It Ain't Their Fault: Brothers Osborne Make an Unintentionally Political Statement

Jim Wright
John (left) and T.J. Osborne of Brothers Osborne

The reigning CMA Vocal Duo deserves blame, or credit, for the sarcastic single.

Donald Trump handpicked The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” as music for his pre-inaugural concert on Jan. 19, but he could have easily used a current single, Brothers Osborne’s “It Ain’t My Fault.”

Already known for pushing a false “birther” narrative about Barack Obama — then trying to take credit for debunking it — Trump recently compared the CIA’s tactics to Nazi Germany on Twitter, then announced to the agency on Jan. 21 that the media invented any antagonism that he feels for the CIA.

Much like the guy in “It Ain’t My Fault,” Trump rarely -- if ever -- admits a mistake.

“It’s worked out pretty well for him,” says Brothers vocalist T.J. Osborne with a laugh.

The single, which EMI Nashville released to radio via PlayMPE on Dec. 12, 2016, five weeks after Trump was elected president, is not intended as a political statement.

“It’s merely coincidental,” says guitarist John Osborne.

In fact, the song and its storyline were created in summer 2015, a time when no one seriously considered the new president a candidate. They had a co-writing appointment with Lee Thomas Miller (“I’m Still a Guy,” “Southern Girl”), whom they had never met, and John started playing a fiery, defiant guitar riff as they got acquainted.

“Within the riff there’s a vibe,” recalls Miller. “I love words more than any other part of the music, and so if I’m going to be asked to come in, I’m going to come in with 5,000 titles, and while we’re getting to know each other, I’m staring at titles. When they start playing something, you start imagining, and the words start taking a different meaning.”

“It Ain’t My Fault” jumped off the page, particularly as they discussed the idea of a guy who doggedly, humorously refuses to own up to his own actions.

“At the end of the day, everyone knows that this is the singer’s fault,” says John. “We’ve all been there where we’re drunk and stubborn, and we’re not willing to admit it. That’s really what the song’s about. Even the singer knows that it’s his fault.”

T.J. has long admired Randy Travis and Trace Adkins, but the duo has intentionally been selective in how it exploits the low end of T.J.’s range. The verses in “It Ain’t My Fault” provided an ideal vehicle.

“That’s the cool part about the song,” notes John. “It’s not bright. It’s actually really low and it resonates in a kind of darker frequency, so when it does kick off in the chorus it lifts a lot. It’s a really big lift between the low notes and the high notes, and that was actually a very conscious thing.”

To build “It Ain’t My Fault,” John pulled up an app that simulates drum patterns and locked in on one that sounds like Charlie Watts’ contribution to the Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” with the snare propelling the rhythm forward. Using that foundation, Miller drove the lyrics in the opening stanza, with a chain of events leading to an affair: “Blame the bar for the band/Blame the band for the song/Blame the song for the party that went all night long.” It’s a bit like Joe Diffie’s “Third Rock From the Sun,” a series of occurrences that create a cheatin’ scenario. It leads right into a repetitive chorus: “It ain’t my fault.”

The Osbornes had to leave before they finished, recalls Miller, so they scheduled — and rescheduled — several follow-up sessions before they finally completed the song. At that time, they introduced the higher-pitched section to “It Ain’t My Fault.”

“It really has kind of three choruses in it,” says T.J. “In pop music, they have done that a lot. They have one verse and a ton of different choruses that keep coming back around.”

The later verses don’t match the chain of events in the first verse. Instead, they pair different elements, blaming one for the other and the other for the one.

“We reached a point where we were trying to make more [chains] happen, and it felt like we were forcing it,” says Miller.

The Osbornes never played “It Ain’t My Fault” live before they recorded it. Instead, as they neared the end of recording for their album Pawn Shop, they took it into Nashville’s St. Charles Studio with producer Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Little Big Town), who joined the Osbornes and their rhythm section, bass player Pete Sternberg and drummer Adam Box, to cut the basic tracks, which took the drum texture to another level beyond the original app.

“We were messing with sounds and [engineer] Jason [Hall], he just turned a couple knobs and pressed a couple buttons, and he got one of the most amazing snare sounds,” says John. “It was so big and fat and raw. Jason deserves a lot of credit, because sonically, that song went through the stratosphere.”

John played a buzzing guitar solo that takes a short break, introducing puffs of breath over the snare rhythms, akin to Van Halen’s “You Really Got Me” and The Zombies’ “Time of the Season.”

“It lets the solo chill out for a second and gives you a moment to, literally, breathe,” says John. “I don’t know why we did that, but to utilize the human breath, that’s so cool.”

“It Ain’t My Fault” was considered as a follow-up to “Stay a Little Longer,” though “21 Summer” — which is currently nominated for a Grammy — was picked instead. Meanwhile, the Osbornes claimed the Country Music Association’s vocal group of the year award in November 2016, less than a week prior to Trump’s election victory. “Fault” is their first single as reigning award-winners.

“I kind of go about my normal life, and then it hits me — ‘Dude, you won a CMA Award,’ ” says T.J. “It’s wild.”

“It Ain’t My Fault” is No. 47 in its second week on Country Airplay. While it’s intended as a humorous piece, Miller thinks it has the potential to make a listener or two think about their own attitudes about blame and responsibility.

“I’m constantly blaming some insufficient part of my own self on my parents,” he admits. “My wife has learned through the years to kind of bust me on that. Hopefully, there’s a little more life in those lines than maybe just something that sounds good.”

And while it’s not supposed to be about Trump, the prospect of playing with the coincidence is amusing.

“Maybe that’s a good direction for the music video,” says John with distinct sarcasm. “That’s one way to piss off half your fans.”

If they do take that route, don’t blame the Billboard Country Update. It ain’t our fault.

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