Interview: TJ of Brothers Osborne talks new album ‘Skeletons’ and releasing it during a pandemic, the brothers love for the UK and more

 Photo courtesy of Spinefarm Records

One of the most entertaining and energetic live acts across all genres, the Maryland native sibling duo of T.J. and John Osborne have had a rapid rise in Nashville since their 2016 debut album “Pawn Shop” who now return with their third full length offering “Skeletons” which was released last Friday (October 9th)

Ahead of it’s release, I got to spend some time chatting to T.J. to hear all about the process of getting this record out during a global pandemic and how the duo have not only found their own sound but through this third offering have well and truly refined it to perfection.

We all know the world of 2020 is proving to be very different and especially for people in the music industry, so how has this time felt for the duo?

I’m doing pretty good all things considered, it’s been nice to have some time off but I’m ready to get back out on the road. Also it’s nice to be in this time and releasing some new music, it’s given us something to focus on and it feels like our careers are back to normal for just a couple of weeks whilst we are putting new music out there but at the same time I just want to go out there and perform this record to our fans.

Given the effect of the pandemic and the inability to tour new material, have the circumstances affected the timing affected the release and why releasing in October came about to be the right time to drop the record:

The plan originally was to release it earlier in the year, then we had several hiccups recording the record. We had a tornado come through Nashville that almost levelled the studio we were recording in and we lost power in that area for weeks because the tornado was so bad, so we had to switch studios. Then we came back, I get salmonella poisoning which was really awful and then we get right to the end of almost finishing the record before going right into quarantine. The record just sat on the shelf for months needing just a few small things done so it delayed the record quite a bit which I thought was pretty fitting that it would make the release of our album “Skeletons” in the month of October of Halloween. However, there’s a lot of people that are waiting so John and I were like let’s not wait, let’s move forward. One thing that we will lose in doing that is we probably won’t get the number one record of the week with how we’re going to do this, but we don’t really care and I don’t think our fans care either, they just want new music! Especially now with all this time where people are cooped up in their houses and people are wanting new material and new entertainment, we thought in some ways this was the perfect time to release the record.

Then following on from that, whether the time off the road made them look into the structure of the record and if there were newly written songs that came into contention for the project:

We had all the songs picked out, we had the record virtually complete. We’ve written some songs since then that I really like, we’re already starting to stockpile songs now for our next record as you have got to try to get ahead of that as it takes a long time to get the right songs together to make a complete album. I think you can really focus on making singles then getting four or five songs that fill in the rest of the record with whatever, but we want to have a complete body of work where the songs make sense with one another. That was pretty much done and we thought we did a pretty good job with “Skeletons” and that record as it was, was pretty much finished other than to tweak some stuff with mixes and I needed to cut another vocal because I got sick at the end of the record and that was pretty much it.

“Skeletons” like the duo’s 2 previous releases saw Jay Joyce return to the producers chair for the record. His work has brought him to be one of the highest regarded creative minds in Nashville that has this uncanny ability to stamp an air of pure magic on everything he touches, but what exactly is it that makes him so great to work with and how does he make these things happen?

Well Jay Joyce is a talented musician with a long history of being on lots of records as guitar player and he’s just really smart, he knows music inside out! He’s like an encyclopaedia but at the same time he really goes by his ear more than he knows theory. I think he more listens to music, even though he is very smart, his instincts on music are just very similar to what your everyday listener or music fan would be. I think he just had a tough ass life where he had to fight his way to the top and he is there, still having the fight in him and he just gets really bored with typical, average things so I think he’s just always trying to find new ways to be entertaining and not be predictable.

I then talked with T.J. about how the duo had developed and found their sound through the first two records which they have not looked to change with “Skeletons” but now have it truly refined and perfected:

Really after years and years performing to fans it really taught us a lot about ourselves and it’s hard to really know what it is that are the best qualities in music or even in yourself. Sometimes it takes how I perceive myself and how other people perceive me are hopefully pretty close but they’re not going to be the same. We wanted to make an album that was really driven by the fans ultimately and I think between “Pawn Shop” and then “Port Saint Joe” we were close to being on our way and doing eventually what we would do but I think with “Skeletons” we have really hit our stride with who we are and what we do, what we do well so it is nice to get that music out there because ultimately we wanted it to be a record that would work well live.

The duo have been regular visitors to this side of the Atlantic, but what is it about the audiences over here that keeps bringing the duo back?

I think people there really don’t necessarily care that the song is on the radio, they just want to hear music that they like and they don’t care what you call it. There was for a long time over there, we heard: “Don’t say the C word!” referring to country and I don’t give a shit,, you either like it or you don’t and I’m not going to be somebody else. What we’ve found is that people don’t really truly care what you call it, they just like it or they don’t. The fans over there, we’ve seen that they will not only listen to the big hits but they will listen to the entirety of you body of work so we can play some songs over there that maybe we don’t really play much here in the States because people here are more geared towards the singles and the crowds over there get rowdy when you want them to get rowdy, then they get quiet when you want them to get quiet.

During their trip last year, the duo played one of the largest festivals the UK has on offer but Download is an out and out rock festival tailored towards much heavier sounds than the typical country market in either side of the pond, so how did that experience feel compared to other shows that they have played?

We’ve had a lot of success over there on rock radio and we do have kind of a lot of rock in our music. It’s the same type of thing, I went there, and I even said on stage that I’m not going to give the false impression that we don’t play country music because we do like to rock but we also like to play country. We played one of the most country songs that we have which is “Weed, Whiskey And Willie” and the last thing I wanted to do was fool anyone into liking us and then find that’s it’s not their cup of tea. I went up there as said this is what we do and honestly, they loved it. Rock and roll for most people, I think for most people is hardly even about the music, it’s about the mindset, it’s about the way you present what you have with a certain confidence We are confident with what we do and I think we found that a lot of people just respect that and love that. At Download, I thought we had a very successful set there. My expectations were low because I knew we weren’t going to pretend to have this crazy super, super heavy rock as it’s not what we do but we went out there, did our thing and people loved it. We had a huge crowd and that place was so much fun. That’s the other thing getting over there that’s really weird to think about is some of the songs that are really big here aren’t really that big over there and we have to think about that every time we go and tour. We’ve even had a conversation about when we go back over, what would happen if we didn’t play “Stay a Little Longer” which is one of our biggest songs here and has been successful for us there but would people be pissed or not care or would they rather hear some of the newer stuff or what?

With regard to the different exposures to their music in the UK, do they feel they have more freedom in their set lists and because of that is the UK an ideal place to gauge the reaction towards new music?

That’s one thing that’s really hard right now is we are not able to go out and see what our fans are responding to or not. Over here it’s much more single driven, what you get a lot here is people play their hit songs and then they’ll do cover songs! John and I are like what’s the point in doing that? That’s why we have been over to the U.K. a lot and we love that, even before people really knew who we were, we never really played cover songs. It’s good to throw them in there occasionally, if you do that it’s nice to maybe be playing a certain town and throw in a cover that’s kind of a local thing or do something that makes sense or do something in your own way but you don’t want to feel you are turning into like a bar band when you are supposed to be the leader of the pack rather than doing what everyone else is doing!

The new album “Skeletons” from Brothers Osborne is out now and available HERE. T.J. and John will return to the United Kingdom in May 2021 for dates in London, Cambridge, Leeds, Manchester and Edinburgh with full details on their WEBSITE whilst in the meantime you can keep up to date with them socially on FACEBOOK TWITTER & INSTAGRAM

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