The reason: Joined by Eric Church and Maren Morris, he and brother John Osborne paid tribute to the victims of violence at live music events last year, including the 58 country music fans killed at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. The brothers, Morris and Church all performed at the Las Vegas event before the night of the shooting on Oct. 1.
“There’s a lot of nerves around playing the Grammys because you’re in front of the upper echelon of all genres there in one room,” T.J., 33, told PEOPLE ahead of the performance. “I think I’ll be far more emotional than I will be nervous, and so that’s my worry – actually just getting through the performance in that regard.”
Nominated for the third time for best country duo/group performance, the brothers — who will release their sophomore album, Port Saint Joe, on April 20 — spoke late last month during a press conference in Nashville to promote their upcoming tour with Dierks Bentley.
John Osborne, 35, said he felt “very, very fortunate to be able to play on the Grammys, especially with Eric and Maren, who are two very good friends of ours.” Like his brother, he focused on the greater significance of the occasion: “The most important” aspect of the performance, he said, was simply to “honoring the victims and their families.”
“I just hope at the end of the day we can help heal something at least a little bit,” he added.
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Neither hinted at what song the four artists would be performing, but it was soon revealed to be the Eric Clapton classic “Tears in Heaven,” written for the guitarist’s late son.
“We considered a number of songs,” Ken Ehrlich, executive producer of the Grammys, told the Associated Press. “We wanted something that is universal. We wanted something that spoke to the subject, which certainly this song does. When you listen to the lyric, this one certainly stood out.”