It’s hard to believe that it’s only 14 months since Brothers Osborne played their first show in the UK. Since that slot at the Country 2 Country Festival, they’ve played their own intimate show in London, supported The Cadillac Three on a UK tour and have just wrapped up an almost completely sold-out headline tour of their own, on top of that, they announced that they’ll be back in November/December for another! What a whirlwind it’s been. In that time, they also released their sophomore album, Port Saint Joe, and jumped on board Dierks Bentley’s The Mountain Tour for the summer in the States. Judging from the crowds on this most recent UK run, such as the one we reviewed in Manchester, there is a seriously devoted fanbase for the brothers in the UK. We were lucky enough to sit down with them backstage in Manchester to chat about their success in the UK and much more.
It’s crazy. It only seems like two minutes since we sat down and chatted in Manchester when you supported The Cadillac Three and now you’re here on this crazy sold-out headlining tour. How’s it been going?
TJ: It’s been incredible. Every time we come here, from the first time we came, it’s so much fun and it just keeps getting better and better. Now we’re headlining, being able to walk into these venues and play to these crowds. Even the couple of shows that weren’t sold-out, the crowds were just still so fun! I had as much fun playing to them as I did 20,000 people, so it’s put some wind in our sails for sure, especially with us coming here and putting the investment in and seeing it grow.
It’s not just like you’re playing tiny venues either. These venues are big! It must be so encouraging?
John: Extremely. In the States we worked for years to get to levels that we’re at now. It feels really good, it was just over a year ago when we came and played C2C and that blew our minds. Since then we’ve just watched the progression and it’s been really, really fun. We’re certainly grateful for how fast it’s taken off!
Absolutely. We were there at your first headline show at Dingwalls in London. You guys are tall guys and there wasn’t much room to move on that stage! Compared to the venue we’re in now it’s fantastic!
TJ: Definitely didn’t hop!
Not only that, you hadn’t even kicked off this tour and you announced another at the end of the year! Was that always in the pipeline or was it encouragement from ticket sales?
TJ: I think that once we saw the response and demand that we had for tickets on this tour, we thought “man, we need to follow it up with another tour!” It just so happens that it worked out that we’re going to be doing our first headline tour in a couple of years in the States and that this would be part of that run. The timing is really perfect.
What was it like the first time someone said to you “oh, by the way, this show has sold out in the UK”?
John: It blew our minds.
TJ: It’s also a relief!
John: We’ll often get updates on how ticket sales are doing and sometimes those things can psych you out, you know, if you get involved in the numbers and statistics. We saw the numbers and that tickets were selling really fast and it feels amazing in all honesty. Before we came to the UK, I thought that people here wouldn’t really understand us or, you know, I wasn’t sure why we were coming to the UK when we still have to break in some places in America. After our first performance here playing C2C, then playing Dingwalls, we were immediately hooked! The crowds are remarkable, they’re so much fun, they’re so giving. This is why we do what we do, for crowds like this, as long as they show up, we’ll show up!
There must have been a little convincing at home with Lucie (Silvas, John’s British wife and artist in her own right)?
John: Yeah! I was pretty prepped before we got her being an honorary Brit myself, a Brit through marriage! I’ve been a few times with Lucie so I was prepared mentally before I got here.
TJ: It’s gone by fast. We were just thinking about coming over here and before you know it, in the blink of an eye, we’re already getting ready to head home! To go off track a little, we were due to fly from Edinburgh to Heathrow to get our connection back to Nashville, we called to airline to cancel because we thought “why don’t we just get the bus?” but they said it’d cost us 20 grand to cancel!
John: It’s like buying something then having to pay to return it!
TJ: Any way, to tie that in with what we were saying, it’s really expensive to come over here and take this on. There is a little bit of a leap of faith there at the beginning. We came over here with The Cadillac Three and that didn’t pay very much, it was just really a great opportunity to test the waters. It was really worth it. We could easily have come here and lost a lot of money and been like “shit, this isn’t working, we’re not coming back” but it’s amazing that we get to circle back around and turn this into a really healthy place to come and tour and have fun. We’ve made some new fans as well outside of our own country, it’s really one of those things that you dream of.
Well it’s awesome having you guys coming over here. You’re coming hot off the heels of your new record Port Saint Joe, how have you found the reaction to it? The second album is famously the tough one…
John: Yeah! Well, everyone says that and I can see why it’d be tough but I think the growth over the course of Pawn Shop was gradual. We certainly had a lot of success off that but it wasn’t this immediately explosive thing. Following that up wasn’t that hard because it didn’t really seem like a huge thing at the time and we just kind of tried to progress naturally with what we were doing. Recording Port Saint Joe versus Pawn Shop, the first one was recorded over months in different fragments but the new one was recorded over two weeks. It felt like a really cohesive record and I know, after listening to it the first time after we were done, how proud we were of it. At the end of the day, that’s all we’re trying to do is make music that we love and we’re proud of. The response has been incredible. Just playing Koko last night, the record has only been out a few weeks and people are singing every word. That right there is an indication that you did something right, it’s an incredible feeling!
As an album, it flows from start to finish without any breaks. I guess the British crowds will listen to a record like that…
TJ: Yeah, you can really tell that. We walk out on the stage and people are responding to songs in a way that I didn’t think they would. There’s some songs on there that you expect to be great live but some of the songs are pretty chilled, songs that are kind of mid-tempo live, you really try and do them sparingly but, we played a couple back-to-back last night and the crowd just stays with you. That’s amazing! That’s one of my favourite things about coming over here to begin with, people really get in for the whole entire world of what you’re doing and not just the radio singles.
Exactly. I always find it weird to listen to a song on it’s own, I just starting singing the next album track automatically! It doesn’t feel right without it!
John: Yeah! I’m just like that!
TJ: With Port Saint Joe in particular it’s just like that. It’s one song directly after the other, kind of rapid fire, we even have that when we play live. We finish and song and it’s like “I wanna go right into the next song on the record!” It just feels right! We’re actually going to do that with a couple of songs tonight.
Have you got a favourite song at the moment to play live from the album?
TJ: It changes. Shoot Me Straight has been really fun. Now, it’s been fun playing some of the stuff that we don’t play very much. This is the first tour that we’ve done since releasing the album, so some of these songs we haven’t even played. We’re playing them for the first time here! It’s great to see a song that we’ve never played for anyone and then get a crowd reaction from it, it definitely adds fuel to the fire.
As an album, in terms of genre, it’s hard to nail down. You’ve got Tequila Again which is kind of bluegrass, A Couple Wrongs Makin’ It Alright which has that kind of funky thing…
John: Haha! I can’t describe that one either!
I love it though! TJ, the bit where you mess up the vocals is just great. The irony of a mistake in that song works great!
TJ: Oh yeah! I know! That was unintentional and after the fact we were like “that’s amazing”.
You guys don’t have that typical mainstream sound. Do you ever feel pressure to conform?
John: No. Our record label, Universal, have been very supportive. They told us when the record was done that it would be a struggle because it doesn’t sound like anything on the radio. We were like “no, that’s perfect!” That’s exactly what we wanted to hear, we want to be individual, we don’t mind working harder. We’ve worked our whole lives, we come from a hard working blue-collar family and if that means that we need to go and play more music then that’s a win for us! We haven’t had any pressure really, our management have been incredible and all of the people around us have been incredible. It’s just an amazing feeling to play music that you genuinely love and are proud to play, to have the people around you support that.
It must be even more special for instance, when you look at the CMA Fest show you played last year, you’ve not done anything to conform or lower your own standards but you’ve still made it to the biggest arena?
TJ: I think that part of it is that there is difference. In that regard, in comparison to some other people, we haven’t had as much radio success but we’re sometimes doing shows bigger than them and have opportunities coming our way. I genuinely believe that it’s because we add variety to sometimes a stagnant genre. It’s taken us a long time. From the first time we put singles out in the States, we watched people that put singles out two years after us just start passing us on the chart with this music that is… less than desirable I’ll say, to put it nicely. It’s so frustrating when that happens and you just have to keep your course. Where we’ve gotten now, we’re just really proud of what we’ve done, of the record we’ve put out. It has been a long road and it hasn’t been easy for a pretty good bit of it but now things are finally paying off.
It’s well deserved. I think you’re right about variety and I think that’s why the British crowds love you so much. We’ve had artists before, and no disrespect to them, like Luke Bryan for instance, who’ve dipped a toe in and it’s just not worked. I think that you guys are what a lot of country fans here want.
John: Yeah. I don’t know. I honestly wish I could tell you why it is what it is but I think that our music is a culmination of a few different sounds. As far as music goes, I listen to so many different guitar players and a lot of my heroes are from the UK, so maybe there’s something relatable there. You guys seem to really like the organic music as well and a lot of country is getting pretty synthetic at the moment. I’m like “I don’t know why you guys love us but I’m going to keep coming back!” I married a Brit so…
Well that’s a great way to test!
John: Exactly. I married one then was like “ok, the marriage is working out, let’s try touring with them!”
She seems to like me! That’s one of them!
John: That’s one Brit down!
Well I’m so glad that you guys are getting the recognition that you deserve and that you’re coming back. There’s a huge crowd of people already out there, queuing around the block!
TJ: I know! We just came back from dinner and we were walking down the street, I was like “who the fuck are all these people? Holy shit, they’re going to our venue down there!”