While mainstream country music in the Trump era has begun to wade quietly into the realm of resistance politics — Little Big Town showing up at the March for Our Lives rally, Cam’s support for the Women’s March and artists departing en masse from their relationships with NRA Country — most have stopped short of openly supporting a candidate. Enter Brothers Osborne, one of Music Row’s most politically vocal acts. The CMA Award-winning duo will appear and perform at a Nashville fundraiser on September 18th for Tennessee Democratic gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean, who will face off with the Trump-endorsed Republican nominee Bill Lee in November.
Brothers Osborne, made up of singer TJ Osborne and lead guitarist John Osborne, offered the first hint of their disdain for the current state of affairs with their video for “Ain’t My Fault,” which nodded to Point Break with a storyline about a crew of masked bandits disguised as past and current presidents. In the end, the one in the Trump mask is unable to escape the police after being cornered — appropriately — against a wall. As the duo promoted their second LP, Port Saint Joe, the Osbornes addressed questions about their beliefs head-on, defending their penchant for politically and socially charged tweets in which they’ve responded to such topics as Trump’s “shithole countries” comment and the Parkland school shooting.
For the Maryland-born brothers, their outspokenness has to do more with values — something that country music is technically supposed to represent — than the support of any particular party.
“The thing about country music that has always made it so awesome is that it’s always been a bunch of singers who told the truth and stood up for people,” TJ told Rolling Stone. “The worst thing you can be as an artist is a sellout, and being quiet feels like you’re doing that.”
“There is nothing worse than someone who says nothing,” John added. “At least speak your mind and say something that you believe in. And if it makes someone threaten to burn our albums in the middle of a parking lot, then so fucking be it.”
It’s possible that there have been repercussions for being so vocal. “Shoot Me Straight,” a furious Southern rocker centered on TJ’s dynamic baritone and John’s stunning guitar work, peaked at No. 29 on Billboard‘s Country Airplay chart before losing support entirely.
That clearly hasn’t intimidated the band though. They remain as outspoken as ever on Twitter, recently released a video for “Shoot Me Straight” that pokes fun at Trump’s “Space Force” and now are offering support to Tennessee’s liberal candidate Dean, the former mayor of Nashville who had a close-knit relationship with the town’s musical community (he once appointed Jack White, Emmylou Harris and Kix Brooks to a Music Business Council).
Despite those relationships, Brothers Osborne are the first major-label country artist to lend their name to a fundraiser associated with the 2018 midterm elections: on the independent side, Jason Isbell supported Tennessee Senate candidate Phil Bredesen alongside Ben Folds, and was called “a member of the unhinged left” in return. Americana singer-songwriter Will Hoge, who will release the politically charged new album My American Dream on October 5th, headlined a Dean fundraiser last week.
Tickets for the Dean fundraiser featuring Brothers Osborne come with a $50 donation to Karl Dean for Governor, with a $500 meet-and-greet option. The event will take place September 18th at Center 615 in East Nashville at 7:00 p.m.