TJ Osborne doesn’t want to think about how well Brothers Osborne’s single “Stay a Little Longer” is performing on the charts. Seated in a vintage high back chair to the left of his brother John in a nondescript East Nashville storefront owned by their manager, the duo’s deep-voiced lead singer figures he’s probably better off keeping his head down and working.
“We try not to pay attention to anything else that’s going on because ultimately we can’t really do much to control it,” explains TJ. “The more we’re conscious of all that stuff, the more I think it tends to drive you crazy. Same thing with our single. If we’re at 22 and we’re struggling, it starts to distract me and I start doing things that are uncharacteristic of what I would really do — trying to figure what it is to fix when really all I gotta do is just keep going forward.”
TJ and John will probably have little choice in the matter, considering that their Grammy-nominated single “Stay a Little Longer” is well past 22 and inside the Top 5 as Brothers Osborne prepare for the January 15th release of their debut album Pawn Shop. The long-awaited collection combines a handful of recordings from earlier sessions with newer ones overseen by Jay Joyce (Eric Church) and seasons the brothers’ thumping country-rock with a decidedly blue-collar flavor.
That much should be apparent from the video for Brothers Osborne’s earlier single “Rum” (included on Pawn Shop), where TJ and John eschew the typical summer party scenery for the humble dockside bar and gray skies of their Deale, Maryland, hometown. Weathered fishermen trawl for crabs in the bay and the guys knock back shots while buddies give heroic lip-sync performances of the song, which extolls the virtues of appreciating what one has in the present. There’s something remarkably (and refreshingly) ordinary about the clip, standing in stark contrast to the rustic opulence often found in country videos.
For all its ostensible connections to the common man, country music sometimes has a wide gulf between its very wealthy celebrity performers and its diverse audience. Brothers Osborne, on the other hand, seem not that far removed from working class life — a couple of plumbers’ sons who figured out how to make a little money through music and welcomed the chance do something other than skilled labor.
“We didn’t have a lot as kids,” says John, the long-haired, ginger-bearded half of the pair. “But our families were always having a good time — laughing, carrying on, drinking beer. We couldn’t afford to go to the ocean, so we just ran around with a garden hose and we just made the best of it. That’s who we are. We didn’t come from much but we had the best time possible.”
Their father — a fan of classic rock and classic country alike — insisted they learn enough songs to play four-hour sets when they first began giving public performances. The bar from the “Rum” video — Happy Harbor — is where the two had their first paying gigs as teenagers.