Releasing their debut album, ‘Pawn Shop’ back in January 2016, it’s been nearly two years of hard word and success for the Brothers Osborne, culminating in this year’s CMA awards for ‘Duo of the Year’ and ‘Video of the Year’.
We caught up with lead singer, TJ Osborne, right after the band had just completed their successful UK tour as support to The Cadillac Three.
Congrats on the UK shows – they seemed to go down really well!
Thanks! We didn’t know what to expect when we came over for C2C earlier in the year, but we were pleasantly surprised at the level of love you guys have for our music and the recent shows have convinced us that it is working. You know, we lose money coming over to play for you, but we knew that would happen. Next time we come through we’ll play bigger venues and keep building up our crowd.
Is the UK market different to the American one? Do you have to work harder to build a crowd in the UK?
Yes and no. There are some cities or places in the US where you can just show up and there’s already a crowd, but also in the US, you are only as relevant as your most recent hit song. The longer the timeline moves away from your last hit song, the more people start caring about you less. In both countries, you can only really reach new fans by getting out and performing in clubs. You have to put in the hard work from the ground up.
In the UK we thought we had some groundwork to make and put in some time in those cities between London and Glasgow and we would rather come as a support and play in a packed out house than play in a place where only thirty people showed up. There were a lot of people in the rooms we just played that had never heard of us, so I hope that when we swing round back again in May they will come out and support us on our own tour.
It did feel a little odd standing in front of the CMA ‘Duo of the Year’ in a smallish club in Birmingham whilst they supported someone else!
You know, we don’t wanna get too big for our britches or let the awards go to our heads. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we very much appreciate the awards, but we still want to give our due respect and work hard at building our fan base. A lot of people in that Cadillac Three crowd will probably never have heard of the CMA’s, so it’s important to keep your feet on the ground.
What did it feel like, winning the two awards, this year?
It’s intense! One level you are up there staring at 20,000+ people and they are listening to your every word, and then on top of that, you have all your peers down the front watching you and it dawns on you that you are being broadcast on national television with millions at home watching you too!
The first thing that crossed my mind was – don’t fall over! And then you get up there and it’s a great honour. It puts wind in your sails. John and I took the long road, we didn’t do any ‘cheap tricks’ to try and blow things up or pander to people to try and get songs on the radio. To win the award this year was great recognition that we have put in a lot of hard work to get where we are today.
Radio is such a big, powerful thing here and people get so fixated on trying to get their music on the radio that they then forget what it is that makes music great. If you aren’t careful you tend to end up with this homogenised bullshit that all sounds the same. Our job is to go out there and play music for people that are hungry for something else and there are a lot of them. A lot of people are like, ‘Oh, I hate Country music,’ and you know what? There are a lot of Country music fans that aren’t even a fan of it right now either, so John and I have been like, you know what, this is going to be harder and we’d love to have a record full of big radio hits, but we’re not going to be something we’re not. We want to play music for the people who just come out because they like the band and it’s great that the CMA’s recognise that.
Do you detect a sea change in Country back towards earthier tones?
I would say there’s a move back towards more authentic music that’s coming from people’s hearts. We play music that I would wanna listen to and I think sometimes, if you are not careful, some artists get caught in a vicious cycle of putting out hit songs that they don’t even like and wouldn’t listen to through choice!
Speaking of new music, UK fans got to hear new song, ‘Shoot Me Straight’ recently. It has a really long guitar outro-jam like ‘Stay a Little Longer’. Will that make the finished cut?
We did a radio edit for ‘Stay A Little Longer’ and we’ve done one for ‘Shoot Me Straight’ too. We were nominated for a Grammy for ‘Stay…..’ and I think it had a lot to do with the bravery we showed by ending the song in such an elongated way. Our label has been really supportive of us going down these ‘guitar hero’ roads!! We’re a duo who want people to see that John isn’t just a guitar player so that we can call ourselves a duo, he plays guitar better than I can sing! Why wouldn’t he get as much time on the song as I do as the singer? John has the ability to play guitar like a singer performs and he’s not like, ‘Here, let me do this flashy, in-your-face type of solo’, they are integral to the melody and feel of the song. He’s a legitimate guitar player and there are a lot of great guitar players around the world in all the different genres but there aren’t a lot in Country that can keep your attention during a six minute guitar solo. The original version of ‘Shoot Me Straight’ came in at around 6 minutes long so we are excited to get that out soon although they’ll be a radio edit too.
I think that some of the things that we are going to put out there on this new record, people will be a little, at first on first listen, ‘Oh, what the hell was that?!’ but then they’ll play it a few more times and they’ll be like, ‘Holy Shit! That’s great!”
We’ve got faith in our listeners that they are going to see how we’ve grown and developed and come along for the ride with us.
So, when can we expect to see the new album in the shops?
You know, there is not an exact release date yet. We’re hoping to have it out by the time we return to the UK next May. To give you an exact time would be a little pre-mature. It’s done, it’s finished now, but any artist will tell you that nothing is really finished until it’s released! We’re trying really hard, now, to leave it alone, so that we don’t go down that line of destroying something that’s great.
Going back to your beginnings – Your Dad was a plumber and your Mum, a hairdresser – so where did the musical talent come from?
Both of our parents wrote songs and played instruments. We were around music all the time and we didn’t realise until we grew up that this was something kinda unusual.
Can you remember a time when you and John looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s form a band,’ or have you always just played together?
Thats a good question. We were in a band earlier in our lives with our dad called ‘A Deuce and a Quarter’ and eventually John and I went our separate ways. We came to Nashville looking for different things. By the time I moved here John was already getting a name for himself as a guitar player and I didn’t want to be known as just, ‘John Osborne’s brother’. I wanted to make a name for myself so did a solo thing, but would have John play guitar with me when I played, as he’s one of the best guitar players in town, so it made sense really! People always commented that when the two of us played together there was something special going on. We weren’t aware of anything as it was something that we had done all our lives! Right around that time things were winding down with my brother’s band, that co-incidentally Charlie Worsham was also in, and we decided to form Brothers Osborne and within a year we were signed!
Everyone says Nashville is a ten-year town. John and I were probably in Nashville for ten years before we got signed, John maybe even a little longer. People think we’ve had success so quickly, but I moved to Nashville 15 years ago. I had to do all sorts of shitty jobs to get by so when people say we’ve had a lot of success so quickly it’s not necessarily true!
A silly question to wind things up if you don’t mind? In light of your English sister-in-law (John Osborne is married to UK singer Lucie Silvas) : Are there any phrases, foods or traditions that Lucie has introduced to your family?
Marmite – or whatever that is – I won’t even try it. I looked at that and said, ‘That looks f***ing gross!!” We’ve picked up a lot of English slang words, Lucie uses ‘bits’ all the time and also tea and toast in the morning – that’s one that our family have adopted. My parents are both morning tea drinkers and now we do toast, too, in the morning!