Country music star Thomas John “TJ” Osborne has come out publicly as gay, making him the first openly gay country artist signed to a major country label.
The Brothers Osborne lead vocalist said, in an interview with Time magazine, that he has been open about his sexuality with his friends and family, but he wanted to share his truth with the world. Osborne said: “I’m very comfortable being gay.
“I find myself being guarded for not wanting to talk about something that I personally don’t have a problem with.
“That feels so strange.”
Though other artists in country have come out (Lil Nas X, Brandi Carlile, Orville Beck, Chely Wright and Billy Gilman), Osborne is the first openly gay musician at a major country label. The Brothers Osborne are signed to EMI Records Nashville, and the duo have released seven country Top 40 singles and three studio albums.
In an interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Osborne explained that to ‘come out publicly in one big soul swoop’ had made for a very emotional day.
“I wish I had done this a long time ago,” he added. “Not only is it a weight off my shoulders to tell the truth… right now I feel so incredibly loved.
“Maybe I built it up to be a bigger hurdle than it was the whole time.”
TJ Osborne is ‘curious how this will go’
TJ Osborne told Time he thought people would ask why his sexuality will “even need to be talked about”, which he agreed with, but he said it would be “jaw-dropping” if he showed up to an event with a male partner with no explanation.
He explained: “It wouldn’t be like, ‘Oh, cool!’
“I don’t think I’m going to get run off the stage in Chicago.
“But in a rural town playing a country fair? I’m curious how this will go.”
Professional risks are worth it
Osborne told Time magazine that he felt the professional risks he’s taking in coming out feel worth it – both for his happiness and because it was time. He said country music is about storytelling, and his identity is inextricable from his music.
He added that country music might not be the most popular genre among the LGBT+ community, but he questioned why that was. Osborne asked: “But is that just because they’ve never had an opportunity to relate to it?”
TJ Osborne found being closeted ‘lonely and isolating’
TJ Osborne told Time magazine that being closeted while growing up in rural Deale, Maryland was painful. He said: “It was so lonely and isolating.
“It made me resent people.”
Osborne said he experienced his first heartbreak in his early 20s, but he felt like he couldn’t tell anyone about it because he was still hiding his sexuality. He said: “I was mad that no one knew why I was hurting.”
Osborne was in his mid-20s when he told his brother John Thomas “Big John”, the other half of the Brothers Osborne, that he is gay. John remembered: “He was very open and candid about it, and I was emotional because my brother was finally able to be completely honest with me about who he was.
“How often in life do we hold back parts of ourselves and wish that we didn’t?”
‘Brave to be wholly you in an industry that would rather you hide pieces of you behind a mask’
Other country music stars and fans have praised TJ Osborne for his bravery in coming out since the news hit yesterday (3 February). Country music legend LeAnn Rimes, who’s been part of the country scene since 1996, wrote in a Tweet: “TJ, I hope you feel so supported today.
“It’s a brave thing to be wholly you in a world and industry that would rather you hide pieces of you behind a mask.”
— LeAnn Rimes Cibrian (@leannrimes) February 3, 2021
Other country music stars including Dan + Shay, Kacey Musgraves and Maren Morris all tweeted their support for Osborne.
— K A C E Y (@KaceyMusgraves) February 3, 2021