2015 was a year where the process of country music being taken in a whole new direction began. Chris Stapleton blew minds at the CMA Awards and people suddenly started to see life after the rap infused hip hop influenced trend that we’d sat through for some time. The big question was really would this last? Could anyone back up Stapleton’s effort? Brothers Osborne answered with a resounding “yes!”. Their debut album Pawn Shop was released at the start of 2016 and led to a Grammy nomination and Billboard #1 country song for Stay A Little Longer. The band are about to hit the road with Miranda Lambert on her Summer tour but I was lucky enough to have a chat with guitarist John (left in the adjacent picture) just days after their song hit number one…
You’ve just landed your first number one song with ‘Stay A Little Longer’. Congratulations!
Thanks! It’s definitely something that we are super honoured about. We’ve been on the chart now for about 45 weeks so it was a lot of work getting there – we’re really tired I can tell you that!
Has it sunk in yet? Can you actually believe it?
I can very much believe it. We’ve been celebrating for about four days so my body believes it!
How did you celebrate? I’d imagine a lot of alcohol…
Yeah, there’s a lot of alcohol in country music in general and the funny thing is that we all like a drink but when we’re given a reason to drink it get’s pretty insane! We were in Dallas the night that we found out that we were going to get the number one so we stayed there. The crew were all leaving about 10pm but we stayed there past midnight celebrating and kept the party going until about… last night!
The song has also been nominated for a Grammy. That’s a Hell of an achievement for a cut from your debut album…
It really is! It’s something that we still can hardly believe. When people say it it’s like our brains can hardly register it. We got that nomination before the record was even released so that’s definitely a feat within itself to get a nomination before the record is even out. It’s definitely something we’ll never take for granted.
How have you found the reaction to Pawn Shop?
It’s been going really well. We didn’t know what to expect when we put the record out because it is a little bit different than what’s coming out in country music these days but we took risks and we stayed true to ourselves. The fans love it; we are getting new fans every day because of it! I try not to read the reviews because, good or bad, it gets in your head but I’ve been sent a couple so far and the reviews are really great. I think people are noticing that my brother and I are different and we are going to be ourselves no matter what anyone thinks and everyone supports that so we are incredibly fortunate!
For what it’s worth, not just kissing arse, the record is superb…
Thanks a lot. For real, that means a lot because when you release a record you’re putting yourself out there. You feel very vulnerable and exposed so it definitely means a lot.
More so than ever this record seems to have attracted a lot of praise from your peers with a lot of country music stars Tweeting in support of the record. Is that testament to the work that you put in writing and working with artists before making it big yourselves?
Yeah I think it is. I think it’s a testament to the work that we put in but it’s also a testament to how incredibly amazing the country music community is. It’s different to other genres in that we all actually support and love each other. We all look out for each other. It was amazing all of the support that we were given from our friends, you know, we got some tweets from Kacey Musgraves who is a really close friend of ours to Hunter Hayes who is a friend of ours but we’ve only met him and hung out with him a couple of times over the last couple of years. So we’ve definitely seen a lot of support from other artists and that means the world to us and we are so grateful for that.
There was a gap of almost 3 years between your first song being released in ‘Let’s Go There’ and the album. Why was that? What did you do in that time?
It was three years. That shows how overnight it actually is. It seems that when something breaks it goes very quickly. When Stay A Little Longer started getting traction and turning heads and everyone really signed on to Brothers Osborne it seemed to just happen overnight but when you actually back up to Let’s Go There, that was three years a go, and that song was actually 36th in the chart and didn’t really move the needle at all. The next year we put out Rum and that went to 26 so it kind of moved the needle and turned a few heads but didn’t really do much so we felt like we were fighting an uphill battle the whole time. Then we put out Stay A Little Longer and by then we had a lot of good friends at radio and a lot of support from people who were really rooting for us and they gave us a chance that worked. So it’s finally happening!
(At this point John’s dog begins barking at a passer by…)
Sorry! My dog thinks she’s an attack dog but she’s the biggest pussy ever!
The album seems to have a mix of influences from all different types of country and even blues. What would you say is your biggest influence musically?
It kind of all over the map. I feel like you can hear certain influences from track to track. Not to get too ‘hallmark-y’ about it but we got a lot of influences from our life, upbringing and family and you can hear that in our lyrics. I think sonically it’s hard to tell; we love old country, we love rock and blues music new and old. We listened to a little bit of pop music as kids – our Dad is into everything! There’s a little bit of everything, I wouldn’t say there’s as much pop as blues and country, but it all finds it’s way in there somehow. It really spans a lot of different genres and we love it all.
Did this mix of styles inspire the title of the record at all?
Partly. If you listen to the record it’s eleven songs that are cohesive but it’s kind of eleven different songs from different parts of our lives and when you put them together in one place it’s like a collection of things. It’s a bit of a Pawn Shop musically.
I have to say Greener Pastures sounds like it could have been written by Willie Nelson…
Well we wanted to go really country with Greener Pastures but more like 70’s country where it’s still got the same feel and parts but it’s a tad more aggressive. It’s still pretty old school so that’s the direction we went with that. Plus it’s about smoking weed so we wanted to tip our hat to Willie and those boys.
You re-recorded ‘Stay a Little Longer’ with Jay Joyce. What extra did he bring to the song?
The reason that we re-recorded it was that we’d recorded it ourselves with our friend Brad Hill about three years a go – maybe three years plus – and we have evolved quite a lot as a band. As singers, as players, as performers and we wanted someone to capture that essence and we weren’t really sure that we could do that because when you’re producing yourself you become ultra critical of the wrong things sometimes and Jay allowed us to get in there and perform as a band. He got our drummer and our bass player to play on it because he wanted that live and energetic feel and he definitely hit a home run as far as we are concerned. He didn’t necessarily ever change us, he wanted us to keep imperfections, when you listen to the solo the first half is one take and I still hear mistakes in there but he wanted us to keep them in because he wanted it to represent who we really are, if you go in and start perfecting everything then you’re changing it and it’s not actually who you truly are. He definitely allowed us to not be worried about being ourselves and that’s the biggest thing – he gave us confidence in who we are.
As a guitarist myself I love that solo…
Thank you so much man! It’s funny when I listen to it now I’m like “ok I can feel it” but for like a month after I couldn’t listen to it. I could hear so many subtle mistakes that drove me crazy! But that’s music and music should represent real life and real life isn’t perfect either.
I suppose if you go back to, for instance, those old Chicago blues players like Buddy Guy. The solo’s are full of ‘mistakes’ but that gives it the character…
You’re absolutely right about that!
Obviously yourself and TJ were are credited on all the tracks on the album but you also worked with some amazing co-writers including Shane McAnally, Maren Morris, Barry Dean and Jessi Alexander. That’s some line up!
We’ve been writing for a while and we’ve written with a lot of great writers in town. We’re very lucky and Nashville, as you know, is full of amazing songwriters and after a while you start to figure out who you really vibe and gel with in the writing room. We’ve slowly figured that out and all those guys are incredible writers, I think what the common thread between all of our writers that we write with is that they let us be ourselves and they add to it – they don’t try and take things away and they don’t try and steer things in a different direction. They actually like my brother and I as artist and respect us enough to let us do our thing then they add to it which is what makes them great writers. Shane McAnally for example, he can fit any writing style you throw at him and we definitely like writing with him because he doesn’t try to manipulate you or change you at all, he just enhances what you do. Writing with Maren, she’s starting to have a lot of success, I think she’s coming to C2C this year… She’s one of our best friends and we absolutely love her as an artist. We can go through every songwriter that we’ve written with and tell you a story so I’ll just say overall we respect and love every one of them dearly.
Do you feel that there is something more genuine about acts that write and perform their own songs?
It’s like those genres of music, pop and country are often like that, but you look back to Eric Clapton or Lynyrd Skynyrd and they were covering JJ Cale songs so it’s definitely a common practice but you do see it a lot because record companies get involved and they just want the best songs possible that will yield the highest reward. At the end of the day my brother and I are far too stubborn and we aren’t going to cut something unless we love it and it’s something that we wish we wrote ourselves. We definitely have co-writer friends that have songs that we love and we certainly have taken those into account but for now we want, especially for Pawn Shop as our debut record, we want the world to see who we are and if we’re singing someone else’s songs you’re not getting the full picture of who we are. We’re definitely not closed minded at all to the possibility but I think, in order for your fans to get who you are, you need to say what you have to say.
The album features a lot of great guitar work from you. The solo on ‘Stay A Little Longer’ is mind blowing. Alongside perhaps Brad Paisley and Keith Urban there aren’t many guitar slingers in modern country. Do you think that’s an important part of Brothers Osborne’s identity?
It is. People asked us early on ‘do you describe yourselves as a due? Are you trying to do like a country singers Everley Brothers thing?’ and truthfully no, not at all. My brother is an amazingly strong singer, I’m not strong enough of a singer to call myself an Everley Brother, I can tell you that! What we have to offer is more of a classic rock thing where it’s the singer and the ‘sidekick’ guitar player whether you’re looking at Aerosmith or The Allman Brothers, things of that nature. That’s what we’re doing and I feel that’s what separates us from most people in country music. It’s a singer and a guitar player – that’s the duo that we are.
It must have been Hell to cut that solo down for the radio edit?
I know! Honestly I didn’t put up a fight because I understand it. For programming reasons and all that I understand that outside of what we do there are a lot of people that have jobs and they have formats and certain things to play. If we were to put our foot down and say, “Absolutely not, you get the long version or nothing” then they wouldn’t be able to play it and they couldn’t put it to the masses so I don’t know that my ego or emotions should get in the way of that. The thing is you come to our shows and we are never going to shorten it. If you want the full length version then you can find it and listen to it (editor: the full version is the version found on the album Pawn Shop) or you can come to our shows and we’ll play it every time.
Has it surprised you at all how good the reaction to ‘Pawn Shop’ has been considering the current country market is much more focused towards Hip Hop influences?
A little bit. Yes and no. When you record your music you hope that everyone is going to love it and that’s impossible as not everyone is going to love it. There’s going to be at least one person that genuinely hates it! You can’t win everybody over but I think the timing of it all is really good. I don’t necessarily know where the whole rap infused country thing came from but people seem to really like it and it’s not necessarily our cup of tea but I guess if people dig it then you can’t take that away. I feel like because of all that and the sound of country in the last couple of years people are just missing something different – it all became kind of one sound for a minute. Every song sounded the same and was produced the same, you know, when it happens enough the fans will eventually get tired of it and I think that’s kind of what’s happened. There is still some of that music on radio because it’s successful and people do like it but you’re also starting to see a lot more diversity which I think is important for every genre of music… especially country. I’m looking forward to 2016 and 2017 because I want to see some really cool and fresh acts, very original and authentic acts, come out of Nashville.
People like yourselves and Chris Stapleton seem to be making country cool again. For me, when I’ve played your stuff to ‘non-country’ friends they have loved it. Do you think this could be the start of a shift for the genre?
I think it is. If you have certain music doing well it’s indicative as to how the genre will naturally shift. I think one of the biggest things to happen to country music recently is Chris Stapleton singing at the CMAs and pretty much sweeping the awards and singing with Justin Timberlake. Everyone had heard of this Chris Stapleton person outside of Nashville – in Nashville everyone knows who Chris Stapleton is! He’s a writer, he’s been in other bands, we’ve all been huge fans of his for a long long time but recently the world has realised “oh my god! There’s this diamond in the rough!” and…
(At this point John’s dog goes mad again…)
Sorry, that’s my dog again! She barks at you and will run at you but will literally just give you kisses! She’s the worst guard dog ever!
I think that’s what really did it and when that happened everyone was like “oh my God! There’s more music out there! I need to actually start being open minded!” and it was really by luck for us that the timing of our record coming out is great considering that everyone is open to new ideas, songs and artists with songs that come from a genuinely authentic place. The timing for us is perfect because people are actually hungry for that right now.
Over here in the UK country music is going through a huge rise in popularity and we’ve had literally hundreds of people asking us this question. Do you plan to make the trip over soon?
We would love to come tomorrow! We’ve talked about it with our management for a few months now and I think they wanted to wait for us to get a record out there and get some momentum happening in the States which we finally have so I’m like “hey up y’all, you said you’d let us go!” I think the plan as of now is for us to come over there for C2C 2017 and hopefully while we are there we will get to play some clubs and venues and do some stuff throughout the UK. Hopefully my wife Lucie Silvas will be over there with us and we can do some shows together, which would be amazing!
Kip Moore mentioned to us that with all the costs of bringing people and equipment it’s a huge risk coming over here…
It is. It’s a logistical nightmare but at the end of the day the worst that can happen is you could lose your guitars and amps but you’ll get to hang out in London for a little bit which is pretty cool!
A lot of acts tend to say that when they come over here to play the crowds are different. We tend to hang on to every lyric and every guitar lick. Is that something you look forward to?
I have found that. I actually played with Kacey Musgraves when her first record came out. She went over there with Lady Antebellum and she didn’t have a band put together yet but she’s a friend of ours so she was like “hey, would you come and play guitar with me” and of course I said yes plus Lucie was living over there at the time so it was perfect. I did notice, we played in Dublin, and they were all ‘onery and having the time of their lives – they’re party animals over there! When we played in London I wasn’t sure if they were liking it or not then you realise that actually they’re listening to everything! It’s more of a listening crowd which is great because you can actually play some more subtle songs and they listen to every word and every lyric which is cool. It’s a different approach you have to take live but we certainly appreciate that.
You’re joining Miranda Lambert this year for her US tour. How excited are you about that?
Absolutely! We’re pretty much on the road non-stop… we’re actually in North Carolina tonight playing a show with John Pardi. We’re excited to get out with Kip and Miranda, they’re two genuine and authentic artists who put out great music. Miranda, from day one, hasn’t put out a bad song and neither has Kip so it’s definitely an honour to be rolling with those guys.
Kip is over here in April on his first full tour…
Great! His first one there?
Yeah, we have Kip plus Ashley Monroe, Frankie Ballard and Maren Morris as part of ‘C2C Introduces’…
That’s really good. Hopefully next year we’ll get the offer and if we don’t… we’ll fire somebody!
Have you got any plans currently for the follow up to ‘Pawn Shop’?
We’ve had quite a busy January. We did quite a lot of promotion around the record and a lot of late nights which has been a lot of hard work. For right now, in this moment, we’re just going to breath a little bit and slow down for a second. We are going to Mexico next week so we get five days in the sun to recharge. That’s what we need to do now – just reset. That’s it, promote the record, play some shows and push our noses to the grindstone and keep working!
You definitely deserve it! We’ve rated the album very highly and are pushing it on everyone that we can!
Well the more people that listen to it over there the more chance we have of coming! We definitely appreciate you spreading the word!
Six Shooter would like to thank John Osborne for taking the time to chat with us and being such a pleasure to talk to. There can’t be a more humble man anywhere in the music business!