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October 2017 - War & Treaty

The War & Treaty Prove They Are Veterans of Soulful Sounds

Story by LCC Radio Reporter Sarah Spohn

When Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Blount-War & TreatyTrotter got lost coming back from a gig, neither one of them knew they’d stumbled upon the place they would raise their family, or experience the next level of success with their band, War & Treaty.

The little South-Central Michigan town of Albion, with its blues scene, gave way to the husband-wife-duo to find a whole new kind of rich, soulful, heart-wrenching gospel and bluegrass sound.

Michael, the singer, keyboard player and writer for War & Treaty, spoke about his first impression of Albion.

“When I got there over a year ago, I remember coming to a thing called Blues at the Bohm, a revitalized theatre,” he said. “They have a blues jam where musicians come from all over Michigan to jam. It was my first time ever seeing anything like it.”

The couple have been married for almost eight years and a band for two, but Michael will tell you he was always a fan of Tanya.

“When I met Tanya, she was already working on a project with her brother,” Michael said. He sat in for her brother who couldn’t be at rehearsal. During practice, one of their friends stopped them in the middle of singing, and said what he had heard was undeniable, their energy and sound together was magical.

“We weren’t dating or anything like that, in fact, I didn’t know if she had any kind of interest in me. But I had all the interest in her, let me tell you.”

After the music connection was made, it was only a matter of time before love grew. The two got married, had a baby, then realized there was no one else they’d rather make music with.

“We needed each other for various reasons,” Michael said. ”Tanya had lost her mother Thanksgiving of 2015. Her drive to sing was gone, she was done with it. But our love pulled her out of that almost-depressive state and we trucked on and we found a sound.”
Tanya Blount-Trotter from War & Treaty
In fact, it was music that helped Michael out of a depressive state too, as a soldier in Iraq, encamped in Saddam Hussein’s private palace. He found a black upright piano in the corner, and learned how to play, singing songs for fallen captains, soldiers and friends.

The duo said it wasn’t until their move from Maryland to Michigan that the band found its most true sound.

“As a pianist and performer or an artist, I was not unlocked. I had a lot of fear, I was very afraid to try,” Michael said. “But when you move into a place like Michigan where so many musical genres come from: of course you’ve got Motown, the Queen herself, Aretha Franklin; and on the Gospel side – The Winans, and The Clark sisters – there’s so much heritage and pride. You can’t have fear.”

Their unique War & Treaty sound exemplified their namesake – a unique, contrasting blend of peace and turmoil: a combination of funk, swamp, jazz, soul, gospel, and country music.

“Tanya and I found the voice that was silent in our own lives,” Michael said. “Our life started talking to us through the music and we were gonna listen.”

And the rest of the country is listening now too, especially thanks to War & Treaty’s recent appearance at AmericanaFest in Nashville. Rolling Stone Magazine even named their act one of “The Best 20 Things we Saw at AmericanaFest 2017.” The way that performance unfolded has its own attention-grabbing story.

War & Treaty was invited to Nashville by American singer songwriter Buddy Miller, but he unfortunately got sick. There was talk that their band would replace Buddy Miller’s set, but Tanya and Michael weren’t entertaining that thought, since no one could replace him.
Michael Trotter Jr. from War & Treaty
“We ended up getting a call from our manager saying that Buddy’s manager had called her and that Buddy wanted us to take his place,” Michael said. “That would mean we would get 45 minutes of performance in the middle of two major-selling artists. So, The Lumineers would open up for us, and then we would open up for Driveby Truckers.”

Then, during rehearsal, the power of music took over, and Buddy Miller walks in, greets the two, and said he couldn’t just sit down – he had to play with War & Treaty. Then, Emmy Lou Harris gave the band the “one of the sweetest, purest, honest introductions that you would ever give to an artist.”

This was a dream come true for War & Treaty, not only because it gave them the opportunity for a larger platform to reach more fans, but it also let them know their peers were touched too.

“Tanya and I were overcome with emotion,” Michael said. “We grabbed each other’s hands and walked out there holding hands. We didn’t care who didn’t know us. We just knew we wanted them to know us after that performance. And they did,” he laughed.

“It’s amazing to hear so many other artists really give him the accolades, who are really accomplished, really legends in this industry – acknowledge his songwriting and his craftsmanship of how he designed the War & Treaty and our harmonies,” Tanya said of her husband.

Other career highlights include singing with A.P. Carter’s family members, one of the most notable country music acts, at the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion.

“It’s why you do what you do,” Tanya said. “Us sitting in a basement in Maryland and having six-hour vocal rehearsals, and sometimes driving and sleeping in our cars after shows because we’re too tired to drive home. This is what the moments are made for. You rehearse, you practice, and you love people, and you give. You just do it, and then when those moments happen, it’s a great reward. It’s humbling”
War & Treaty
For Michael, his whole marriage has been a dream, and getting to do everything, including work with his wife, is special. He dreams of War & Treaty doing USO tours for the troops, playing Glastonbury or being invited to the White House.

But for now, the pair is happy to have their six-year-old son in tow on tour, traveling across the country, doing what they love. While they rack up the miles on their vehicle, they’re certainly not chasing a false definition of success.

“Some people say we aren’t ‘there’ yet, Michael said, “and I would say, yes we are. And everybody is. This is just one big ‘there,’ and it just continues to unfold and unravel – just so you can see how bit it really is. That, to me, is the most exciting thing.”

You can catch War & Treaty at Founders Brewing Company in Grand Rapids on Oct. 12, and in Albion at the Walk the Beat Festival on Oct. 21.
 

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The War & Treaty - Down To The River
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