When The War and Treaty stepped up to fill an ill Buddy Miller’s spot at the 2017 Americana Music Festival & Conference, jaws at the Cannery Ballroom in Nashville collectively dropped. Anticipation surrounding their latest album Healing Tide is more than high, the music on the record is more than just sublime roots soul. It’s part of a mission.
Michael and Tanya Trotter took distinctly different paths to becoming The War and Treaty.
After winning a talent show when she was 13, Tanya knew singing would be her life. Growing up in a tight-knit community just outside of Washington, D.C., Tanya had a voice that was already hinting at the force it’d become: honeyed and bold, guttural but angelic. She’d discovered writing, too, and every blank space was an opportunity.
Michael started writing later, and for different reasons. He spent part of his childhood in Cleveland before moving with his mother, brother, and sister to Washington, D.C. The family spent time in and out of homeless shelters––a limbo Michael would experience again as an adult. Michael enlisted in the United States Army in 2003, two years after 9/11.
As a soldier, he felt proud––then scared. He was sent to Iraq, where leaders who outranked him saw the fear in his eyes and treated him not as an underling, but as a brother. Stationed in one of Saddam Hussein’s rubbled palaces, he had access to a piano that had emerged miraculously unscathed. A captain heard him play and sing with his once-in-a-generation volcano of a voice, and he encouraged Michael to pursue music. When that same captain was killed, Michael sat down to write––really write––for the first time.
Officers noticed the tribute, pulled Michael from the front lines, and gave him a new charge: write and perform songs for the fallen. So whenever a brother or sister in arms died, Michael spoke to buddies, uncovered the story, and penned a song for the memorial. It was a heavy burden that also made him safer.
When Michael returned home, he was booked on a festival that also featured Tanya Blount. After his set, Tanya approached him and asked if he’d written his songs. He had. The two exchanged numbers, but Michael, battle-weary, scarred, and daunted by Tanya’s beauty, couldn’t understand why she’d want anything to do with him. “I threw her number away because I had a lot of insecurities that I still have. I thought, ‘Who would want to be with a guy who went to war?’”
Tanya didn’t wait on him. She called Michael, and the two became inseparable. Today, they’re married and have created a six-year-old son and a powerhouse duo.
As The War and Treaty, Michael and Tanya serve up healing and pain robbing with freewheeling joy on a monumental new full-length album, Healing Tide. An original tour-de-force produced by Buddy Miller, the collection swaggers with a confidence only gained by artists who are wholly, proudly, themselves. Funky bass lines, keys, lap steel, acoustic strings, and stripped-down percussion create a swampy Southern soul bed for the couple’s transcendent vocals. “I hope people see our hearts on this record,” Michael says. “I want them to experience freedom. To feel again.”
The War and Treaty deliver live shows and records that make the hairs on the back of necks stand up. Their music and stories bring tears and goosebumps, but ultimately, more is at work. In the midst of Michael and Tanya’s open, beaming faces and united voices, facades met away. Walls are torn down. “I want people to feel like we care,” Michael says. “When you think about artists, you don’t think about that.” He pauses and grins broadly. “But that’s the way I want the world to feel about The War and Treaty.”
Concerts & Tickets
- Lee Ann Womack
- Fred Hersch
- Judy Collins
- Great Innovators
- Emmet Cohen’s Master Legacy Series
- French Enchantment
- The Infamous Stringdusters
- Rosanne Cash
- Chris Thile
- Raul Midón
- Luciana Souza
- The Clayton Brothers Quintet
- From Prague to Vienna
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