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Haley Woolbright’s New Song Celebrates A Love That Withstood COVID-19

Haley Woolbright, right, on her wedding date. Originally scheduled for September 2020, the wedding became an intimate backyard ceremony thanks to the pandemic.
Jenee Mack Photography
Haley Woolbright, right, with her groom. Originally scheduled for September 2020, their wedding became an intimate backyard ceremony in June thanks to the pandemic.

Haley Woolbright and her fiance planned their wedding for September of 2020. Then the coronavirus pandemic shut down St. Louis and put an end to big events for months on end. In May, their reception venue delivered the bad news: Their event was canceled.

That announcement didn’t just alter the couple’s wedding plans. It also disrupted Woolbright’s plans to write and record a love song to surprise her fiance on their big day. A singer-songwriter whose album “Hindsight” debuted in 2019, Woolbright wanted to celebrate lasting love. But when they moved their once-grand ceremony to the backyard, and moved up the date to June, she didn’t have time to finish it — or the ability to get into the recording studio.

“I had the song written by that point, but because of the COVID restrictions, I physically could not get to the studio and record,” Woolbright explained on Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air. “They were shut down. Production-wise, I couldn’t finish it.”

She put the song on the back burner, and she and her fiance opted for an intimate backyard wedding. No song, but no regrets.

“It was so easy-going,” she said of that day in June. “There was no production to it. And a few months from now, we still get to have our big party, the big reception and wear my dress and everything, so we kind of get the best of worlds.”

Still, she didn’t give up on the song. Once Woolbright could get into the recording studio, she resumed working on the song for her now-husband, a tribute to staying committed even when “the world comes crashing down.” Appropriately titled “Long Game,” the track was produced by Chris Turnbaugh, with backing from an all-star band that included members from local favorites the Funky Butt Brass Band. It debuts today.

“I was really just processing what it means to get married to someone and what that lifelong commitment is,” she said. “I started thinking about COVID, and how everyone had all these plans, and there was nothing they could do about it, there were no exceptions for anybody. I was thinking, ‘Hopefully we have this really long happy life together, but things are going to be out of our control. I’m sure there are going to be seasons of life where our world comes crashing down a little bit. And I just want to tell him, ‘No matter what, I’m still going to be there with you.’”

Woolbright acknowledged that it’s been a strange year to be a newlywed. And, in some ways, a hard one. Both she and her husband, Matthew, contracted COVID-19 in late summer, and while he was barely affected, her symptoms lingered for a month.

She credits him for getting her through, and looks back on their weeks in quarantine together with joy.

“We’ve had such a blast,” she said. “We’ve had so much fun learning how to be around each other 24/7 and learn more about each other, learn how to give each other space. It’s forced us to confront things. Marriage is a learning curve, and it’s forced us to figure out right away. It’s been such a blessing.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Sarah Fenske served as host of St. Louis on the Air from July 2019 until June 2022. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.