The rapid-fire drumbeat that announces Brothers Osborne’s “Ain’t My Fault,” the final track on their debut album Pawn Shop, hits you like a defibrillator. It’s a pulsing rhythm that echoes throughout the chest, descending into the gut. Which makes perfect sense for siblings TJ Osborne and John Osborne, the respective voice and guitar of the reigning CMA Vocal Duo of the Year. The brothers have followed their gut all the way to this moment: releasing the unconventional, swaggering song to country radio as Pawn Shop‘s third single.
“Ain’t My Fault” is unquestionably rock & roll, but not the kind of country-rock that has ruled the radio in recent years. There are none of the in-your-face Nineties guitars and sound-alike production that defined many homogenous hits, which are less distinguishable songs than music beds for interchangeable male voices. Instead, “Ain’t My Fault” stands out for its fevered urgency, brought to bear by a glam-rock stomp and well-placed gospel handclaps. As such, it’s unique in the sonic landscape.
It’s also a party song – but one with consequences, as TJ passes the blame for the previous night’s mistakes over an endless series of “it wasn’t me” lyrics that’d do Shaggy proud.
“It’s what happens after the party,” says John, who wrote “Ain’t My Fault” with his brother and Lee Thomas Miller. “You did it, but you’re not admitting to fault. All you were trying to do is have a little fun. But listening to the song, everyone knows it is the singer’s fault. There’s an underlying humor to the lyrics.”
“Blame the ex for the drinkin / blame the drinkin’ for the ex / blame the two-for-one tequilas for whatever happens next,” goes one of the most evocative, edgy and ambiguous lyrics. Is it “ex” as in ex-lover, or “X” as in Ecstasy? Ultimately the fucked-up result is the same, with TJ shrugging his shoulders in the chorus: “Might have had a little fun / Lot of wrong I’d done / But it ain’t my fault.“
While they may be half-hearted excuses, they’re also relatable. Since the duo has begun showcasing the song, fans have been tweeting their own personal lyrics.
“It was at that moment when I thought, ‘This thing has got to get on the fucking radio.'”
“We’ve seen a lot of hashtags with ‘Ain’t My Fault.’ ‘I showed up late to work today after seeing Brothers Osborne last night, but it ain’t my fault.’ I love seeing that stuff,” says TJ.
He recalls the song’s vibe as one born of the Rolling Stones. In the studio with producer Jay Joyce, the beat came first, with John’s dirty riff right behind it. Miller, who also wrote Jamey Johnson’s “In Color” and Tim McGraw’s “Southern Girl,” suggested the “blame this, blame that” construction.
“We said, ‘Fuck, yeah’ and wrote it pretty quickly after that,” says TJ, who has witnessed audiences connecting with the song on their headlining Dirt Rich Tour. Hearing it in concert, it becomes even more primal. “Whenever we play it live, it’s always worked for us, either acoustic or electric. The other song that had the same type of response was ‘Stay a Little Longer.’“
The comparison bodes well: “Stay a Little Longer” hit Number One on the Mediabase chart in January 2016.
“When we first heard the song in the studio with Jay, we were like, ‘This is really special,'” says John. “It was at that moment when I thought, ‘This thing has got to get on the fucking radio.'”
The question, of course, remains if play-it-safe country-radio program directors will actually give it airtime. After all, like the Osbornes’ “Rum” before it, it’s not your typical sunny, no-repercussions party anthem. But TJ says “Ain’t My Fault” has had some surprising early support before the song ships to radio on January 17th.
“We’ve gotten a really positive reaction from some of the PDs out there, from some of the more conservative ones,” says TJ, who admits “Ain’t My Fault” goes against the grain.
“It’s definitely a little pedal to the metal and is a heavy-handed song. It’s heavy drums, heavy guitar and vocals unlike any other single we’ve had out,” he says. “But we found out there were all these closet ‘Ain’t My Fault’ fans, who said, ‘Yes, this is the song I wanted to hear.'”
Brothers Osborne have obliged, even performing an impromptu version of the song atop their tour bus after their show in Hanford, California, was canceled when the venue’s ceiling collapsed. So powerful is the response to “Ain’t My Fault” that the band has taken to slotting it as the final song of the night. TJ promises it’ll be in the set when the Dirt Rich Tour hits Nashville’s Marathon Music Works for a long-awaited hometown show on January 18th: the gig marks the band’s first headlining concert in town since the showcase that got them signed to EMI Nashville four years ago.
In sibling solidarity, the Osbornes are committed to viewing “Ain’t My Fault” as an essential part of their catalog – and story. “Every time you record something or release something, those are all statements you make as artists. This is the statement we want to make now, as a band and as people” says John. “We don’t know why it’s special, but my instinct tells me this is the best move for me and TJ.”
And if they’re willing to hop onboard, for country radio as well.