Once upon a time, when the Brothers Osborne were just kids in Deale playing with their dad, you didn’t have to go farther than your local watering hole to hear them. Now they’re big time, chronicled in Rolling Stone and celebrated as Country Music Association’s Vocal Duo of the Year. Last year’s Dirt Rich tour sold out across America and Canada.
But their roots remain deep in Chesapeake Country. Their breakout hit, Mix It with Rum, was filmed with a local crowd at Happy Harbor and Skippers Pier in Deale. Their fans love them for their hometown pride.
This summer, the brothers come home, playing Friday, August 25 at Calvert Marine Museum. Bay Weekly staffers and South County residents Audrey Broomfield and Kathy Knotts had hoped for a true interview with the country duo, but due to a tight touring schedule they had to settle for a phone call. This is an edited text of that conversation.
Bay Weekly Your long and successful music career started when you were kids backing up your father in a band that played local restaurants and taverns. When did you begin to see your music as a career?
John Osborne You have to commit to something like that at a very young age and just be really stubborn and strong-headed about doing it. It takes years and years of sacrifice and questioning whether you are on the right path or not. There really isn’t one specific moment but more like hundreds of small moments that remind you that that’s where you want to be.
Bay Weekly Where do you see yourself more at home, Deale or Nashville?
John Osborne Nashville now. It’s amazing in Nashville. I love it and call myself a Nashvillian. I feel like I’m such a part of the city. I’ve watched it grow over the last 10 years to blossom into an amazing town. The people are so warm and welcoming. It’s the best of living in a big city but with a small-town vibe.
TJ Osborne I love it here [Nashville]. I moved right after high school. All I had known was little ol’ Deale. I was used to waving at everyone and knowing everyone in school and growing up with them. Moving to a city: Nashville might as well have been NYC at the time. But now it feels smaller to me, and I know so many people here now.
Bay Weekly Do people recognize you when you’re out and about?
John Osborne I see it more at home; it definitely happens, it’s hard for me to hide from people. I have long hair, a big beard and I’m six-foot-four. So I can’t really hide from anyone recognizing me. But I don’t mind if people want to come up and say hi and take a picture with me. It definitely happens a lot in town and more in Maryland. If you’re from Deale everybody already knows who you are anyway. I like it. I don’t mind the attention.
Bay Weekly Who or what was the biggest influence on your musical career?
John Osborne Our parents were our biggest influences. They both went to Nashville when we were younger. They write songs and record. They paved the way for us to become musicians. They are our biggest inspiration.
TJ Osborne Good songwriting really inspires me. I’ve always liked the crafting of a song. It was always something that stuck with me and gave me drive. Eventually alongside my brother, that turned into a career. Ultimately, you’ve got to have good songs. It just comes down to that. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t have catchy lyrics you won’t be successful. Taylor Swift is a prime example. She is not really known for being this great singer, but her songs are what got her to what she is now.
Bay Weekly Out of all the venues you have played, do you have a favorite?
John Osborne My favorite venue is the Ryman Auditorium (in Nashville) where we recently played with Little Big Town. It was so much fun. There was great energy in that room.
TJ Osborne Ryman Auditorium in Nashville is a hard room to beat. It’s magical there. There’s history. The acoustics are second to none. You have this theater that feels so intimate. It’s a special experience every time.
Bay Weekly Since making it, you’ve played with quite a few big names. Who is your favorite star to play with?
TJ Osborne Little Big Town has been the most fun and supportive. They’re people who I am definitely proud to call my friends, and that has more to do with how cool and great they are as people and not just the success they’ve achieved. They are really, really talented on top of that. Sharing a stage with them is great. Some people’s lives are more crazy; some artists you don’t get to hang with as much. They’ve all been really great, good experiences.
John Osborne Little Big Town is one of our favorite groups, not only as a band but also as people. We’ve been very lucky to play with some really cool artists, from Chris Stapleton to Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley, Darius Rucker, Eric Church. We are big fans of all the people we get to play with.
Bay Weekly What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
John Osborne The best piece of advice I’ve ever heard is to work hard and be nice to people. Those two things can go a long, long way. You have to have some ability and talent, but if you don’t work hard and you’re not nice to people, your talent will go nowhere.
TJ Osborne Treat people with respect, be nice to people. If you have talent and you work hard and you’re nice to people and make friends, life will be good for you. From our parents we learned a strong work ethic, which kept us going.
Bay Weekly How about memorable experiences with crazy fans?
John Osborne One girl, we signed her arm and she went and got it tattooed.
Bay Weekly What is your favorite song to perform on stage?
John Osborne It Ain’t My Fault, our current single. It’s a fun, rocking tune and everyone sings along, and there’s a big guitar solo in the middle that I get to play. I love stretching it out and doing my own thing.
Bay Weekly What do you miss most about Deale and Maryland?
John Osborne Besides our family, I miss the people and the Bay. Deale has some of the most real people on the planet — straight shooters and hard workers — and I miss that the most. But equally I miss the Bay — and damn good crab cakes. We always eat crab cakes when we go home. People try to offer us crab cakes everywhere we go because we are from Maryland, and we just turn them down.
TJ Osborne Growing up in Deale was an immense influence. A lot of people don’t realize how country and rural Maryland really is. They can’t believe a country artist came out of there.
I think as far as our music, I knew that if I ever sold out, everyone in my hometown would kick my ass. So I had to stay true to my roots.
The camaraderie you have with your friends and neighbors in a small community, that’s hard to get somewhere else.
I really miss being able to just go home and go fishing and walk out my door and do that.
Bay Weekly If you could play with any one person dead or alive who would it be?
John Osborne I would love to play with the Allman Brothers. Unfortunately Gregg Allman passed away recently, but I’d love to go back in time and play with the young Allman Brothers.
TJ Osborne I would love to play with Hank [Williams] Sr. No, Merle Haggard, that’s who. Hank Sr. was before my time, as were a lot of Merle’s songs, but I got to see Merle play live, he was just one of those guys.
Catch the Brothers Osborne on stage at Calvert Marine Museum, Friday, August 25. Tickets are still available, but hurry: www.calvertmarinemuseum.com.