Interview: Brothers Osborne Make Great Music From ‘Logistically Terrible Idea’ on ‘Port Saint Joe’
"The house wasn't built to record in. We had to essentially pack up all our gear and drive it down, and Jay [Joyce], our producer, and his engineering assistants also had to pack up tons of outboarding equipment in a U-Haul and drive that down to the beach," he continues, "which, you know, doesn't make any damn sense at all."
Fortunately, Brothers Osborne have never worried much about doing things conventionally. John and his brother TJ, who have often stated that they're fans of an underdog, decided on this unlikely setting to record Port Saint Joe in part because they were looking for a change of scenery.
"We were able to focus on just recording, and it wasn't necessarily that we were [in Florida] so much as it was that we were away from Nashville and all the distractions that come with being here," John goes on to say. "Recording in Nashville is amazing, and the studios here are incredible, but you also have your daily responsibilities, and all the small things you have to take care of. Being down at the beach, we were just in a very relaxed, creative headspace."
"Being down at the beach, we were just in a very relaxed, creative headspace." -- John Osborne
Adds TJ, "It was really cool to just have fun recording music and not take it too seriously. Nothing will calm me down faster than just walking out onto a porch and watching some waves crashing."
Recording alongside the ocean, John notes, lent a calming, organic vibe to the process; in fact, if you listen closely to the songs on the record, you can hear snippets of the waves crashing against the shore and the sounds of people moving around in the house.
"You feel all your energy slow down when you're by the water -- I feel like that would be the case for anyone -- but the fact that we grew up [near the ocean], there's a comfort in that, and it allowed us to feel like we weren't working," John explains. "It felt like we were just on vacation, jamming together in a house."
Having grown up in Maryland's Chesapeake Bay, the Osborne brothers are no strangers to coastal living, and returning to a beach town reminded the duo of what a special place it was to grow up: "People grow up there and don't realize that in a lot of ways it really is [idyllic]," TJ admits. "Even though Port St. Joe is a beautiful place, a lot of people don't have any clue that they're in the middle of paradise."
He adds that the setting also allowed the group to keep perspective on their album's audience: "One of the coolest things was just being around people that we were recording the record for and would eventually be playing the record to," he points out. "Just your everyday, average Joes out there that wanna hear some music.
"It was really cool to just have fun recording music and not take it too seriously." -- TJ Osborne
"There's a lot of people that are craving some real music, you know?" TJ continues. "There are a lot of tracks, and a lot of programming, going on right now. A lot of people are really good at it, and there's a lot of it I like a lot and think is great, but I don't think there are enough bands out there right now. There aren't enough people playing actual instruments."
Instruments -- specifically, guitars -- are something of an obsession for John, who lent one piece of his substantial collection to the American Currents: The Music of 2017 exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame this year. However, he still has plenty of instruments in his roster, including two special new additions. "One is a 1958 Telecaster, and it's been refinished," he gushes. "I've always wanted a '50s Telly, and it's amazing to finally get my hands on one. It's all beat up, and it has some holes drilled in the headstock, because whoever had it before me put rhinestones in the headstock, which I think is amazing."
John's other favorite guitar is a new, but vintage-style, acoustic from a company called Pre-War. Modeled after a Marten HD 28, the instrument looks, feels and sounds as if it's 80 years old.
"I use the Pre-War in all of our acoustic shows. I'm absolutely addicted to it," John says. "The '50s Telly, I leave at home when we're on the road, because the road is really tough on instruments, and I would hate for it to get damaged. But when I'm at the house recording or writing or jamming, that's my favorite one to use lately."
"There's a lot of people that are craving some real music, you know?" -- TJ Osborne
During the two weeks Brothers Osborne spent in Florida, after they finished up recording for the day, they and the people who were there helping them make the record sat around listening to music over a couple of beers: "everything from David Bowie to the Pretenders to Exile on Main Street by the Stones," TJ recalls. "We listened to George Jones and Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. We listened to Prince."
What the albums they listened to during those nights had in common, TJ adds, was that they had all stood the test of time. The duo strives for that kind of durability in their own music: "More than we think about what's going to be a hit right now or what's the cool thing right now, we think about what's gonna be around for decades," TJ explains.
Listeners can expect the relaxed, jam-session vibe to translate literally to their Port Saint Joe listening experience: "One of the things I'm most excited about is that the first four songs on this record literally don't stop," TJ says. "It's just one constant stream of music, They run right into each other.
"That made it feel almost like a concept record," he adds. "The music doesn't stop and start, it just goes right into the next song, which was something I think was really cool about the recording process, and continues to be really cool about the album as a whole."
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