T.J. Osborne was in his Nashville home when he called to talk about the tour that he and his brother John were about to begin, which includes a stop April 2 at the Fox Theater. He’d only recently learned that the Brothers Osborne had been nominated for two Grammys (best country album and best country duo/group performance).
That confluence of awards received and recognition had Osborne in a reflective mood, looking back to when the duo released its first album, just over five years ago.
“It’s always a good morning when you wake up to those,” Osborne said. “You dream of stuff like that happening. When it happens, it seems like your wildest dreams — that is it a dream and didn’t really happen.”
The Brothers Osborne got their first Country Music Association nomination, for vocal duo of the year, in 2015. They lost out to Florida Georgia Line that year. But the Maryland born-and-raised brothers took the award in 2016, 2017 and last November.
“The recognition by your peers is the validation,” he said. “The biggest change, though, is those shows are broadcast to millions of people. It was big in this sense, we’d already had some good fans, but we’ve seen a lot of fans that came after the awards. You win one of the awards and it’s ‘I want to hear why they won’ and they check out the music and the shows.”
That, in part, is why the Brothers Osborne are embarking on a lengthy tour in which they’ll be headlining the shows rather than supporting a more established act. But that’s not the only reason the duo, which is touring behind its second album, “Port Saint Joe,” has moved up a rung on the country ladder.
“I think it’s a combination of a lot of things,” Osborne said. “There are a lot of fans that are ready for some real music, regardless of genre. Our music is country. But we focus on playing real music, however it comes out. There’s some authenticity there that comes out and people want to hear that.”
Singer T.J., and guitarist John Osborne have been playing together since they were teenagers, first in a cover band called Deuce and a Quarter, then as the Brothers Osborne. Unlike many sibling combos — from The Everly Brothers and The Kinks onward — the Osbornes haven’t had major battles. In fact, the reverse is largely true.
“I love it,” T.J. said. “John and I have always gotten along really well, for the most part we get along extremely well. We’re very different in many ways, which I believe helps out our music. The fact that we’ve had the success we’ve had together makes it even more special. My brother gets to experience everything special that I do. It’s awesome.”
The Brothers Osborne are different from the norm in mainstream country music, in another way. They’ve been politically and socially outspoken, performing for a Democratic candidate for governor in Tennessee and taking on issues like gay marriage in, among other places, their videos.
“We speak out sometimes,” Osborne said. “It’s tough because ultimately a lot of people listen to music to forget about the weight of the world. But, if you don’t say something, you feel a little bit like a sellout. It’s ruffled some feathers, no doubt. But it’s really not a Democrat or Republican thing. It’s always one of those instances when John and I see something that you feel like it can’t happen, it shouldn’t happen, that people don’t have a voice and you say something. That’s how we were raised when we were little. When we see someone who’s without a voice and gets (expletive) all the time, we speak up.”
You won’t hear a lot of opinions from the Osbornes when they’re on stage. What you will hear is their rocking brand of country that, with the newest songs, will feel like they’re lifted directly from the album they recorded in a Florida house that became a makeshift studio.
“That’s why we named the album ‘Port Saint Joe,’” Osborne said of the album. “It was recorded in a beach house that had never been used for recording ever. We all sat around the room playing. It’s really live. I think you can hear it. We left all the mistakes in there, the little bobbles, everything.
"We’ve had all these people tell us that we’re better live. We’ve been trying to capture that. With this I think we came as close as we can to making a studio album live. To get the Grammy nomination for the album put a wind in our sales.”