Interviews with Michael and Tanya Trotter of The War and Treaty were featured on the Oct. 20 edition of Greasy Tracks.
Click here to listen to the archive.
The group recently released their first full-length album, Healing Tide (Thirty Tigers) and plays a number of area dates, including the Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun on Nov. 1; Great Scott in Allston, Mass., on Nov. 2; and The Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, Mass., on Nov. 3.
Recorded over a four-day period in March in Nashville, Tenn., under the guidance of ace producer Buddy Miller, the Trotter’s 11-track effort is the result of a busy road schedule where they honed their sound before heading into the studio.
Known for their high-energy performances, The War and Treaty is not easily pigeon-holed into a single genre, but it’s safe to say that blending gospel, soul, roots rock and some folk flourishes may sum them up.
Miller — long a go-to session player, songwriter and recording artist — was turned on to the husband-and-wife duo through Don Was and was an immediate fan. So too was the legendary singer Emmylou Harris who appears on the track “Here is Where the Loving is At.”
Despite their vastly different backgrounds, the Trotters through sheer chance and circumstance came together.
Tanya grew up in a suburb of Washington, D.C. and really got focused on singing and writing during her high school years. She appeared in the film “Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit” singing with Lauryn Hill on the old gospel hymn “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.” She released her debut solo album, Natural Thing (Polydor) as Tanya Blount in 1994 and earned a nomination for Best New Artist at the Soul Train Awards in 1995. In 1996, she signed with Sean Combs’ Bad Boy Entertainment but her initial recording project at the label never saw the light of day. She also was involved in numerous theater productions.
While he always enjoyed music, Michael took a far different path in what would later become a career. Originally from Cleveland, he and his siblings would ultimately move to Washington, D.C. — to get away from their abusive father — where they were in and out of homeless shelters with their mother. At the age of 19, he fathered a daughter and to support her, joined the Army in 2003.
The realization that the United States was at war became a reality for him when he joined his unit in Iraq after his initial stationing in Germany. Clearly out of his element, identified by his fellow troops as the “weakest link” in the unit and admittedly scared to death of being in combat, Michael’s first “hand’s on” experience with music came at a forward operating base located in one of Saddam Hussein’s destroyed palaces.
One of his commanding officers, Capt. Robert Scheetz, led him to a basement room where a piano was located. Capt. Scheetz suggested that when Michael was off duty that he attempt to find some connection to home by playing the piano which would take his mind off his crippling fear. Michael said he taught himself to play, starting with a rudimentary version of “Mary Had A Little Lamb.”
Playing the piano proved to be the one stable aspect of his life in the war zone, but in 2004, it took on another wrinkle as Capt. Scheetz was killed when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in Musayyib, Iraq. Michael would write and perform a song in honor of him at a memorial service.
Michael would go on to write and perform songs for other fallen comrades and recalls that even such simple acts helped fellow soldiers through the grieving process and boosted morale.
When he was discharged in 2007, Michael continued to write and would start performing, despite being hampered by post-traumatic stress disorder. He met Tanya at a festival in Maryland in 2010 where they were each on the bill.
They started working together and released their first album, Love Affair, as Blount-Trotter in 2016. Also that year, they released their first single, “Hi Ho,” as The War and Treaty. A seven-track EP, Down To The River, came out a year later as the band spent more time on the road as they began to build a following.