Music

Love And Healing With The War And Treaty

The War and Treaty will perform at Toyota Center on Thursday, November 4 in support of Lauren Daigle.
The War and Treaty will perform at Toyota Center on Thursday, November 4 in support of Lauren Daigle. Photo By David McClister
The War and Treaty were scheduled to play at The Heights Theater before the pandemic shut everything down. Now in a wonderful reflection of the upward trajectory of their career, they are scheduled to play Toyota Center on Thursday, November 4 in support of Lauren Daigle.

“We've been working pretty hard and I think that when you put that kind of energy out into the universe it comes back at you in a real way. To be able to go on tour and to be able to get back to work again is always a cool thing and something we would never, ever take for granted ever again,” says Michael Trotter Jr., co-founder of the Americana band along with wife Tanya Blount-Trotter.

“I ditto that,” she adds. “You do what you have to do to make sure that it’s enjoyable and really enjoy your audience and the music experience.”

The War and Treaty formed in 2014 after the couple met at a music festival in 2010. Tanya was raised in D.C. and had been steadily working toward her singing career with a significant role in Sister Act 2: Still In The Habit and being signed on Bad Boy Records owned by Sean Combs.

Michael had a very different experience. Raised in Cleveland, Ohio he enlisted in the Army just as the United States was entering the war in Iraq. He served there and surrounded by death, fear and destruction became enamored with playing music by the most unlikely of sources, Saddam Hussein’s piano.

After being pointed in the direction of the instrument by his sergeant and tinkering around on the piano for a while, it wasn’t until his sergeant was tragically killed in combat that he really played as he wrote a song in tribute to his fallen leader.

“It was like an unlocking emotionally. Unlocking part of my mind that I needed to unlock creativity wise to be able to understand what I was doing. Piano is such a complex instrument, it’s beautiful and when it's done correctly it can tell its own story and it told a story for me that particular day and that particular moment and I'm still learning its story even now,” he says.

They now call Nashville home and have been welcomed “with open arms” into the music community there. This year they became the first African American couple to perform on the Country Music Awards alongside Dierks Bentley and their presence in the genre is a big step toward further diversifying Country and Americana music.

The duo cites acts like Valerie June and Sista Strings as other artists who refuse to “play into colorism” allowing the genre, and minds, to expand. They also tip their hat to and recognize the power and significance of their friends and collaborators  Brandi Carlile and Jason Isbell in supporting one another to push for inclusion. 

“The reality of the situation is we belong here, It’s our right,” says Michael of the common discussion around inclusion in the genre. “It's our American right, it's our human right and it's our right based on our talent. We belong in places like this and a genre like this now. Our genre, Americana, just so happens that it embraces the uniqueness or the originality of the genre of the music.”

“The reality of the situation is we belong here, It’s our right. It's our American right, it's our human right and it's our right based on our talent. We belong in places like this and a genre like this now."

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In 2020 they made the difficult choice to release their second full length album, Hearts Town, a beautiful and instrumentally rich album that took them in a more heavily produced direction than their previous releases which focused more on the band's flawless vocal harmonies.

“COVID had happened and we hadn't released it yet and we wanted to shift because not only did COVID happen, but some of the things that haunt our country happened,” says Michael of the band's decision-making process in releasing the album.

“We wanted to shift and jump in the fight but then we realized that love is the most important thing period. If we put out the love and try to refocus what we are responsible for at this moment then we are better together than apart. We felt like we could do more good this way so we ended up releasing the album,” he adds.

Hearts Town touches on many of the couple’s personal stories and challenges serving to normalize the everyday challenges that people face including the good and bad of relationships, depression, PTSD and suicide.
“Five More Minutes” comes across as a bouncy and sexy love song but it’s actually a true story based on Michael battling depression and considering ending his life while his loving wife begged him to stay with her for just five more minutes, promising him she would make it worth it and she did.

“We wanted it to feel like that,” says Michael of the joyful sound of the song compared to the sad reality of its origin. “The song is supposed to reflect the aftermath of the message. It’s the truth. It’s what happened. We grew past it and we are hoping others will take five more minutes from it as well and yes that's where we are,” he says.

“One of the things when we got together, once we found out that Michael had PTSD and I had my own battles with depression, was just to normalize it,” says Tanya of the shift in power that comes from being open about struggles and mental health.

“When you normalize something people feel more comfortable to talk about it and they don't feel alone and embarrassed about having to medicate or just wanting to make the pain stop. Realizing that if you just give yourself time, whatever it is that you're going through, if you just allow it to pass it’s not worth you taking your life,” she adds, acknowledging that the passing may not be immediate.

When asked if the making of Hearts Town allowed them their own time to pause and process their own experiences as they put it all in the album Michael answers, “It did honestly and it helped us get through those moments we are talking about as far as the pandemic and just get through the racial divide. We are better for it.”

“We are finding that the true sound of healing is love and people are healed by it. When they see it or feel it, it’s a healing experience for them and we didn't set out to do that and we didn't do that intentionally, but it comes off to our audience,” adds Tanya of the power behind their music.

In their current large arena tour with Daigle, the couple has surprisingly tapped into their roots in the large venue setting, finding a sense of intimacy on stage and with the crowd despite the enormous spaces their capable voices are filling.

“It’s been really beautiful to be able to go back to the basics of just beautiful vocals with just two people and Tanya and I, we dare say we enjoy this more,” says Michael describing how the experience is shaping the duo and how Daigle and her crew have been a welcomed joy to their lives.

“We were starting to fall into the trap of more means more and less means less whereas sometimes, less means more and more means less. The intimacy of our relationship will match the intimacy of the sound in every facet,” he says describing their shift for future albums.

Michael adds, "I'm very excited for people to see what we are working on and to be able to hear the sound of War and Treaty."

The War and Treaty will perform in support of Lauren Daigle on Thursday, November 4 at Toyota Center, 1510 Polk, 7:30 p.m., $29.50-125.
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Gladys Fuentes is a first generation Houstonian whose obsession with music began with being glued to KLDE oldies on the radio as a young girl. She is a freelance music writer for the Houston Press, contributing articles since early 2017.
Contact: Gladys Fuentes