T.J. Osborne was in his house in Nashville, Tenn., looking at a shelf covered with awards when he called in to talk about the tour that he and brother John were about to begin. He had only recently learned that the Brothers Osborne had received a Grammy nomination.
That confluence of awards received and recognition had T.J. in a reflective mood, looking back to when the country music duo released their first album, just over five years ago.
“It’s always a good morning when you wake up to those,” T.J. 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 received their first Country Music Association nomination, for vocal duo of the year, in 2015. The brothers lost out to Florida Georgia Line that year. But the brothers, who were born and raised in Maryland, won the award in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
The nomination for the song “It Ain’t My Fault” (from the duo’s 2016 album, “Pawn Shop”) is the brothers’ third Grammy nod in the best country/duo group performance. They’ve yet to win.
But T.J. said the nominations themselves are rewarding, and taken together, the CMA and Academy of Country Music recognition has accelerated their career.
“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, after a lengthy tour that included a mix of festival dates and headlining shows and now moves into a run of dates opening for country star Chris Stapleton, have stayed so busy on the road. But industry recognition is not the only reason the two, who are touring in support of their album, “Port Saint Joe,” as well as a newly released concert album, “Live at the Ryman,” have moved up a rung on the country ladder.
“I think it’s a combination of a lot of things,” T.J. 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 such issues as gay marriage in, among other places, their videos.
“We speak out sometimes,” T.J. 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 s--- all the time, we speak up.”
You won’t hear a lot of opinions from the Osbornes. 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,’ ” T.J. 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 sails.”