Nascent Nashville sensations Brothers Osborne's video for "Stay a Little Longer" is nearing nine million views on YouTube.
Released in October as a preview of their debut album Pawn Shop (EMI Records Nashville), "Stay a Little Longer" is set amid a dark, gritty urban wasteland populated by multiracial, well-tattooed hipster actors in passionate scenes. Frontman vocalist and younger brother TJ strums rhythm licks on his acoustic guitar while the bearded and unkempt John, intermittently delivers riffs both delicate and tractor-bouncy before shredding a sinister outro segment to the original tune.
"I haven't checked in a while," John Osborne says of the YouTube count, talking by phone during a recent tour stop in Alabama. "I don't get caught up in listening to such talk, but definitely it's put us over the edge. We needed it and are very grateful.
"What we'd prefer, while ultra-grateful, is a one-on-one relationship," Osborne adds. "Not a direct, sold-to-you relationship, but a much closer bond versus just watching us on YouTube. Come to our shows, get to understand us as artists, meet each other and have a good time."
At 33, John has lived in Nashville for 15 years. Three-and-a-half years younger, TJ moved to the Music City 13 years ago. Sudden darlings of a country-music renaissance that's flourishing in tandem with Nashville's recent cultural and economic boom, the Brothers Osborne know the benefit of fitting into its scene.
"If you look at the city now, it's physically had an entire facelift," John says. "A lot of different styles, a lot of different influences — The Black Keys, Jack White — have congregated in one place. That breeds creativity and diversity musically as well as culturally. We're all crossing party lines to write and create for each other. Another factor for artists like us is Chris Stapleton breaking through in such an epic way, with his more organic style and huge rock sound. This isn't the bro-country you heard for so long, songs all in the same style with all the same production."
Osborne says his parents paved the way for the duo to compose music and visit Nashville in hopes of succeeding there. "Of course I was rebellious and hated everything in my parents' life when I first started really listening to music — first sucked in by the whole Seattle grunge thing," he says. "Then Stevie Ray Vaughan changed everything for me. I didn't understand what you were allowed to do with the guitar. Then I found [Eric] Clapton, Duane [Allman], Dickey [Betts], [Lynyrd] Skynyrd, B.B. King, Freddie King — the blues/Southern rock style grabbed me hard. Then I got into high school and I got into old country: Roy Nichols, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens. The complexity of country music, which seems simple on the surface, has a lot of subtleties that takes a bit of maturity to hear. Then it became a rabbit hole I'm still in."
Growing up in what he describes as the backwater culture of small-town, Western Shore Maryland, Osborne says front-porch jams with friends and family just were part of life as he knew it. Growing from there to stardom with his brother seemed simple, he says.
"It really all came naturally," he says. "The trick is, we didn't overthink it."
• Colin Lake