TJ and John Osborne weren’t ready for it.

The rock-leaning, hard-playing Brothers Osborne, a massive live favorite, had recorded their October 2020 EMI Nashville release, Skeletons, expressly to be played live for fans, but COVID-19 had upended those plans. The 2016 and 2017 ACM Duo of the Year had put their hearts and souls into a project that hadn’t had the opportunity to connect the way they’d intended it to—on the road.

Their 2018 album, Port Saint Joe, received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year but went unrecognized at the country-music awards shows. That slight, coupled with the lack of live exposure for Skeletons, made a 2021 ACM Album of the Year nod for deep-voiced singer TJ and blazing guitarist John seem out of the question.

What concerned the Maryland-born and -bred pair of music-forward pickers—maybe country’s closest thing to a jam band, and certainly the sharpest-dressed men since ZZ Top—was that they’d slip from Duo of the Year contention; they’d been nominated (or won) in the category every year since 2014.

John: TJ and I were hosting the announcements of the ACM nominations with Kelsea Ballerini. She’d gotten through four out of the five nominations in the Duo of the Year category, and we weren’t one of them. We never want to be presumptuous, so we thought, “Well, this might be the first year… ” I have to admit that when our name hadn’t been said even though we were standing there, I was kind of afraid we’d end up looking like fools on national television.

TJ: Even when they did say our name, we weren’t thinking about Album of the Year. When Port Saint Joe wasn’t nominated for Album, we figured that category wasn’t in the cards for us. Then we were so focused on making Skeletons—for the fans, to play it for them—that we weren’t thinking about awards at all. But when we realized we wouldn’t be able to play those songs on tour…

John: The road is our report card. We only know if our music is worth its weight by how the fans respond to it live. Since we didn’t have a chance to play it for them, we were pretty much to the point of, “Okay, this record’s done; on to the next one.”

And when you heard Skeletons announced for Album?
John: I jumped off the couch screaming cuss words like a kid who’d just learned to swear—all I could say was, “SHIT! SHIT! SHIT!” That was it, over and over.

TJ: I was shocked, then elated. Just…what a rush. And now that we’re nominated, I really wanna win. We’re not the campaigning types, but now I’m like, “Let’s get out there!” I unabashedly do want to win this.

You have to know this means the world to us. Especially after we were so banged around last year. John had tinnitus so bad we had to cancel our dates in the beginning of the year and postpone going into the studio. We finally started recording, and a tornado hits East Nashville, taking out [producer] Jay Joyce’s studio. So we had to find another studio. Just as we settle in there and really get going, COVID hits.

John: So after all that, this is really affirming. We are so grateful to Country radio for the support. But even “All Night,” which is what they’re playing, doesn’t fully represent Skeletons. You have to see us live to really get it.

TJ: We’ve built our career on touring, on the back of live shows, taking it to the fans. So it’s like this record hasn’t really happened yet.

Yet here we are. And, of course, you’ve been in the news. TJ, I suspect you’re tired of talking about it, but I can only imagine you were worried about coming out. Has it felt like a burden?
TJ: I’m still processing it. And I really wasn’t prepared for it, but I’ve had so many people reach out to me, LGBTQ and straight, which has made me think it may be the most important thing I’ve ever done. If my coming forward means even one little 15-year-old TJ doesn’t end his life, that’ll make all this worth it. I do feel an obligation in that sense, but it’s not a burden. More of an opportunity. I’m incredibly honored to do this.

John, were you concerned about your brother having to face all this attention?
John: TJ is tough, and he’s a scrapper. But I don’t care how tough you are, the scrutiny is so intense. And if you talk shit on Twitter, I will own you! TJ has never had any trouble sticking up for himself, but that’s my brother.

TJ: You do think how it would affect our employees, our families, even our fans. You’re protective. But until I came out, I didn’t realize how much it needs to be talked about. Because it does. If I had understood how much it would mean to people, I’d have done it a long time ago. And quite frankly, I know our fans; they’re just there to rock. I think they’re gonna be, “Hell, yeah! Right on!” Because so far, I’ve had so much support from everybody. 

Two heads are better than one. (6/18a)
Bugs is dancing in the street. (6/18a)
Pull up the Brinks truck. (6/18a)
Looks like we have a horse race. (6/17a)
Myriad lawyers, no waiting. (6/18a)
The musical tapestry we know as R&B.
Predicting the next big catalog deal.
Once we all get vaccinated, how long before we can party?
How is globalization bringing far-flung territories into the musical mainstream?

 First Name

 Last Name


Captcha: (type the characters above)