Brothers Osborne: Cover Songs Are Important, But They’re Difficult
Brothers Osborne have some recent, first-person experience in just how difficult it can be to cover another artist's song: TJ and John Osborne recently collaborated with country legends Brooks & Dunn on a re-imagined version of the latter group's "Hard Workin' Man," for their new Reboot album.
Selecting a song to perform for that record took some time and consideration, the Osbornes admit. "It was a little tough because Ronnie's voice is so high, and I obviously have a baritone voice," explains TJ Osborne. "[It was about] trying to figure out a song that would work to both of our strengths, and then a song that lent itself to a lot of guitar parts."
Even after "Hard Workin' Man emerged as the obvious choice, it still took some work to come up with the final arrangement. "It took abandoning one of the guitar hooks in that song," Osborne continues. "We wanted to do it like Brooks & Dunn did it -- we just love the song -- and they wanted to do it like we would do it. It was a really interesting thing. But I think the way it turned out was really great."
In the meantime, other artists are beginning to try their hands at performing Brothers Osborne's own songs as covers. During CMA Fest 2019, rising singer-songwriter Rachel Wammack played the duo's "Ain't My Fault" during a set.
"That's awesome," John Osborne says. "The fact that somebody is covering our song is a high honor."
Their Reboot contribution notwithstanding, Brothers Osborne often try to avoid playing covers themselves, precisely because they're so challenging to get right.
"You wanna go out there, you wanna expose what you do. We would rather walk out and play to a thousand [people] and make 300 of them Brothers Osborne fans than to please a thousand of them playing someone else's music," TJ Osborne admits. "And then, to find that special cover song that people will know, but also fits in the vein of what you do, and try to change it a little bit so you have your own spin on it -- They're important to do, but it's really challenging."
Of course, that's not to say that the duo hasn't played their fair share of cover songs over the course of their career. "Long before this, I played in cover bands all throughout the country," John Osborne muses. "I love that Rachel did that. It's such a high honor, especially since she's someone I admire."
Even if the bandmates didn't know Wammack, they would still be flattered that she had chosen to learn and perform their song.
"I was walking through the airport one day, and I was like, 'Oh, some dude is playing one of our songs, and I don't even know who he is,'" Osborne continues. "It means a lot, knowing that that's where we came from. We came from that very stool, with an acoustic guitar, singing the songs, and now someone is doing ours."
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