he continues. “I feel like she’s that way because she actually likes the music,” Pritchard says of North’s fan-girlish support of his band, which keeps her coming to every show. “If she had to lie ...” he starts off when she answers.
“I don’t think we would be together,” she says. “If you enjoy music or writing and you’re in a relationship with someone who has no sense that they’re terrible, I think that it would be a hit on your attraction to them.”
“You’re absolutely right,” Pritchard responds, “because I feel like one of my biggest things that makes you so attractive to me, aside from the, well, look at you, is seeing your brain through your writing; to know how big the scope is of things that you understand is really attractive.”
North left the publication, she says, to focus on a job in advertising, which she’d done in the past.
“It was a tough moment,” she says of her departure, “because it was almost like breaking up with someone you still love.”
North says she misses going out into the city’s nightlife with a writer’s perspective, but she plans to pick up writing again.
“I had to ask myself some tough questions about whether I saw myself staying in journalism forever,” North says, “and I just wasn’t sure.
“I felt like if I was gonna make a shift to a different industry, advertising would be something that might make sense, and I thought it would potentially come with an easier lifestyle."
Last Thanksgiving, the couple took a trip to Amsterdam, where Pritchard planned, and at times failed, to propose. He first tried it at a restaurant, but the staff took his coat, along with the ring in its pocket. Later, as they’d observed couples kissing at every canal bridge, they started to jokingly do the same. Pritchard planned a Chevy Chase-inspired fake fall in order to get on a bended knee, but North kept walking past him. When she finally remembered their new kissing tradition, he was aiming for a stop at the middle of the bridge and told her her to keep walking.
“I’m irritated, like, ‘Why won’t he kiss me?'” she remembers.
Eventually, Pritchard was able to fall and ask the question, and, no surprise, the answer was yes.
They already owned their joint home by then (“This house picked us,” Pritchard says) and had united their furniture, which blended seamlessly. Six months into their relationship, the couple had gotten tattoos of each other’s initials in the same spot on their ankles, at a friend’s at 5 a.m.
North also has the number 13, the date of their upcoming September wedding, tattooed on her wrist.
“We have a lot of pretty emotional conversations,” North says, “but probably 75 percent of the time, we’re singing fake song lyrics.”
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Pritchard could easily make another career for himself in comedy.
“Most of the time, it’s her trying to have a normal conversation and me trying to make her laugh,” he says. “The only thing that will separate us is my death, or, of course, if she wanted to leave me.”
They both laugh.
“But for me,” he says, "that would be the same end.”