The Goodnight Brothers Band takes great relish in rule-breaking. The 5-man, multi-genre soul band draws inspiration from musical traditions in Jazz, blues, funk and rock, but its inventive, dymanic sound is the product of unique vision and skill.
“We respect musical traditions, and we have great respect for music theory,” said bassist and songwriter Glenn Goodnight. “In order to break the rules, you need to know them.”
Both mostly self-taught, Glenn and his brother Neil–the band’s lead guitarist and songwriter– honed exceptional guitar skills early on, learning to play favorites by bands such as The Doors and Grateful Dead. Neil taught Glenn to play his first song on guitar, Nirvana’s “Come As You Are,” while the two were waiting in a car.
“From that point, I was hooked,” Glenn said. And the foundation for The Goodnight Brothers Band began to take shape.
The brothers continued to work on their guitar skills, with Neil having only a few early lessons and Glenn being entirely brother- and self-taught, and as they did they found themselves envisioning a future in music.
“Initially our main objective was to be a really good backing band, but to continue to do our own thing, like The Roots or Booker T. Jones,” Glenn said. “That kind of work is an open door to being inspired by other musicians.”
The brothers have long existed in that space of respecting and appreciating others’ work, while being compelled to make their own.
Early on Glenn and Neil joined a University City-area punk cover band, The Repeat Offenders, and played with them for five years. But they grew tired of doing covers, and wanted the opportunity to perform their own pieces.
“I reached a point where I said, ‘if I’m not doing predominately original music then I’m not going to play at all,’” Glenn said.
He and Neil began performing at local open mic nights, and in doing so, found their future band mates: organist Dom Val, drummer Travis Hedrick, and their newest addition slide guitarist Adam Emerson.
The Magic Number
“For a lot of bands, four is the magic number,” Glenn said. And for several years GBB felt complete as a 4-man band. But then, a little over a year ago, they met Adam–again, at an open mic night.
A self-taught blues guitarist, Adam had played guitar for more than a decade but hadn’t performed in a while. He was working as a guitar tech for another band when he saw Dom and Glenn playing at open mic and decided to join in.
“He followed everything like he had played it for 10 years,” Glenn said.
“It was like a puzzle piece fitting. We were speaking the same language,” Adam said.
Several jam sessions later, and it became clear that the magic number for The Goodnight Brothers Band was not 4, but 5.
The band first performed as a fivesome at Old Town Public House, 21314 Catawba Ave., to great response from the crowd. To this day, OTPH is one of their favorite venues.
“You can really feed off the crowd there,” Adam said. “It makes you play better when you can do that.”
The band returns to OTPH this weekend for a New Year’s Eve performance
All about Dynamics
The success of The Goodnight Brothers Band stems from its dynamics, both with its audiences and among its members.
“We’re like a baseball team,” Adam said. “We all know our part, what we bring to the table, but we all rely on each other to make it work. It’s the only group of musicians I know that can read each others’ minds.”
That musical skill and synchronization brings great freedom to explore and innovate. While the band members work tirelessly on their songs and their show structures, quite often in live performance they ditch the program and feed off the energy from the crowd and the synergy on stage.
“The practice and the program is a sort of safety net,” Glenn said. “when we get to the shows we get out of that so we can create something new. It’s more entertaining for us that way, and more entertaining for the crowd too.”
Music gives them a creative outlet, and in sharing their work, they hope it will do the same for others, he explained.
“We are in the pursuit of freedom in music–wherever it goes, however it goes there,” he said.
When we sat down with Glenn and Adam, we asked them to finish these sentences:
I play/write music because…
Glenn: It’s fun.
Adam: It’s me. I don’t know any other way.
When I sing/play I feel…
Glenn: At home.
When I play/write music, I want others to feel…
Glenn: Like they’re having an awesome time. Like it’s the best thing they’ve heard.
Adam: The energy. I want them to pick up on the energy we bring.