They’re three albums and a heap of trophies and awards nominations into their career now, but five years ago, Brothers Osborne were country up-and-comers releasing their debut album. The sibling duo’s first full-length record, Pawn Shop, debuted on Jan. 15, 2016.
Deale, Md., natives John and TJ Osborne were four singles deep into their career by the time they released Pawn Shop. Three of those songs, “Rum” (a gold-certified Top 30 single), “Stay a Little Longer” (platinum-certified, went to No. 2) and “21 Summer” (it peaked at No. 24), appear on the project, released via EMI Nashville; the fourth single, “Let’s Go There,” was a Top 40 track but appears only on their 2014 self-titled EP. A fourth Pawn Shop cut, “It Ain’t My Fault,” was released as a single in 2017, earning platinum certification and peaking at No. 12 on the charts.
The Osbornes co-wrote 10 of the 11 songs on Pawn Shop with co-writers including Barry Dean, Craig Wiseman, Shane McAnally, Casey Beathard, Ross Copperman and Jessi Alexander. “Greener Pastures,” a relationship kiss-off that finds one-half of the couple packing up, moving out and “gettin’ stoned so it don’t matter,” was co-written with Ryan Hurd and Maren Morris, both also newbies at the time. The one song not co-written by the brothers, “Heart Shaped Locket,” was penned by TJ Osborne with Lisa Carver and Andi Zack.
Jay Joyce produced Pawn Shop, save for “Rum” and “Heart Shaped Locket,” which the Osbornes co-produced with Brad Hill. They’ve continued to work with Joyce on each of their albums since: 2018’s Port Saint Joe and 2020’s Skeletons.
“Jay’s very opinionated, and his opinions are … very intelligent; he has a very profound knowledge of music,” TJ Osborne shared of their relationship with Joyce ahead of the release of Skeletons. ”Any time he’s challenging us, it’s really pushed John and I … It’s really given us some confidence to speak up … but at the same time … it’s nice to have someone who can challenge what we’re doing.”
Pawn Shop relies on traditional, if rock-leaning, sounds and few bells and whistles, instead keeping its focus on the Osbornes’ lyrics and John Osborne’s masterful guitarwork. Their sister, Natalie Osborne, and John’s now-wife, singer-songwriter Lucie Silvas, sing background on a couple of tracks, but even Lee Ann Womack, who is featured on “Loving Me Back,” is an understated guest star.
“We finished recording it, and we thought it was really good, but it felt like it was missing one extra thing that just made it spectacular. At the time, [getting Womack on the song] seemed like a wild idea,” remembers John Osborne. “We just idolize her. She’s country music royalty, and she’s one of the greats that will forever be. It was definitely, out of all the things we will achieve in our careers, that was one of the bucket list things.”
Upon its release, Pawn Shop debuted at No. 3 on Billboard‘s Top Country Albums chart. It was certified gold about 22 months later, on Nov. 16, 2017.
Brothers Osborne notched a CMA Vocal Duo of the Year nomination the November before they released Pawn Shop (2015), and ACM New Vocal Duo/Group of the Year and Vocal Duo of the Year nods the April after its release (2016). At the 2016 CMAs and 2017 ACMs, however, they won all three of those honors — and then won ACM Vocal Duo of the Year in 2018 and CMA Vocal Duo of the Year in 2017 and 2018, too. “Stay a Little Longer,” “21 Summer” and “It Ain’t My Fault” each also notched the Osbornes Grammy Awards nominations for Best Country Duo/Group Performance.
“Honestly, it’s happened so quickly that it’s almost even hard to reflect on it. And it seems weird, the speed of which it’s all happened,” John Osborne told The Boot in 2017. “It feels like we’ve been on this really long journey — which, we’ve been in Nashville for a long time working on this. But when you put it in the context of what’s happened from the beginning of 2016 on, it’s been really unbelievable.”