A glance at Good Night Gracie’s typical setlist and it’s easy to see that there’s nothing typical about this fun-loving, local quintet. “We’ll play anything from ‘Bringing Sexy Back’ and ‘Let’s Get it On’ to stuff by the Eagles and Jimmy Buffet,” said frontwoman Jen Fisher in a recent preshow interview at Covington Bar and Grill. Fisher looked relaxed and sassy in calve-hugging black boots, a plaid mini-skirt and a white jacket. On her head was a jaunty newsboy cap. At first blush you’d never know this 36-year-old University of St. Francis graduate student learned how to sing from watching and imitating the Judds.
“You can say we’re a cover band, and we are,” she continued, “but we like to put our own unique spin on the songs and play them in our own style.”
For instance, when Fisher, Rob Ruppert (guitar), Danny Robertson (keyboards), Dan McCoy (drums) and Cale Reese (bass) get hold of the Eagles’ “Take it Easy” it’s hardly recognizable. Gone is the song’s slow twang, and in its place is the unmistakable offbeat ska sound of reggae. And it’s not Good Night Gracie couldn’t play the song exactly the way the Eagles did – the group’s resumés are extensive and impressive, including everything from classical opera training to marching band to musical blue blood – it’s just that, as accomplished artists, they prefer to interpret the songs in an original, challenging way.
Ruppert, who founded the band in 2004, describes Good Night Gracie’s aesthetic like this: “When we first started up we set out to be a kind of power acoustic act. I’d say we’re actually a pop/dance/funk band, in that order.”
Good Night Gracie define themselves not only by the kind of music they play but by the dynamic that holds them together and keeps them energized for their weekly performances at such venues as Columbia Street West, Uptown Bar and Grill and Club Paradise in Angola. Their next local gig is at 8 p.m., Friday, May 29 at Deer Park Pub.
“We’re really like a family,” said Ruppert, the self-appointed dad of the band. “We might have little disagreements here and there, but the bottom line is that we love each other. We love to play together, and it’s rare to find a band in this town that’s been around for five years with such a steady lineup.”
It’s true that Good Night Gracie have undergone few changes since they first formed in 2004. They got their start as a four-piece with Ruppert, Fisher, Reese and then drummer Jon Foxworthy. Rehearsals were going well, but there was a consensus among the members that something was missing. Enter Robertson, a show choir choreographer and native of Toronto who, according to band lore, Reese and Foxworthy discovered at a karaoke bar belting out Celine Dion.
“With Danny everything clicked,” Fisher said. “We were at rehearsal and we were halfway through our second song and I looked around and everyone was smiling. We just knew it was right.”
So far Foxworthy has been the only member to leave the band, and that was just so he could spend more time with his wife and child. Foxworthy’s departure left room for McCoy, 35, whose new blood the band credits with giving them a much needed boost and a clearer direction forward.
“When Dan came on it was a lot like when we found Danny,” said Fisher. “We knew it was going to be really hard to find someone new who fit with our chemistry, and we were worried we’d never be able to replace Jon. We were thinking of calling it quits, but then we met Dan and he was exactly the right person at the right time.”
And the fans agree. Good Night Gracie often play for packed houses and last year they had more than 60 regular gigs. Robertson, who often comes to performances in a T-shirt that reads, “I am so excited to be here,” said GNG’s fans are really more like friends.
“We have the best fans in the world,” he said. “I think we’re a pretty friendly band, and people respond to that. There’s no distance between us and the fans. We’ve actually gone to the birthday parties of the children of our fans. We’ve gone to their bachelor parties. The band’s a family, and that really extends to our fans as well.”
There’s no doubt that the members of Good Night Gracie know how to have fun, but they also know when to get down to business. In addition to playing the bar scene, the band is getting a lot of interest from local and national businesses who want them to book them for their corporate events. Such exposure is not only flattering but lucrative as well.
“I love telling people what I do on the weekends,” Fisher said. “I get to say that I’m in a band, which is cool, obviously, and then there’s the fact that I’m getting paid for it.”
The future’s bright for Good Night Gracie who this year garnered several Whammy nominations, including Best Cover Band, Best Funk/R&B Performer and Best Live Band. They have a summer gig in San Diego to look forward to, and, if things continue as they are, years of grooving in store.
“It would be great if we could be like Spike and the Bulldogs and just be around for decades, playing good music and doing our thing,” Ruppert said. “If I have anything to say about it, this band isn’t breaking up.”
It can’t,” McCoy added. “I can see us now, all old but still going strong, with our kids carrying our equipment everywhere.”