Obviously, they wanted to show they belong at country music’s elite level. But more importantly, John and TJ Osborne wanted everyone to know that their home state of Maryland is, in fact, full of country folks.
“We wanted to get rid of the stigma that Maryland is not a country place,” says John through his bushy red beard. “We get asked all the time how we got into country music being from Maryland. It’s probably the most asked question next to ’Are you really brothers?'”
Brothers Osborne really are brothers (even though they don’t look alike) who grew up in Deale, Maryland, a small fishing community on the Chesapeake Bay. John plays lead guitar, TJ and his bottomless voice handle singing duties, and both are prolific songwriters.
A self-titled EP will be released Tuesday (Sept. 9) anchored by “Rum,” plus four new songs. Following that, they’ll hit the road as an opening act on Eric Church’s Outsiders World Tour.
CMT: What was it like to grow up in Deale?
TJ: It’s right on the Chesapeake Bay. One thing that’s interesting about that area, as opposed to most other places that are country, is that while other people would have tractors and farmland, this town has fishing boats and the bay. These people get up early and they go out there all day long basically farming the bay, and we call them watermen. So we grew up with that. It’s a very blue-collar, hard-working community.
We grew up in a really musical family. Our parents played music and wrote songs, and our uncle and cousins played music. When we were really young, it was like second nature. … Naturally, John and I wanted to participate and play with the family because it was fun. And that was where we cut our teeth. We just wanted to sit in with our dad and our cousins and play songs.
Were there special occasions when people would come to your house and jam?
TJ: All the time. Our dad would throw parties for anything. We would have hurricane parties, blizzard parties, we would have remodeling-the-house parties. …
John: So we would always break out the instruments. We were the token party band. Whenever there was a hang at our house — without fail — me, TJ and our dad would be playing guitars, and everyone would be singing songs.
Did you realize then how cool that was?
TJ: It just seemed normal. It wasn’t probably until middle school that people would comment like, “Hey, your family plays music, right?” and I would be like, “Yeah … so?” We started realizing then that we were one of the very few families that did that.
Why did you want to shoot the video for “Rum” in your hometown?
John: We wanted to show people not only what “Rum” is about, which is finding paradise no matter where you are, but also how country it actually is where we come from and represent Maryland properly in the country music world. We grew up listening to country music and old rock. We all were raised driving trucks and having parties and drinking beer. All the songs that you hear on the radio right now explain our hometown. Deale is about an hour outside Baltimore and D.C., so it’s quite rural.
I have the same problem because I’m from upstate New York.
TJ: We’re from like the same thing. When you say New York, everyone immediately thinks of New York City, when like 95 percent of the state is country.
And even more so with Maryland, because it’s almost a state that nobody …
TJ: Knows anything about! (laughs) It’s all crabs!
What did you like best about the video?
TJ: I think how honest it is. Every single person in the video is real. They are our friends and family. Not a single person was hired as an extra.
John: The typical way to approach a video like “Rum” would be to go to a beach, hire a bunch of chicks in bikinis and dudes with six-pack abs and that stuff, and we wanted to do the opposite. That’s what “Rum” was about: reality. It’s not about escaping reality. It’s about loving where you are, and Deale is where we were our whole lives.
What’s the relationship like between you guys? Do you have a sibling rivalry?
John: No, I think luckily he was born with an ability to sing, and that’s his thing, and mine is to play guitar. So there’s never any moment that one feels like they need to be the star. We immediately found our place.
It’s gotta be a little more special that you get to do this with family, though.
John: It is. The cool thing about it is, a lot of times we can have a conversation in two words, whereas with most people you would really have to explain what you were thinking.
TJ: And we can be brutally honest and just cut through the bullshit. With other people you have to be careful not to ruffle any feathers. We’ll be like “Dude, you’re f***ing that up. Why do you keep doing that?” And we get it over with and we get to move on, so it keeps it very efficient.