The Brothers Osborne, a twang-and crunch duo that blends equal parts country and rock into one of the freshest, most identifiable sounds to come out of Nashville in recent years, will close out this year’s Washington Town and Country Fair with a concert Sunday night, Aug. 6, beginning at 8:30 p.m.
The singer/songwriter siblings, who won both “Vocal Duo of the Year” and “New Vocal Duo or Group of the Year” in 2016, will bring their hits like “Stay a Little Longer,” “21 Summer” and “Rum” to the main stage for the final performance in “Fairadise” before the annual fireworks show shuts down the grounds.
The Missourian’s Currents Arts and Entertainment Editor Ethan Bussee caught up with TJ Osborne for a phone interview about their music and the show here Aug. 6.
Following are the highlights of that interview:
MISSOURIAN: We’re excited that you are coming . . . I know you guys have a lot of fans out here.
TJ OSBORNE: That’s good to know!
MISSOURIAN: I was reading over your bio and stuff like that, and you guys came from a small town in Maryland?
TJ OSBORNE: Yes, we did. The town we came from is probably more like, I don’t know what it is now, but it’s probably between 5 and 6,000.
MISSOURIAN: So you started out playing in a garage or a shed. You had a cover band called Deuce and a Quarter, is that right?
TJ OSBORNE: We did, yeah. It was a band with our dad. It was this little shed out back of our house. Dad had a little studio. Actually, for the time, it was pretty impressive having it. If you look back now, it seems like, “OK, big deal.” You can have a recording gig pretty easy these days. But he had a reel-to-reel, and a desk, and a way to burn casette tapes, the whole shebang, in a little, tiny shed studio that was probably no bigger than a couple hundred square feet. And we’d go in there and just kind of rehearse and record stuff . . . We’d go in there and make up a bunch of nonsense, just because we thought it was fun to record music, especially in an era when the technology wasn’t readily available.
So yeah, we had that with our dad. We’d play a lot of local bars, do some covers. Anytime we did covers, we always kind of did them our way. We’d get them close, make sure they were recognizable . . . a lot of it was just trying to have some originality in the covers. And we’d also play some original music. Both of our parents are songwriters, and so we played original songs too, and some of those original songs would start to, over time, become some of the crowd favorites.
MISSOURIAN: That’s very cool! You guys had quite a set up then. You had all the tools to play around and experiment.
TJ OSBORNE: I think the even more surprising thing about all of it is that we didn’t come from money. We had very humble means, so the fact that my dad had even invested in that technology just goes to show the seriousness and how much we loved being a part of music.
MISSOURIAN: Deuce and a Quarter, the name, was that because of John Hiatt?
TJ OSBORNE: It’s actually because of Ry Cooder. I love John Hiatt, but Ry Cooder actually had a song we were thinking at the time of the band name, and I just remember being a kid and thinking it was so cool.
He was like, “I’ll put you behind the wheel of a deuce and a quarter” . . . So we called ourselves that, and I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but deuce and a quarter is a Buick Electra (car).
MISSOURIAN: Right, because it’s 225 inches long.
TJ OSBORNE: . . . I just recently bought a ’69 Buick Electra. I have a tatoo of “225” on my arm, and people ask all of the time what that means. They think it’s an area code.
MISSOURIAN: Do you guys like playing these country fairs? Being out in the heartland compared to stadiums?
TJ OSBORNE: The biggest thing is how the crowds are. The crowds determine if it’s fun or not. You can play to 100 people who are going completely bananas and it will be more fun than playing to 1,000 people just sitting on their (bottoms) . . .
And when you tour, a lot of your bigger markets tend to be more populated areas. It’s easier to pull a crowd, and you kind of forget there are tons of little towns in between, so they’re fun. They are fun to do and just also to see what country folk really think about our music.
We tend to have a lot of success in small towns, and I don’t know how familiar you are with radio, but . . . I feel like the smaller towns get a little more lee-way in what they want to hear. The smaller stations get to play the music that the people want.
MISSOURIAN: It’s true. I was aware of you guys because of our small stations, I guess the first time I heard you was the song “Rum” before any of the other stuff broke on Top 40. And I was like, “Who are these guys?” It was great!
TJ OSBORNE: There you go! And our song “Rum,” it wasn’t a hit by any means on the charts, but I think because of all the secondary markets that just played the fire out of it, we can go out there and almost every night when we stop we can have the crowd sing a chorus. That’s a hit in my book.
MISSOURIAN: Well, I know you’re going to have a lot of singing along here. You’ve got a big fan base.
TJ OSBORNE: Well, I hope so! I’m looking forward to it.
MISSOURIAN: So are we. What kind of show can we expect when you’re here?
TJ OSBORNE: It’s funny. We get asked that quite a bit, and I never really quite know how to answer it because we try to change it up as much as we can.
There are certain parts of our sets and our songs that we keep the same just because it’s part of the song, it’s the hooks or whatever. But solo sections and stuff like that, we kind of try to keep them open-ended so what happens on stage is spontaneous and it’s fun for us and by default fun for the audience.
I think the most valuable thing in a live concert is being able to get that one-time experience, getting to see that thing that no one else saw. So we like to step out on a limb as much as we can and get a little air, maybe make some mistakes, because quite often, it’s weird, but it’s the mistakes that people don’t crucify you for them as you would think as much as they hold on to them and say, “Man, I was there that show when this happened!” Those are all the special moments I think.
MISSOURIAN: I’ve got two questions from fans here. One is “How is the upkeep on that beard?”
TJ OSBORNE: Hahaha! Well, my brother is the one who has the big beard. I’ve been growing a very, very small ultra light version of a beard right now because it has been playoff hockey, and we’ve had our Preds on the hunt, and I was sticking to the playoff beard.
So John’s upkeep on the beard . . . you’ll have to ask him. I can’t give any beard wisdom out there. Although I will say, a big beard takes a little more care than it looks like it does.
MISSOURIAN: I would imagine it does! The other question came from our resident bluegrass band leader: “Do you like the Osborne Brothers?”
TJ OSBORNE: Man, that’s funny. Last night someone was literally asking me about that. But yeah, the first time I ever played the Grand Ole Opry was with a bluegrass artist. I was playing upright bass, and my brother was playing flat top guitar for a really great bluegrass singer named Alecia Nugent. We’d get up there and the Osborne Brothers would hop up on stage . . . yeah, “Rocky Top Tennessee,” we actually do a cover of that song. We haven’t done it in a long time . . . but it’s awesome! We love it!
MISSOURIAN: Anything else you’d like to say to the fans here before you come out?
TJ OSBORNE: No, I think it’s all pretty much rocking. We have our record “Pawn Shop” thats been out for a while now. We are in the studio recording our next album at the moment, and we’ll hopefully have some new music out here soon.
MISSOURIAN: Excellent! . . . If you guys want to play “Rocky Top” here, we would appreciate it.
TJ OSBORNE: OK, I have a really terrible memory, but hopefully I throw that in the set when it comes up.