T.J. Osborne of Country Duo Brothers Osborne Comes Out As Gay

Photo: Rodin Eckenroth/WireImage

T.J. Osborne, lead singer of award-winning country-rock duo Brothers Osborne, is opening up about being gay in country music. The 36-year-old came out in a new Time interview, making him one of the highest-profile out gay country stars — and the only one on a major country label, EMI Nashville. (To be clear, he’s far from the only out queer country artist, joining recently acclaimed performers like Brandy Clark, Waylon Payne, and Katie Pruitt, along with country-adjacent stars like Lil Nas X, Brandi Carlile, and Orville Peck.) “People will ask, ‘Why does this even need to be talked about?’ and personally, I agree with that,” Osborne told Time. “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!’”

Osborne came out to his brother and bandmate, John, toward the beginning of their career in Nashville, and told many of those close to him over the years. “If I had to have all my money and success erased for my brother to be truly fulfilled in life, I wouldn’t even think about it. Not for a second,” John said of his brother coming out. (Also among his supporters? His friend Kacey Musgraves.) And while he’s kept his relationships with men quiet over the years, T.J. Osborne hasn’t kept them out of his music, with songs like “21 Summer” inspired by a breakup. “People love that song, but the emotion of it is deeper than they even realize,” he said. By being open about his sexuality, Osborne hopes he can help queer people see themselves in country music. “I realize that it is a big part of who I am: the way I think, the way I act, the way I perform,” he said. “God, think of all the times that we talk about love, and write about love. It’s the biggest thing we ever get to feel. And I’ve kept the veil on.”

Update, February 4, 9:20 a.m.: Osborne caught up with someone else who came out publicly in the pages of Time, Ellen DeGeneres, to talk further about his own coming out. “I think it’s one thing when, you know — you just know and assume people love you, and it’s different when you hear it, and when you hear it with sincerity,” he said of the reaction. Osborne later added, “And then to have people that I never even expected to say anything reaching out to me. People that I feel like personify masculinity and straight culture to the nth degree, who are coming out with a lot of pride for me, and it really is one of those things — that was really the moment to me that made me feel like, Wow, that was there the whole time.”

TJ Osborne of Country Duo Brothers Osborne Comes Out As Gay