Today, T.J. Osborne, one half of the musical duo Brothers Osborne, has come out as gay.
He shared his story with the world and how his journey has looked like in country music. As of right now, Osborne is the only openly gay country artist that is signed to a major record label.
“And I realize that it is a big part of who I am: The way I think, the way I act, the way I perform. God, think of all the times that we talk about love, and write about love. It’s the biggest thing we ever get to feel. And I’ve kept the veil on,” T.J. Osborne said in an exclusive with TIME.
Since coming out, Osborne has been getting an outpour of love from his fans and others in the business.
Osborne is signed with EMI Nashville. Other country-related artists such as Brandy Clark, Waylon Payne, Katie Pruitt, Lil Nas X, and Brandi Carlile have all come out saying they identify as queer as well.
Osborne Talks About Career
Osborne has been out to his family and friends for years. He has known he was gay since he was a young child as well.
“I’m very comfortable being gay. I find myself being guarded for not wanting to talk about something that I personally don’t have a problem with. That feels so strange,” Osborne said to TIME.
So, why was the country artist so reserved about revealing his sexuality on a more grand scheme? The majority of his hesitation comes from the mainstream conservatism that remains a staple in American country music.
According to TIME, other country artists in the past have revealed just how polarizing it is to be a part of country music. If an artist speaks out on an issue they feel is important but disagrees with their audience, they could lose listeners. The Chicks left country music after political statements referencing the Iraq War.
Now, however, they openly criticize Republican figures such as Donald Trump. Taylor Swift also left her country music days in the past after feeling like she was walking on eggshells in an industry where she never felt comfortable or accepted.
Osborne said he doesn’t really personally see why he needs to talk about this. He did say if he brings a man to an awards show one day he didn’t want to completely shock people. In terms of his relationship with fans, he’s pretty optimistic.
“I don’t think I’m going to get run off the stage in Chicago. But in a rural town playing a county fair? I’m curious how this will go,” Osborne said to TIME.
Experience Being Closeted
Although friends and family knew he way gay, T.J. said that being closeted really took a toll on his mental health some days.
He said that after a breakup and writing songs about heartbreak, it was hard for him to know people didn’t understand why he was hurting. Osborne said being in the closet was “lonely and isolating.” He wrote the song “21 Summer” about a relationship in his past.
“There are so many times I’ve sung that song and wanted to cry. People love that song, but the emotion of it is deeper than they even realize.”
His brother, John, has been there for him during their whole experience. So has his close friend and fellow country artist, Kacey Musgraves.
“If I had to have all my money and success erased for my brother to be truly fulfilled in life, I wouldn’t even think about it. Not for a second,” John Osborne said, according to Vulture.
Musgraves has been a progressive-minded voice in country music since she’s become popular. She has openly been inclusive and vocal about her beliefs.
Both her and T.J. are hoping that this will all be a step in the right direction for the country music world. It will bring more inclusivity and allow more people to feel comfortable listening to the music. Individuals who have long felt discluded by country music’s straight, male-dominated voice will finally start to see a glimmer of hope.
“Others will now feel invited to the country music party for the first time. Country music deserves a future even more honest than its past,” Musgraves said.
Brothers Osborne Past Inclusivity
In the past, the musical duo has not wavered on their stance on certain issues.
The group is a part of several country artists like Maren Morris, Kacey Musgraves, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood, and others with openly liberal viewpoints. They are not worried about losing fans, only about talking about important issues.
Brothers Osborne has been vocal on LGBT issues, gun issues, racial justice issues, as well as sexual harassment in the industry. Whether it’s in their music or on social media, the brothers aren’t hiding anything.
“A lot of people are like, ‘Stay out of politics’ … I don’t care if you agree with me or not or I agree with you or not, we should all be involved in politics because it affects every single one of us. That’s the beautiful thing in this country; we have the ability to have individual opinions and voice them. We want to take advantage of that,” T.J. Osborne said to AP News.
Brothers Osborne released their song “Stay a Little Longer,” which featured gay and interracial couples.