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Q&A: Brothers Osborne

The rootsy sibling duo Brothers Osborne are building success avoiding trendy sell-our-soul songs, instead focusing on a range of styles from southern rock to country and a side of blues.

Donna Leahey
December 29, 2017

The Brothers Osborne are riding high on success with their third Grammy nomination for “It Ain’t My Fault,” five successful singles, certified gold album Pawn Shop, and shiny new ACM and CMA awards. From the small Atlantic fishing town of Deale, Maryland, brothers John and T.J. are bringing their own brand of country to Tulsa this month.

T.J. is the voice, with a smooth, evocative baritone, and his older brother John’s guitar-shredding fingers lay down bluegrass, rock, and some fine country twang to back him up.

Q: How do you grow up in Maryland and get into country music?

JO (John Osborne): We get asked that a lot. I can see why people would think that country music is only allowed south of the Mason-Dixon Line, but country music is everywhere. It’s worldwide. Where we grew up is a rural town. It’s a hard-working-blue-collar-red-neck town on the Chesapeake Bay. Instead of farmland, what we had was water, but it’s kind of the same mentality. We were raised on country music and old rock ‘n’ roll music.

Q: Is it hard coping with so much success so fast?

JO: Success is only as hard as you make it. You know, we’re touring a lot and we’re very busy because of our success, and it’s what we signed up for. Sometimes the constant movement and lack of sleep can catch up with you. But you have to surround yourself with people who keep you grounded. And we do.

Q: How does your collaboration work?

JO: Every songwriting session is a different experience. When you’re writing songs, it’s not something you should really try to do. Music isn’t something you should try to do. It should come naturally; it shouldn’t be over-thought. When we sit in a room, we don’t really know what’s going to happen. Sometimes I’ll have a title or T.J. will have a guitar riff, and we’ll go from there. It’s a different experience every day. You shouldn’t really force it; you should let the song writeitself.

Q: Is it hard working with a brother so much?

JO: There have certainly been some heated arguments. We’ve been arguing since we were 2 years old. An argument with a family member is a different type of thing. It’s better because you can be honest and it’s a very efficient thing. Most of the time, we can do things without even saying a word. Sometimes when you want to articulate a thought or opinion to someone else, it could take you an hour. With T.J. and me, it could take literally one word and it’s done. You share a collective consciousness with your family, especially with your siblings and you share that proximity with someone for so long and you create a symbiotic relationship and we certainly have that. We can get a good argument over in about two minutes and then the next thing we’re drinking beer and talking about something.

Q: Who did you listen to growing up?

JO: We listened to a lot of music growing up. We didn’t really consider a genre until we knew there were genres. Our dad listened to everything from Merle Haggard to Lynyrd Skynyrd to Squeeze, George Jones, Willie Nelson and Mariah Carey. He just loves good songs. So, we were subjected to a lot of great music growing up, regardless of the genre.

But I would say our biggest influences would be country music — lot of ‘90s country because that was huge for us, and it was such a big era for country music. Like George Strait and Alan Jackson. A huge influence was Hank Williams. In fact, I was listening to some of his music last night, and it’s still some of the best music that has ever beenrecorded.

On the other side of the spectrum, I listen to a lot of blues, a lot of Eric Clapton, a lot of  The Allman Brothers Band, Stevie Ray Vaughn , and bands like that.

Q: Your music is full of emotion. Is it draining to put yourself out there so much?

JO: It is. The songwriting process is the most draining. When you’re performing, you’re in the zone. But the songwriting process is more draining because you’re trying to really dig deep into yourself to find those lyrics that explain the complexity of human emotion. I find that to be far more draining than anything because it’s like trying to build a house with nothing but thin air, trying to create a structure with something that doesn’t exist. Performing is just fun. It’s a blast.

Brothers Osborne
Paradise Cove | River Spirit Casino Resort
8330 Riverside Pkwy. | Tulsa
Dec. 27: 8 p.m.
Must be 21 or older to attend