Brothers Osborne’s TJ and John Osborne wouldn’t be 100 percent them if they didn’t speak their truth.
When it comes to the subjects they cover in their music and what their fans are going through around world, the listener can rely on the two Nashville, Tenn. transplants from Deale, Maryland to speak honestly. They believe they owe that to their fans.
“When fans invest in us they know they’re getting the real deal,” frontman TJ said over the phone during an interview to promote their next album, Port Saint Joe (available April 20). The album is available for pre-order on Friday (March 30).
“Luke Bryan is successful because he’s 100 percent himself. When you hang out backstage with Luke, he’s the guy you see onstage. He’s not trying to pretend to be someone else. When we go out and play a show, we try and think about what the crowd would want. We wouldn’t be here without them.”
But when it comes to their personal views on the current issues facing America today, they understand that some of their fans might not always agree with their personal political views. From where they perform onstage every night, they see thousands of fans trying escape from a world where every aspect of life seems to be politicized.
“People say, ‘Stay out of politics,’” TJ said, “I think that is a really terrible thing to say because we should all be involved in politics even if we disagree with each other. We should all be aware of what’s going on.”
John and TJ were among those in the country music community who were moved by the thousands of children and families participated in Saturday’s (March 24) March for Our Lives rallies around the world. They posted online, “Regardless of where you stand, the March today is a reminder that our country is great and has been great for a long time simply because we have the inalienable right to peacefully band together as citizens to make change.” Other country artists who supported the movement on Saturday were Little Big Town’s Phillip Sweet and Tim McGraw.
TJ also understands music’s power to bring people from different backgrounds together. They were among the artists who played at 2017’s sold-out Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas where on the final night, 58 people were killed in what became the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
But historically, country musicians typically have not shared their political issues because of the potential to alienate thousands of fans. The only time Brothers Osborne have inserted any politics in their art was in the satirical “It Ain’t My Fault” music video. The CMA award-winning clip depicted pawn shoplifters disguised as four American presidents.
“We try to have fun with it,” John said. “But there’s this misconception that country artists don’t want to tackle tough issues and just shut up and dance. That’s not true. By in large, country music has been very open and vocal. Look at Willie Nelson; he’s never shied away with the way he feels when it comes to certain topics. Look at Loretta Lynn singing ‘The Pill.’ That was a long time ago. When it came to women, you didn’t discuss those things; especially when it comes to country radio or country fans.
“It’s the artists that aren’t afraid to be honest that stick around and make an impact. It’s certainly our job in all genres to speak truth to power and to stick up for the people, even though you might lose fans. I think at the end of the day, it helps you sleep.”
Brothers Osborne do not get political on their next album, Port Saint Joe, which is named after the little fishing town in Florida where the album was recorded over two weeks with Grammy-winning producer Jay Joyce. The entire collection is a vacation with lines that encourage the listener to take it easy and live in the moment.
“There is one line that pops out that I think always makes me smile when I hear it,” TJ said, “and it’s in the first song, ‘Slow Your Roll,’ and it’s a big centerpiece of that song, where it says, ‘calm your country ass down.’
“Ultimately it’s our jobs as performers, singers and songwriters to provide an escape to a lot of people who want it,” TJ said. “They want to shut off from all the noise out there. They come for a release. That’s what I listen to music for and why I play music. It’s therapeutic for me. It’s one of the greatest things that we do is people come out and spend money to just get lost in the music, and that’s what we’re doing.”