For Brothers Osborne, tour follows life-changing decisions

·6 min read
Scott Sharpe/

The Brothers Osborne are returning to touring this summer — including a stop at Wave in Wichita on Thursday — feeling like they have a new lease on life. For John and T.J. Osborne, the brothers who front their band, the past two-plus 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 their 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 recent phone interview. “Sometimes in the pursuit of success in the music industry, you can forget about your own well being until it requires so much energy and it requires so much of yourself throughout the day just to keep the wheels moving. I ignored it for as long as I could and then it caught up with me in a really bad way. 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 then-in-progress third Osborne Brothers 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.”

But John Osborne, after delaying his work on the “Skeletons” album, got back to work in the studio and continued to take the steps needed to bring his anxiety and depression under control. He credits the support of his wife, family and friends with helping him improve his mental health. And there was professional help 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 2021. That’s when he revealed that he is gay in an interview with “Time” magazine. In doing so, the singer became the only artist signed to a major country label — and the highest profile country star — to come out.

It was a risky revelation on a career level. While being gay no longer seems to be an issue in many areas of the entertainment industry, country is a decidedly conservative music industry and genre.

So far, though, T.J. Osborne’s pivotal decision 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. He’s been so much happier now,” John Osborne said. “I can only imagine what it must feel like to be in the limelight and for everyone to praise you, but for you not to fully be yourself in front of those people, that’s a bit of a heavy burden to have.

“He’s been so much happier since he was able to come out and be fully himself in front of everyone. It was something we’d all known for a long time, but it was not our decision to make. It was up to him to decide when he felt comfortable to do that, and we were just there to support him throughout that process.”

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 off of “Skeletons” ahead of a summer/fall tour last year, 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. We didn’t really try to write it,” 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.”

So now the Osborne Brothers are back to focusing on their music and a career that has seen the duo make a quick major impact in country with their rock-injected update on traditional country that comes with a touch of soul.

Natives of Deale, Maryland, the brothers came to Nashville after high school and spent several years performing locally, the duo was signed by EMI and broke through in 2015 with a top five single, “Stay a Little Longer.”

Since then, the duo has seen five subsequent singles go gold or platinum (even though none of them cracked the Top 10 on the country singles charts). But the Osborne Brothers have built a large following, not only with those hits, but with 11 awards in all from the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association, plus the 2022 Best Country Duo/Group Performance Grammy for “Younger Me” and lots of touring.

After showing that “Stay a Little Longer” was no fluke with an impressive 2016 debut album, “Pawn Shop,” the Brothers Osborne branched out a bit stylistically on 2018’s “Port Saint Joe,” an album that had a bit more laid back feel.

But with “Skeletons,” they felt they needed to get back to rocking, and to further the live sound of the album, they used their touring band in recording the tracks.

“‘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 alongside songs from the previous albums in the live environment.

“We recorded our recent record, ‘Skeletons,’ to be played live. It’s the most live sounding album we’ve done yet. It reflects our live show perfectly,” John Osborne said. “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.”

If you go

What: Brothers Osborne’s “We’re Not For Everyone” tour

Where: Wave, 650 E. Second St

When: Thursday, June 30. Door open at 7 p.m., show at 8

Tickets: Available at

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