Songs For Screens is a Variety column sponsored by music experiential agency MAC Presents, based in NYC. It is written by Andrew Hampp, founder of music marketing consultancy 1803 LLC and former correspondent for Billboard. Each week, the column will highlight noteworthy use of music in advertising and marketing campaigns, as well as new and catalog songs that we deem ripe for synch use.
Grammy-nominated country duo Brothers Osborne’s newly released sophomore album “Port Saint Joe” has a healthy share of uptempo, propulsive songs (lead single “Shoot Me Straight,” album opener “Slow Your Roll”) that would be a natural fit for a car commercial.
But for the band’s first TV spot with automotive partners Ram Trucks, the album’s plaintive closer “While You Still Can” ended up being selected for synch duties to help tell a community-driven story inspired by the album’s production. “Port Saint Joe” takes its name from the seaside Florida town where the Brothers recorded the album with producer Jay Joyce, whose beach house doubled as the band’s studio. The experience reminded brothers TJ and John Osborne of their own upbringing in rural Maryland, and encounters at local venues like the Port Theatre inspired them to find ways to give back to the community that shaped their latest project.
So when Ram Trucks approached the band to be its latest ambassadors for a campaign inspired by the brand’s tagline Built to Serve, the Port Theatre ended up securing a starring role alongside the Brothers for a series of :60 and :30 spots titled “Support The Port” that premiered during last week’s CMT Awards that will continue to air on the network for the remainder of the year.
The commercials feature the brothers driving a 2019 Ram 1500 to perform a benefit concert for locals at the Port that includes a restoration of the historic venue’s neon sign. It’s a journey inspired by the same one taken by John and TJ when they drove their own 1992 Dodge Ram 2500 truck to Nashville hoping to kickstart their music careers.
“That was the truck I drove in college, and when I bought a car TJ inherited that truck. It was passed down from our dad to me to TJ, which he drove until about a year ago,” says John. “So when [Ram] approached us about working together, it felt natural. And we wanted to do something that made sense not only for us but for them as well.”
Once Brothers Osborne identified the Port Theatre as the creative crux for the campaign, TJ checked in with the venue’s organizers at what turned out to be a pivotal time. “They had secured a grant from the state to help with the historical preservation, and that funding fell through because of the Parkland shooting and allocating money to make schools safer,” says TJ, who along with John has been a notably outspoken advocate for gun control in the country community. “So this all happened a week before they got an email saying ‘We’re heading down with Ram.’ And Ram spent roughly the same amount they had for the grant. It was wild how it all worked out. It was the first time the neon had come on that sign in 20-some years.”
And though “While You Still Can” probably won’t be released as a single, Jeff Summers, head of brand advertising at Ram Truck, says the song was the best fit for telling the band’s story that “epitomize[s] the notion of hard work. They had the courage to come to Nashville in their dad’s Ram truck, and now are living their dreams. And the best thing is that they haven’t forgotten where they came from. ‘While You Still Can’ is a song that really reinforces these values and how important it is to remember to give back to those who have given you so much. The Brothers and the song are the perfect fit for Ram, as we always like to tell genuine, meaningful stories.”
Of course, the Port Theatre isn’t the only beneficiary from Ram’s support. Both brothers are set to receive a two-year lease on the very same 2019 Ram 1500 they’re seen driving in the commercial later this year – a perk that is not lost on TJ in particular. “I’ve never had a brand-new truck before. When I was driving the truck in the commercial, I was like, ‘Good Lord.’ Going from the ‘92 Dodge to this felt like driving a luxury vehicle. It even has air conditioning.”