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World Cafe Nashville: Brothers Osborne

Brothers Osborne
Brothers Osborne

If John and T.J. Osborne hadn't been born brothers, each might have found artistic success in his own lane. John's a hotshot guitarist who developed his smooth, inventive style emulating hard rockers and bluegrass pickers. T.J. has the resonant baritone of a classic country crooner, with a little Eddie Vedder thrown in.

Raised in small-town coastal Maryland, the two moved to Nashville to pursue different musical dreams, but soon realized that, like peanut butter and jelly, they made an irresistible combo. Brothers Osborne released their debut single in 2013; five years later, with one gold album, Pawn Shop, under their belts, they're chart-topping award winners with a worldwide following. In fact, they just won two more Academy of Country Music Awards on April 15, including their second year in a row as vocal duo of the year.

As the pair's star rose, John and T.J. became known as key players in country's game-changing, culturally progressive millennial generation, which also includes friends like Maren Morris and Kacey Musgraves. With breakthrough success fueling their ambition to remain self-directed within a genre that often seems to reward conformity, the Brothers Osborne decamped to their producer Jay Joyce's oceanside Florida bungalow to make a second album that would be even more individualistic than the first. The just-released Port Saint Joe, named after the tiny town where it was made, personalizes the language of mainstream country in subtle, highly intelligent ways. John Osborne's guitar runs through every track like a duet partner with T.J.'s sophisticated vocalizing. It sounds like country – and fits on mainstream country radio – but Port Saint Joe is also soulful, classic-rocking, and pop wise.

John and T.J. Osborne joined me at Sound Stage Studios in Nashville, Tenn. for some conversation about the new album and the road that's brought them to country's biggest stages. Hear it all in the player.

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