Brothers Osborne Didn’t Go Looking for Country Stardom
Brothers Osborne, the duo made up of real-life brothers TJ and John Osborne, never saw themselves as country stars. For them, performing their music was about testing out their songs, not promoting themselves as artists.
"When my brother and I started playing shows, when we had our publishing deal, we did it just to try out our material, just to see how it felt live, how it felt to perform it in front of people, how people’s responses would be," John Osborne tells The Boot. "We actually asked record labels not to show up. We didn’t want anyone to show up.
"We didn’t want it to turn into a showcase. That wasn’t the point. The point was to learn, what do our songs look like in a live setting? Do they feel good to play live? We’ll take what we learned in that setting and then adjust our songs in the songwriting process," Osborne adds. "That was in the very beginning. That was how we initially started the band, from writing."
For TJ Osborne, writing seemed like a safer bet than trying to stand out among Nashville's bevy of great singers.
"I came to town thinking I would be an artist, and then I quickly got smacked down, personally, really; it was no one else that did it," he recalls. "I never sang ... It was so overwhelming to me. There are so many great people here, great singers, and so I just went to the woodshed, so to speak, and started writing songs and slowly kind of performing them out at writers rounds and stuff. I really found a love for that. I really enjoyed it."
Once the brothers started performing their original songs together, however, it didn't take long for others to see what had initially been oblivious to the Osbornes themselves.
"People would recognize there’s something cool there, even though it wasn’t obvious to us, because we played together our whole lives. We weren’t a duo very long before things started really happening," TJ Osborne says. "It was interesting, because we didn’t feel it, that we were ready to showcase ourselves; we were just having fun."
On their debut album, Pawn Shop, John and TJ Osborne mix a modern country sound with a classic kind of vibe, especially on songs such as "Greener Pastures" and "It Ain't My Fault."
"It’s very important for art to evolve, and it’s very natural for art to evolve," John Osborne explains. "You can’t forget where you came from; it’s important to remember that. That’s your heritage, that’s your history; you can’t just forget about it. Just because an artist passed away or hasn’t put out a record in a decade, you can’t pretend it didn’t happen ... I think it’s important culturally for us to remember."
Brothers Osborne had that idea in mind when they invited Lee Ann Womack to sing on one of Pawn Shop's tracks, "Loving Me Back," which sounds like it could have been on a turntable 40 years ago.
"We were in the studio recording that, and we thought to ourselves, we wanted to record a really embedded-in-the-roots country song," John Osborne remembers. "And so, we finished recording it, and we thought it was really good, but it felt like it was missing one extra thing that just made it spectacular. At the time, [getting Womack on the song] seemed like a wild idea."
To the siblings' surprise, Womack immediately said yes, helping them create one of their favorite songs they have ever recorded.
"We just idolize her," John Osborne adds. "She’s country music royalty, and she’s one of the greats that will forever be. It was definitely, out of all the things we will achieve in our careers, that was one of the bucket list things."
Looking toward a sophomore record, Brothers Osborne say that they don't plan on deviating too much from the formula that's already working well for them.
"I think we will always try to have some sort of look to the past," TJ Osborne notes. "It’s great for a musician and a writer and an artist to constantly evolve and recreate yourself. With that being said, in our sophomore album, I definitely look forward to going places we haven’t gone, but I think we will always try to reference the roots, where we came from."
Continues his brother, "You never really stop working. You never quit. Take Merle Haggard, for example: He was creative and played and played, up until his last breath pretty much. I think that’s how it should be."
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