T.J. Osborne was in his Nashville home, looking at a shelf covered with awards when he called in to talk about the tour that he and his brother John were about to begin.
“It’s always a good morning when you wake up to those,” Osborne said of the industry accolades. “You dream of stuff like that happening. When it happens, it seems like your wildest dreams — that it is a dream and didn’t really happen.”
The brothers got their first CMA (Country Music Association) nomination, for vocal duo of the year, in 2015. They lost to Florida Georgia Line that year. But the Maryland born-and-raised brothers took the award in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
The 2017 nomination for the song “It Ain’t My Fault” — from the group’s 2015 debut album, “Pawn Shop” — is the brothers’ third Grammy nod in the best country/duo group performance. They’ve yet to win.
But Osborne said the nominations themselves are rewarding, and taken together, the CMA and Academy of Country Music salutes have accelerated their career.
“The recognition by your peers is the validation,” he said. “The biggest change, though, is those shows are broadcast to millions of people. It was big in this sense. We’d already had some good fans, but we’ve seen a lot of fans that came after the awards. You win one of the awards and it’s, ‘I want to hear why they won’ and they check out the music and the shows.”
That, in part, is why the brothers have risen from opening act to a lengthy tour that includes a mix of festival dates and headlining shows, including Saturday’s concert at the McGrath Amphitheatre in Cedar Rapids. But industry recognition is not the only reason the duo, which is touring behind its second album, “Port Saint Joe,” has moved up a rung on the country ladder.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“I think it’s a combination of a lot of things,” Osborne said. “There are a lot of fans that are ready for some real music, regardless of genre. Our music is country, but we focus on playing real music, however it comes out. There’s some authenticity there that comes out, and people want to hear that.”
Singer T.J. and guitarist John Osborne have been playing together since they were teenagers, first in a cover band called Deuce and a Quarter, then as Brothers Osborne. Unlike many sibling combos, the Osbornes haven’t had major battles.
“John and I have always gotten along really well ...,” T.J. said. “We’re very different in many ways, which I believe helps out our music. The fact that we’ve had the success we’ve had together makes it even more special. My brother gets to experience everything special that I do. It’s awesome.”
The duo differ from mainstream country music in another way — they have been politically and socially outspoken, performing for a Democratic candidate for governor in Tennessee and taking on issues like same-sex marriage in their videos, among other places.
“We speak out sometimes,” Osborne said. “It’s tough, because ultimately, a lot of people listen to music to forget about the weight of the world. But if you don’t say something, you feel a little bit like a sellout. It’s ruffled some feathers, no doubt. But it’s really not a Democrat or Republican thing ... That’s how we were raised when we were little. When we see someone who’s without a voice and gets (expletive) all the time, we speak up.”
You won’t hear a lot of opinions from the Osbornes, who will release a new concert album, “Live at the Ryman,” on Oct. 11. What you will hear is their rocking brand of country that with the newest songs, will feel like they’re lifted directly from the album they recorded in a Florida house that became a makeshift studio.
“That’s why we named the album ‘Port Saint Joe,’” Osborne said of the album. “It was recorded in a beach house that had never been used for recording ever ... We’ve had all these people tell us that we’re better live. We’ve been trying to capture that.
“With this I think we came as close as we can to making a studio album live. To get the Grammy nomination for the album put a wind in our sales.”
WHAT: Brothers Osborne
WHERE: McGrath Amphitheatre, 475 First St. SW, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday (8/31)
TICKETS: $35 to $55; U.S. Cellular Center Box Office, 1-(800) 745-3000 or Mcgrathamphitheatre.com
BAND’S WEBSITE: Brothersosborne.com