In Conversation with Brothers Osborne
I was lucky enough to catch up with TJ & John of CMA award winning duo, Brothers Osborne on their recent tour supporting The Cadillac Three, backstage before they played the O2 Academy in Birmingham. Humble, gracious and honest, we chatted about modern country music, winning their CMA Awards, playing C2C, song writing, Lucie Silvas & Charlie Worsham.
TC: Congratulations on…oh so many things!!
John & TJ: Thank you!
TC: Firstly, your UK tour – I have so many friends who have been to see you recently and hear you have been ripping the roofs off the venues – especially London?
John: Oh really? Well, I mean, they helped in London – they went crazy…
TJ: The crowd was great, we definitely woke up really hungover the next day so I think it was a success!
John: Definitely, you know we can only do half the work, a lot of audiences don’t understand that – the other half has to come from them – they rose the roof in that place and we just followed. We had a blast.
TC: Secondly, congratulations on your CMA award for Vocal Duo of the Year…again! How does it feel to have won two years in a row?
TJ: Thank you – It feels good! It’s a huge deal winning any of those awards and we were pleasantly surprised the first time we won our first CMA, being that we were underdogs in the category. To go and do it a second year, it wasn’t as shocking but it was still shocking none the less, you know? You never know what to expect and so we were thrilled and very grateful for our win.
TC: And you are also part of that elite CMA royalty now…how does that feel?
John: Yes it is! It feels amazing you know? Especially considering as we spent so much time in relative obscurity and then, it’s been years, we’ve been in Nashville for a long time and it was the moment that we felt genuinely accepted by our peers and the country music community. I would say the greatest feeling above all is that feeling of support and love that we’ve got from our friends and our adopted family now that are all members of the country music community. That’s more than a word, the feeling of camaraderie you get from those people is…it transcends the words.
TC: I can’t believe that Pawn Shop is your first album, it feels like you’ve been around for years and should have quite a few albums to your name. Tell me what you you’ve been doing in the run up to this album. Have you been making music together, like…forever?!
TJ: We grew up playing music, our parents wrote songs and played music and we were always just kind of around it. In fact, when we moved to Nashville we kind of went our separate ways. John was in a band and I was doing a solo project, we’d played music together so much it wasn’t really obvious to us to continue to do so, and then people kept mentioning to us that there was this great energy between the two of us on stage that we never really noticed because we had played music together our whole lives, it didn’t seem like anything unique cause we didn’t know anything else. So, once we decided, man let’s do a duo and try this and within a year we were signed and putting out a single shortly thereafter, and it took off pretty quick after that but it’s been a long road to get there. We’ve had a slow rise but a steady one nonetheless and I feel that in the meantime we’ve been able to culminate some really great fans and some long-lasting relationships that’ll take us beyond just a flash in the pan.
TC: You can safely say you’re definitely not a flash in the pan! You have such an eclectic mix of styles – blues, rock, country…
John: Oh good!
TC: Where do you feel you fit in…
John: Do you mean in the spectrum of what country music is?
TC: Yes! We love to label genres, what one person thinks is country, another thinks is country rock. Where do you feel your music falls?
John: I just tell people its country – it’s such a broad genre these days and…(the door opens and The Cadillac Three appear laughing before disappearing down the hall)…oh, we just walked in on their interview 10 minutes ago so they’re getting their own back ha-ha!
TJ: You know, country for the longest, has always been such a narrow lane, it’s been a very specific sound and now it’s become one of the most diverse genres, in the world really, and I think that’s great, not only for the genre but it’s just good for music that we can cross a lot of lines. Really the worst thing for art and creativity is to try and put something in a box and so when you can really just make music how you want to make it and you have a wide lane to put it in and get it to the people I think most people want to listen to a wide array of music. You know when you’re eating dinner you don’t want to eat just carrots or just chicken, you want a whole spread, a lot of different flavours…
TC: I love that, a brilliant way of describing music! (lots of laughs from the brothers). So, country music in the UK has been on a slow burn for the past few years and has recently the scene has just exploded…
TJ: Well it seems to me and maybe you can answer this but I kind of get the feeling that for the longest time people, they don’t know what country is? They still think that it is this really cheesy, hokey thing and they don’t realise that there is a lot of other great artists out there?
TC: Well we’ve got two general kinds of country fans in the UK. We’ve got the country & western loving, Dolly & Kenny, Loretta & Willie, authentic, ‘grew up with their grandparents playing classic country’ fans and then we’ve got the people that have visited USA on holiday, jumped in their hire car, switched on the radio and BOOM! Jason Aldean ‘My Kinda Party’ blares out (John, chips in ‘yes, its rock music now’) – this is modern country and creates the new country fan. A lot of people are like, wow, we LOVE country music and we never thought we’d ever like it!
John: There’s a stigma that’s lasted a long time of Country & Western. People still these days go ‘Oh, you play Country & Western?’. I don’t know how that terminology is still around because it’s not that! However, we love the hell out of Willie Nelson, Dolly & Merle & Waylon. We go all the way back to like, Western Swing and that kind of stella music, we love it, but country music doesn’t sound like that anymore and it’s an amalgamation of a bunch of different genres kinda thrown together. It’s just country people that grew up loving country music, the lines of genres have just slowly disappeared over the last 20 to 30 years and people just like good music. Country music is a lot like country people, they’re like, well everyone’s welcome, come on let’s make something and I’m glad that we fit in that, you know? We fit somewhere in there. Don’t get me wrong, we love country music and I feel like it’s our duty and everyone’s duty to represent country in a way that it pays homage to the tradition and where it came from.
TJ: You know there are some weird stigmas with country and don’t get me wrong, there is some really bad country music, but there is also some really bad rock music and awful pop music and every genre has some really bad versions of that type of music. For some reason country, and I don’t know if it’s because we are more of a humble type of people that we kinda go, oh shucks and make excuses, instead of saying, ‘fuck yeah, this is what we’re doing’ and a lot of times people would always say ‘well, I play country’ but then have some other additions or caveats in it, so now man, we just tell people man we play country music and we’re proud of it and we’re proud of the music we’ve made and are now getting some acclaim for doing that.
TC: It’s the stories as well though, the song writing that makes all the difference. There is so much music out there with lyrics that don’t mean anything.
John: You know most songs in country music begin with just an acoustic guitar and a melody. They start with a guitar, some chords and a melody and then it grows from there, you know by the time its sent for the channels of production a band gets hold of it, but the genesis of almost every song starts with just the song and I think that’s one of the things that country music should be the most proud of. We’re a community of performers and players and stuff like that, we’re also a community of songwriters and I feel like there’s more love for the songwriter in Nashville than I think there is anywhere else in the world.
TC: One of my favourite moments of the UK Country2Country Festival in March this year, was when you played, you really surprised a lot of people. How did you enjoy it and were you surprised by the audience reaction?
John: Oh, thank you and yes, we were extremely surprised!
TJ: We didn’t know what to expect at all and I mean, I had no idea to what degree the audience liked or didn’t like in country music, our version of who we are…
John: (laughing) Or us!
TJ: Yeah exactly, our flavour! and so we went out there and we were blown away by it, we really did not know what to expect and it exceeded our expectations by a very, very large margin – which is why we are back here again, we’re like, man we want to come back here and play!
TC: My favourite part of Country2Country is the CMA Songwriter’s Series on the Thursday night. You two really need to come over and play that for us…following on from Lori McKenna, Shane McAnally…
John: Oh, the best! Yes absolutely, and it’s so cool getting to hear the songwriter’s do their version of the song because that’s where it started. It started with that person in a room, typically with some other co-writers and they just sat down for a few hours and just hashed out a song and before you know it, it becomes a song that is not only big on the radio but important to millions of people.
TC: I discovered the magic of Brandy Clark at Songwriters a few years ago and then she just played a few miles from my hometown recently. We are so grateful to you all for coming over to our little island and playing for us.
John: Well hey, if you guys keep on coming…
TC: I’ve already bought my tickets for next May when you are back again…
John: Yeah, we’re coming back next May!
TJ: Well we feel like to some degree, kind of ambassadors for our genre and the fact that a lot of people just aren’t educated in really what it’s about, you know they know it at surface level but it’s just such a popular music, it’s really kinda specific regionally and we’re going to try to work our asses off and make it more of a global experience to where we can tour around and come over here and hopefully, take it to the point where we’re headlining arenas here – that’s the goal!
TC: Seeing what I’ve seen that won’t take long…
John: (laughing a lot!) I hope you’re right!
TC: So, last week I was in Birmingham seeing Lucie (John’s lovely & talented wife, Lucie Silvas) & Charlie Worsham. She was fabulous and Charlie…well we just love Charlie over here…
John: Thank you so much! And Charlie, he comes here a lot, right? He was here the other week?
TJ: Yeah, he’s talented…
TC: We nabbed Charlie after Lucie’s gig as he didn’t have time to fit a song in we wanted and he told us to come and find him. We ended up being serenaded outside the men’s toilets in the Institute…
John: Ha! That sounds like Charlie!
TC: Tell me about collaborating with Lucie – any duets on the horizon?
John: Well, we actually collaborate a lot together and we went on tour with each other – we had our own tour in America called the Dirt Rich Tour and she would get up and sing with us as well. She’s one of the best singers on the planet and she’s just recorded a record, she did a bunch of new songs on that record and I co-wrote one of those songs and played a lot of the guitar on her record. Her record before I co-produced a lot of that record so we just naturally collaborate with each other in general, we’re always around each other and sometimes we’re just sitting around having some drinks with the guitars in our hands and it just naturally happens. I wouldn’t say that a direct collaboration with Brothers Osborne featuring Lucie Silvas or the other way around but behind the scenes there’s tons of collaborations – we’re always doing things together. She’s incredible, her new record and material is insane, I love it.
TC: Is there anyone else that you’d like to work or collaborate with?
TJ: We get asked that a lot, it’s so hard and we’ve basically come to the conclusion that everyone you want to collaborate with has already died! (Lots of raucous laughing).
TC: Fair enough!!
John: Yes, that’s a really tough one, I mean if it could have been anyone for me personally, then I would have loved to have collaborated with the Allman Brothers or Greg Allman before he passed. That’s one of my favourite bands of all time. But you know, we got to collaborate with Lee Ann Womack on the Pawn Shop record and that was definitely way up on the list. We shot high on that one and it just happens that she is somehow a fan of us and then she agreed to do it, but most of the people we would have loved to collaborate with have, erm…passed away!
TC: You’ll have to wait a bit longer for those collaborations then!
John: Yes exactly!!
TC: I’ve got a fan question from a lady called Helen Askey who wanted me to ask you this question: there are restaurants and bars opening up in Nashville owned by country stars, for example FGL House. If you had a bar/restaurant what would you call it and what would be your signature drink?
John: (animated!!) Oh my god, that’s an incredible question that actually requires some genuine thought.
TJ: This’ll take a couple of weeks to actually get approved…
John: Hehehe, we’ll have to get a budget together….I don’t know, I’d definitely start with a drink, I’d say we’d have our own um, Old-Fashioned but our own version of it but I’m not sure what that is! We love whiskey and love Old-Fashioned cause it’s a classic drink and we’d have our own twist on that one, but if we want to go cheesy with it if it’d have to be a rum drink because of our song ‘Rum’ but that’s a little too on the nose! We’re more subtle that that believe it or not!! What would it be called?
TJ: Greener Pastures?
TC: Ooh, I like that! Will you be serving ‘things’ other than food?
TJ: Marijuana joints?
John: We’ll open up a bar in Amsterdam! Yes, I like that, we’ll call it Greener Pastures and our signature drink will be our own Old-Fashioned.
TC: One last question for you, what’s the one song you wished you’d written?
TJ: Oh man, that’s hard…
John: Mine is always ‘Night Moves’ by Bob Seger, one of the best written songs I’ve ever heard in my life, but also ‘Always on my Mind’ by Willie Nelson…
TJ: Oh, I was going to say that…that one tears me up every time.
Brothers Osborne will be back in the UK from 7th – 13th May 2018 headlining their own tour. Get your tickets now from all reputable ticket agents and if you haven’t downloaded or own a copy of Pawn Shop do it NOW! An absolute pleasure boys, until the next time….