Country music hitmaker T.J. Osborne came out of the closet in early February of last year. Since becoming the first openly-gay country artist signed to a major label, Osborne has used his platform to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and to express himself.
The Grammy Award-winner recently caught up with Proud Radio with Hunter Kelly on Apple Music Country to detail how his sexuality has played a vital role in his artistry.
If fans pay close attention to the songs within his impressive repertoire, they will notice that Brothers Osborne uses "gender-neutral" lyrics. The decision to change their songwriting approach came after the release of "Rum," which lives on their 2014 self-titled collection.
"In that song, it doesn't really reference necessarily a relationship, but it says, 'Sitting with the finest example of a beautiful girl,'" he explained. "And I liked the way that line is. I just liked the way it sounds, but I knew from then I was like, 'I don't ever want to say girl again in a song.'"
Osborne continued to explain that writing the lyric in "Rum" did not feel right, and now he avoids writing or recording songs with the word "girl" in it.
"I just knew that it hit the gut in a weird way," he said about the writing process. "Now, if you notice, from there, every other song we had was gender-neutral. We didn't have anything specific about that," he added.
The "Younger Me" star said that members of the LGBTQ+ community picked up on his storytelling tactic and thanked him for creating music that they could resonate with. Osborne knew he would eventually come out, so he always considered his own sexual preferences as well.
"Over the years, there's people who would contact us. Gay couples that would get married and actually be like, 'Man, it's awesome. We like country music, but we can't play any songs at our wedding because they all reference a girl or they reference particularly that.' So that also was another part of our strategy — eventually, I'm going to come out, and I don't want like 10 songs that say, 'Girl' because that's going to seem really strange," he said while laughing.
Osborne told the outlet that he struggled with his identity growing up, and how societal standards would make him question himself.
"For a long time I was like, I don't know that I am [gay] because once again, [in] my mind what it was to be gay was you had to look a certain way or sound a certain way and I didn't," he pointed out. "So I'm like, maybe I'm not."
The chart-topping musician has now fully embraced his true authentic self and served as the Grand Marshal at the 2022 Nashville Pride Festival alongside his boyfriend, Abi Ventura. Following the colorful day, Osborne took to social media (June 26) to share his pride and photos.
"Was an honor to be the Grand Marshall at this years @nashvillepridefestival. Thanks to all my friends who came out and supported me," he wrote under a string of snapshots featuring partner Ventura and Leslie Jordan.
Notable names within the industry rushed to the comments to praise Osborne for his bravery.
"So damn awesome my man," voiced Travis Denning. "Yeah dude!" said Dierks Bentley. "Congratulations on the honor TJ. I'm so proud of you for having the courage to live your truth this past year. As a former "straight" man, I understand the courage it takes to come out. Also, thanks for writing the song 'Younger Me,' it will have an impact on teenagers around the world for decades to come," a fan added.
This is not the first time Osborne has been seen hand-in-hand with his boyfriend. The two shared a special moment at the 2021 CMA Awards in November after the country music group scored vocal duo of the year.
Osborne told Apple Music Country, that he did not expect people to bring up his celebratory kiss with Ventura.
"It wasn't until I went backstage, everyone was like, 'Oh man, everyone's talking about that.' I'm like, 'Talking about what?' And they were like, 'The kiss.' I'm like, 'What kiss are you…' I was like, so confused," he said. "I'm like, 'What kiss?' Like, 'You kissed Abi before you went on stage.' I still was like, 'Well, what's the big deal?' I mean, we're talking about this, but then I didn't necessarily… After processing it, I was like, 'Well, I guess…'"
The chart-topping artist said that he didn't understand the weight of the televised kiss at first, but recognized that it was a sign of progress within the country music space.
"I didn't realize at the time how important that was for a lot of people. Because I have heard a lot of people bring that up, and it's wonderful that they got to feel that and see that happen, I suppose," he concluded.
To listen to the full episode, click here.