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The ‘Rum’ Diaries: Exclusive Photos of Brothers Osborne on Tour With Eric Church

T.J. Osborne talks bad lighting, good whiskey and touring with his guitarist brother John

Brothers Osborne

Brothers Osborne, siblings John (left) and T.J. Osborne, perform during Eric Church's Outsiders Tour.

Reid Long/Jason Stoltzfus

Currently on the road with Little Big Town, Brothers Osborne spent a chunk of the fall opening 11 shows for Eric Church on his Outsiders World Tour. "Church's audience is so intense," says singer T.J. Osborne, who with guitarist brother John make up the duo, best known for their debut single "Rum." 

Following the conclusion of their leg of the tour, the Maryland siblings shared a glimpse into life on country's wildest road trip. From backstage vibe rooms to onstage country-rock theatrics, this collection of photos captures Brothers Osborne on the cusp of fame. T.J. Osborne stopped by the Rolling Stone Country office to offer some commentary on the pictures, all of them from arena shows in Minneapolis and Des Moines, and a House of Blues after-show in Cleveland. 

(Photographs by Reid Long and Jason Stoltzfus.)

Brothers Osborne

An Audience of None

"I've always found that arenas and stadiums are more intimidating with no one in them. They look so huge when they're empty," says Osborne. "I like this picture because it's us onstage in a huge arena playing to no one."

Brothers Osborne

Roll Tape

"Our packs have our names on them so John and I don't end up cussing each other for grabbing the wrong one. I don't grab his and it's nothing but guitar [in my ear], and he doesn't grab mine and it's nothing but vocal," says Osborne of the guys' monitor system.

Brothers Osborne

Ear Buds

"That's John putting in his ear [monitors]. He's retrieving them from behind his back and it looks like an itch you can't reach," T.J. Osborne says.

Brothers Osborne

Assorted Gris-Gris

"We got the skulls and tapestries at a place in Springfield, Illinois, called Happy Daze. We bought a ton of stuff. It was a couple days before we were going to do the Church tour and we knew we had to step it up. The skulls are incense holders, so when you light them the smoke comes out of the holes," says Osborne.

Brothers Osborne

Mmm-Mmm, Good

"John and I are always the last to make it out to the stage," says Osborne. "On the back of the acoustic I'm carrying are three 'mmms' for [the humming in] 'Rum.' We did a show for [Country Radio Seminar] and we had it on the back of every person's guitar. I left them on mine and every once in a while, when the crowd is really into it, I'll flip the guitar and they go wild for some reason."

Brothers Osborne

The Spotlight Kid

"The view from this picture is very representative of what it's like onstage when a spotlight is on you. From the audience, it doesn't seem intense whatsoever, but from your perspective, you're like, 'Holy shit, this light is blasting me,'" says Osborne of this photo of brother John.

Brothers Osborne

Back in Black

"We don't want to be a beach band at all, but at the same time, there are things about it that are fun that you can't ignore," admits Osborne, who shied away from a sun-and-sand theme for the video to the duo's hit "Rum." "But beach balls are a good time — so we made them black. We put our logo on them, and people snatch them up really quickly. We throw them out during 'Rum,' but we'd always worry they'd be bouncing around when [the tour's other act] Dwight Yoakam was onstage and he'd lose it."

Brothers Osborne

Size Matters

Osborne laughs at the vehicle disparity between a rising duo like Brothers Osborne and a headliner of Church's stature. "The semi we're parked next to only has T-shirts on it! It's a merchandise truck," he says. "But that personifies how you become a road dog. We rented that Sprinter van for this tour and they're cool inside, with bunks. It's hard to buy anything, because you have to travel in so many different ways, so we rent."

Brothers Osborne

Tour Essentials

"Probably the largest case we have is for our dressing room vibe. This houses everything important: We have some Maker's, some Earl Grey tea, Maker's on ice, vibe candles, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles keychain and sunglasses," deadpans Osborne.

Brothers Osborne

Conquering Heroes

"Sometimes you get onstage and the audience isn't at full speed, so you have to really push it and try hard to get them into it. Then there are other moments where the crowd is so into it, you just get lost and have a really great time. That was the feeling in this picture," says Osborne.

Brothers Osborne

Double Duty

"For half of the shows we did with Church, we also played an after-show that night. It was intense for us, because we were in that van, drove through the night, stopped, got a little sleep, and then set up and played our show. Then we'd pack up, load up all our stuff and go to the next venue. Sometimes we were so tired, we were like, 'Oh god, why did we agree to do this?'" remembers Osborne. "But once we started playing, it was fun as hell. This was the last one, in Cleveland at the House of Blues, and it was peculiar because we're a band that's breaking and we don't know who is going to show up. They have curtains drawn and when they opened, there were all these people. They surprised me."

Brothers Osborne

Guitar Trance

"John really gets lost in his playing. He plays his best when he doesn't think about it and plays from the heart. That's what you see here," says Osborne.

Brothers Osborne

Awkward Moment

"It's great to get out there and talk to people after a show and see what they do and don't like," says Osborne. "This girl had a shirt with our BROS logo. The B and the R would be over a girl's breast, and they usually want you to sign the B and the R. We went to do that here, and she goes, 'Oh, no, I'm conservative! Can you please sign the O and the S?' She wasn't judgey, but it almost made her blush. I thought it was funny."

Brothers Osborne

Parting Shot

"This is the very last hurrah of the tour," says Osborne. "We did soundcheck and when we came back to our dressing room, [members of Church's tour] had put up eight more tapestries, along with candles and a bottle of Maker's with a ribbon on it. That shot was an end-of-the-night celebratory 'hell yeah, we survived the Eric Church tour!'"

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