If you believe in true love, and fate and destiny, then this is the digital love story for you. Because it would take a room full of servers and a needle the size of Manhattan in a haystack as tall as the Eiffel Tower to coordinate Edgar Sandoval Jr. and Emilee Flood's meet cute on purpose, the way an algorithm brought them together by chance.
Sandoval formed his Seattle-based hip-hop duo Cape Lions in May of 2018, and by September they landed their first song on one of Spotify's sought-after playlists, New Music Friday. The placement got him and bandmate Gospel Okoroafor hyped to push forward when their dreamy rap tune "100" got additional exposure on the independent artist-focused Fresh Finds playlist. Not too bad for a scrappy self-promoting pair who were convinced that "100" was their strongest effort to date.
But Sandoval had no way of knowing just how lucky he'd gotten. "It was our third or time on a playlist and it was really special becuase we were on there for a longer period of time," says Sandoval, 24. As exciting as that was, it was what happened next that really blew his mind. "That's where I met Emilee," he says, careful to note that he wasn't trying to use Spotify as a dating app, but just to help push his music careeer forward.
Emilee is the stage name for 19-year-old Emilee Flood of Batesville, Arkansas, a town of 10,000 that sits around 80 miles northeast of Little Rock. Her musical story is even more improbable than Sandoval's. The very first song she ever made, the mellow bedroom pop tune "High Hopes," landed on the same playlist as Sandoval's around the same time (March 20), back when Flood didn't even know what a playlist was. "I was confused and my producer was like, 'that's huge,' and I was like, 'Oh, okay,'" she says, laughing.
"High Hopes" showed up on Fresh Finds two notches above "100," and if Sandoval is being honest, it was the only song he was really into on the playlist. "Maybe the title was intriguing, correlating to where I was in my life, very hopeful for the future, but it was the only song I clicked on and we became friends," he says. The exchanged some Instagram messages, followed each other for a few months before they started having some long phone calls, which graduated to FaceTime chats.
Soon enough, Sandoval booked a flight to Arkansas, which he says was "totally out of character" for someone who tends to be a self-identified introverted homebody. His parents and sister were also a bit taken aback after he called them to ask for some insight about whether it was even safe to go meet this person he'd gotten to know due to a fluke digital quirk.
"I did enough internet stalking to make sure she wasn't a murderer," he jokes. "It was unsusal when he reached out, but honestly, at first I didn't think that much of it when he messaged me that we were on the same playlist and was like, 'Check me out!'," she says. She didn't check Cape Lions out. But they did keep talking and sliding into each other's Stories to chat about music for months, and by May, they both realized something real was blossoming.
"I started really listening to his music in May and I really really liked the songs '8' and '100,' even though I don't normally listen to that type of music," she admits. Fast-forward to last month, after several visits back and forth, when Sandoval asks Flood to marry him and posts a Tik Tok plea to whoever made their love connection at Spotify to step forward so they can thank them.
"Once I asked her to marry me, that's when I started to think about how crazy our story was," he says, noting that he's long had a side hustle creating viral-seeking TikTok videos, some of which have taken off. That's what spurred the shout out to the Spotify employee, who, as it turns out, was more likely a group of curators at the company who helped the couple find each other. "The stars aligned perfectly…we were talking and she said, 'That's so crazy that a person who put us on the playlist, do they even know? Do they know we got engaged? That would make an interesting video.'"
So Sandoval posted the above video on TikTok and within two days he got an email from Spotify saying they'd seen the clip and they wanted to share the story. Colleen Taylor, the Spotify editor who helped program both songs in Fresh Finds, tells Billboard, "We work at Spotify because we’ve all individually experienced the power of human connection through music. Our playlist curation is a team effort, and it’s incredible to see Spotify connecting talented artists, or in this case, soulmates!”
The couple aren't afraid to say that they don't always listen to each other's music and they're still "figuring out" the moving part, which could land them in New York or Los Angeles before their June 20 wedding date. In the meantime, Flood is getting ready to apply to colleges and they're working on a couple of new songs that mix their genres for a potential new hybrid side project.
Sandoval Jr. says since their story has started leaking out, they've gotten some nibbles from labels and A&R types, but he's trying to be as patient as possible since both managed to get playlist placement on their own and their artist pages have more than 100,000 monthly listeners. "We have a lot going on…Emilee is recording every day, we're hoping to get on more playlists and I'm planning more shows, working on merchandising and videos," he says of their push to hustle out as much content as possible before the wedding.
"Music is a big part of our lives and definitely a part of our story and I don't want to push that to the side," adds Sandoval Jr.
Listen to "High Hopes" and "100" below.