Brothers Osborne‘s third album Skeletons includes a number of nods to real-life brothers John and TJ Osborne’s supportive family, a creative bunch that have fostered their love of music and stood behind them as they’ve pursued their career. However, the record concludes with what is perhaps its most personal song: “Old Man’s Boots.”
John Osborne wasn’t planning on writing when he penned the song, alone, in his bathtub, trying to clear his head, but “usually when you don’t try to do something creative is when you brain decides it wants to be creative,” he says wryly. Below, the brothers share the story behind the song, in the own words.
John Osborne: We were going through a period where we weren’t really writing a lot, and we were just busy. I was tired … I was kind of struggling with some mental stuff, burnout, and then I ended up getting tinnitus in my ears, and I was just kind of at my wit’s end.
And I just remember, one night — no interest, not feeling creative at all, I just took a bath, just to calm down, and usually when you don’t try to do something creative is when your brain decides that it wants to be creative. So I just sat in the bath, and an idea popped into my head, and I told [my wife, fellow artist] Lucie [Silvas], “Hey, can you bring me my phone? I just, these ideas are kind of coming,” and I literally just sat in the bath and I just kind of started typing out lyrics, like, really fast. It wasn’t … like I had an idea that I sat down and tried to do it, it just kind of really fell out.
It was an easy song to write, because it is our life, to a T. Every line in there is the absolute truth, and it wasn’t like I had to put on some hat and try to write a song for the world … It was like, “This is our life. This is just how I’m gonna write it” …
First, I played it for our sister Natalie, and it made her cry, and I was like, “Okay, I think this is good enough to play for TJ.” [Laughs]
TJ Osborne: Yeah, when John played it for me, I thought it was really good, but the other thing I was thinking, too, was, I was just thinking about me singing it.
Hearing John singing it, it sounded really great, and our voices are pretty similar, but they, at the same time, are different in delivery, so I always have a little trepidation with other people’s songs … For them to come out in an honest way, it has to really come from the heart of the singer, and once I got the song home and started messing with it … it really felt like a song that I had written, and I think that was probably for obvious reasons …
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