Country star TJ Osborne, one half of duo Brothers Osborne, has come out as gay – and made country music history. Osborne is now the first openly gay artist to be signed to a major country label.
Speaking to Time, Osborne noted his worry of appearing opportunistic in coming out, but despite that, he wanted to set an example: “People will ask, ‘why does this even need to be talked about?’ and personally, I agree with that,” he said. “But for me to show up at an awards show with a man would be jaw-dropping to people. It wouldn’t be like, ‘Oh, cool!’”
Brothers Osborne are signed to EMI Nashville. They released their self-titled debut EP in 2014, and since 2016 have released three studio albums and one live album. Their latest, Skeletons, was released in October last year and hit number four on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart.
The genre of country has, traditionally, been associated with a vaguely conservative leaning. Sam Lansky, writing in his interview with Osborne, notes that “if liberal Hollywood is notorious for pushing a progressive agenda, country has historically been its counterpoint – a safe haven for traditional ‘family values.’” Lansky also recalls the 2003 incident involving The Chicks, then known as The Dixie Chicks, as an example of the genre’s rash response to anything out of step with fans’ politics. On stage, days before it happened, the band spoke out against the US’ invasion of Iraq and said they were “ashamed” of George W. Bush being from Texas. The incident sparked a huge backlash, and resulted in the band being blacklisted from hundreds of country music stations.
TJ Osborne, when asked as to whether he thinks his coming out will affect his group’s popularity with conservative fans, said he hopes not, and said: “Maybe I’m not giving my fans enough credit. Maybe I’m not giving the genre enough credit … I just want to move on.”
While Osborne is the first gay artist signed to a major country label, he’s of course not the first openly LGBTQ+ musician in the genre – there’s been recent country and country-adjacent hits from artists such as Orville Peck and Lil Nas X, and countless other queer country artists have been making music for years.
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