Brothers Osborne Dub Late John Prine ‘King’ of Writing Country Songs ‘With Humor’

by Charles Craighill
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Brothers Osborne might be the hottest country duo in the industry right now. However, their difference from most country artists sets them apart. They combine so many different sounds and genres into their music, it becomes a melting pot that sort of winds up sounding like country. They cite everything from the grunge movement to the country music classics as their inspiration. Lyrically, the brothers name John Prine their primary influence.

The brothers, TJ and John Osborne don’t necessarily claim to have profound lyrics, but they do appreciate wittiness and humor in songs. For instance, in their song “I’m Not For Everyone,” they joke about getting an audience to clap: “some people clap on the one and the three/ some people clap on the two and the four/ some people don’t join at all/ cuz they got no rhythm and that’s alright.”

When writing their songs, they look to classic country artists like Mearl Haggard and John Prine. “John Prine definitely is the king of being able to write a song with humor, and even when he’d write a serious song there was always a ‘wink’,” John said in an interview. “That’s the only way I can describe it with a John Prine song. No matter what he was singing he was always winking at you in his lyrics, and I loved that. And Merle Haggard had some great humor in his songs, like Okie From Muskogee… If you look at art and songwriting, it reflects life. If you don’t have a little bit of humor in your life, then what’s the point?” 

Brothers Osborne Wide Range of Influence

The duo draws influence from all different corners of the musical universe. From country classics to grunge to pop, even jazz finds its way into their music. This wide range really shows on their third studio album, Skeletons, released just over a month ago. From country music, they pull most from classic country musicians like Hank Williams.

John’s guitar playing also comes from a wide variety of influences. He takes some of the grungy sounds and tone from grunge pioneer Kurt Cobain. For his hard bluesy riffs, he takes the tone of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Even the tasty funk riffs on the new album come from Prince according to John.

“That kinda thing is very Prince-inspired,” he says. “I love that. It’s hard to do that sound. I didn’t quite nail it because I just have my own accent when I play the guitar naturally, I can’t get away from it! But I always loved how Prince had very dry, direct guitar stabs in his songs. I thought they were so fun and so cool and percussive.” 

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