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The Brothers Osborne are returning to touring this summer, feeling like they have a new lease on life.
For John and T.J. Osborne, the brothers who front the band, the past two years have seen them not only weather the COVID pandemic, but it proved to be a period in which they both made life-changing decisions.
Guitarist John Osborne reached a crossroads as the group toured to promote its hit second album, “Port Saint Joe,” when a battle with depression and anxiety brought him to a breaking point and he and his brother pulled the plug on touring.
“Definitely one of the things that’s easy to overlook in this industry is your mental health. It’s easy to overlook for anybody,” John Osborne explained in a mid-July phone interview. “I ignored it for as long as I could and then it caught up in with me in a really bad way.
Dealing with depression
“I couldn’t outrun my anxiety or depression anymore, and I needed to stop. We were in the process of touring with Willie Nelson, Allison Krauss and Bonnie Raitt, who are our top three favorite artists of all time, and we needed to cancel dates because I needed to stop and take care of myself.”
To make matters worse, John Osborne developed tinnitus — a serious ringing in the ears. It had the guitarist thinking the group’s then-in-progress third album, “Skeletons,” might be his last.
“I contemplated for about a week of just quitting music, or at least quitting touring,” he said. “It’s like my entire life flashed before my eyes. I felt like the person I’d made myself to be, this professional musician, that person’s life was over. It was really, really hard.”
What: We’re Not for Everyone tour, with Travis Denning opening
Where: Back Waters Stage, Q Casino, 1855 Greyhound Park Rd., Dubuque
When: 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021
Tickets: $49.50 general admission; $79.50 Turpin Tailgate: qcasinoandhotel.com/entertainment/backwater-stage
Band’s website: brothersosborne.com
But John Osborne, with the support of his wife, family and friends, instead set out to bring his anxiety and depression under control. Professional help was involved, as well.
“Definitely, counseling, a lot of therapy, some meds helped,” he said. “And you know what helped more than anything was getting some really good sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, you will pay for it.
“And then to come out of the other side, and to be back on the road, it feels like I was reborn,” John Osborne said.
For lead singer T.J. Osborne, his big decision came more recently, in February. That’s when he revealed in a Time magazine interview that he is gay. In doing so, the singer became the only artist signed to a major country label — and the highest profile country star — to come out.
So far, though, T.J. Osborne’s revelation appears to have had few adverse repercussions — and a lot of benefits.
“My brother coming out was probably the single most important thing that he’s ever done for himself,” John Osborne said. “He’s been so much happier since he was able to come out and be fully himself in front of everyone.”
T.J. Osborne’s experience inspired the Osborne brothers and frequent songwriting collaborator Kendall Marvel to write “Younger Me.” Rather than putting out another single from “Skeletons” ahead of this summer’s touring, the brothers felt compelled to release “Younger Me” as a stand-alone single.
“The best songs write themselves and that one seemed to just write itself,” John Osborne said. “I mean, the song relates to everyone and whatever anyone’s life was growing up. We didn’t write it to be about one specific thing. But the genesis of the song certainly started with my brother’s story, and it just seemed important to put it out now.”
Focusing on music
So now the Osborne Brothers are back to focusing on their music and a career that has seen the duo notch seven singles that have gone gold or platinum, get nominated or win a slew of awards (including a pair of CMA Vocal Duo of the Year nods) and become a highly popular touring act.
Going into “Skeletons,” John and T.J. Osborne felt they needed to make an energetic album, after having explored more of a laid-back sound on their second album, 2018’s “Port Saint Joe.”
“ ‘Port Saint Joe’ is a record we’re so proud of and that we absolutely love. It was Grammy nominated and it did great things for us,” John Osborne said. “But we had issues with incorporating it into our live sets because our live shows are pretty high energy. And that record has a couple of high energy songs, but it’s pretty mellow. And we had a lot of problems with the imbalance of our sonics on our second record and the sonics of our live show.”
And now that the Osborne Brothers have returned to touring, they’re seeing that the songs from “Skeletons” (such as “All Night,” “Lighten Up” and “Back On the Bottle”) bring plenty of energy and work well live.
“We recorded our recent record, ‘Skeletons,’ to be played live,” John Osborne said. “We almost have half of our (“Skeletons”) record that’s in the new set list. You know, it’s been really fun. The response has been amazing. The material fits right in the set like it’s always been there. So it all certainly feels like it’s right.”