Josh Osborne: 5 Songs That Shaped the Songwriter

by Jim Casey

With more than 20 No. 1 hits to his credit, songwriter Josh Osborne is a titan tunesmith in the country music industry.

Josh scored his first chart-topper with Kenny Chesney’s “Come Over” in 2012. Two years later, the Kentucky native won a Grammy Award for Best Country Song for Kacey Musgraves’ “Merry Go Round.”

And the hits just keep on materializing from Josh’s pen, including Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road,” Blake Shelton’s “Sangria,” Old Dominion’s “One Man Band,” Keith Urban’s “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16,” Miranda Lambert’s “Vice,” and more.

Josh sat down with Outsider to talk about the 5 Songs That Shaped the Songwriter. Josh’s list is a testament to the inspirational power of music across multiple genres.

1. ‘Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)’ – The Beatles

Josh Osborne: “When I was a kid, my dad knew how much I loved music and encouraged me to write some of my own songs. He was a child of the ’60s and a huge fan of the Beatles. So, he told me I should listen to their music because they wrote their own songs. He bought me a two-cassette-tape set of all the Beatles’ hits.

“I really liked everything I was hearing, but then I got to Side 2 of the first tape and about halfway through was a song called ‘Norwegian Wood.’ I was so knocked out by it. My 13-year-old brain couldn’t comprehend how the words and melody could flow and fit so well together. I kept rewinding the song and listened to it probably 10 times in a row. I didn’t know how to do it, but at that moment I knew that was what I wanted to do.”  

2. ‘Moon Over Georgia’ – Shenandoah

Josh Osborne: “This was one of the first songs that just floored me with wordplay. I remember hearing it on the radio and thinking, ‘I’ve got to learn to play this song.’ This was obviously before iTunes, so I really had to search for the song. I finally found it on a Shenandoah Greatest Hits album at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop during one of my early trips to Nashville.

“So, I listened over and over until I learned all the words and learned how to play the song on guitar. I used to sit on the front porch of my parents’ house in Kentucky at night when they had gone to bed and just play that song. When I met Toni, my future wife, it was one of the first songs I played and sang for her as we talked about the music that we loved. I still think that song is the reason I was able to get someone so out of my league to fall for me. Music is magic.”

3. ‘That’s the Way Love Goes’ – Merle Haggard

Josh Osborne:Merle Haggard is my favorite country songwriter of all time. So the fact that he recorded this song, but didn’t write it, speaks volumes about this one. The melody, the chord changes, the lyric—all spectacular and all working together seamlessly. I also love the production so much on this one. The ache of Merle’s voice over the lush elements of the track create a three-minute masterpiece.” 

4. ‘God Only Knows’ – The Beach Boys

Josh Osborne: “I think this is the most perfect love song ever written. The melody paired with the earnestness of the lyric is unmatched. I think so many times when people think of the Beach Boys, they only think of the fun, surf songs. But there is a sadness and vulnerability in so much of the work that Brian Wilson did along with the many people who wrote lyrics with him, which on this song was Tony Asher. 

“Carl Wilson, Brian’s brother, sings the lead vocal on this, and his voice blends into the arrangement as if it is just another instrument in this orchestral bed. If you have someone you truly love in your life, which we all do, I dare you to listen to this song while thinking of them and not get emotional.” 

5. ‘Miami, My Amy’ – Keith Whitley

Josh Osborne: “It’s hard to pick one song of Keith Whitley’s because he is probably my favorite county voice of all time. He is from a town close to where I’m from in Kentucky. Growing up there, his records were played all the time. His music was such a fixture in our house that even when he passed away I didn’t know. To me, he was always there. And luckily still is. As I got older and learned more about his life, music, and legacy, I realized what a gift he shared with us—even if only for a little while.

“‘Miami, My Amy’ is so beautiful melodically and interesting lyrically. And that is why it sits at the top of my favorite Whitley songs. This song was also the reason I truly began to understand the greatness of [songwriter] Dean Dillon. He is so versatile that you wouldn’t hear this song and automatically think it was a song he had written. But then when you find out he is a writer on it, you can undoubtedly hear him all over it.”