The War & Treaty want you to live this day, and love on this day, to the fullest. They are not concerned with tomorrow, or yesterday; the Albion-based married music duo wants you to consider what you’ll do with the minutes and moments that immediately follow your reading of this article. “In our households, growing up, there was a saying,” says Michael Trotter, “‘Tomorrow is not promised…’ Therefore, you have to live every day as if it’s your last, with no regrets, no fears, just being open and loving like there’s no tomorrow.” The new song, premiering here on WDET.org, is challenging us to love to “the highest power of ourselves,” Michael said, “and if you tend to the present, it can heal the past.”
Tanya Blount-Trotter considers love to be a daily practice, akin to anyone’s workout regimen at the gym. “I know some days you might not feel like going to the gym…, but love is like that too. You have to get up, every day, and work that muscle. Every day might not be a great day, but it’s our responsibilities as artists, as The War & Treaty, in what we do, to show that we’re all in practice—none of us have mastered love. Practice love like there’s no tomorrow!”
There are few artists who could demonstrate “the power of music” better than Michael and Tanya. And you’ll find few couples in this world as appreciative as they are to have found each other. Their tremendous stage presence, their mighty voices, the instantaneous spell that they can cast upon an audience, and the way they can alter the energy in every room or space that they sing for the better, was already evident when they broke out onto the scene in the summer of 2017–capped by an unforgettable performance at that year’s Concert of Colors.
Blending their past experiences in gospel, blues and Americana, Michael and Tanya often transcend traditional genre categories with their music as the War & Treaty, creating ,together, a sort of ‘soul music’ that is genuinely designed for the soul. But that’s not specifically in a hymnal sense, because they’re eager to explore several modes and styles. It’s something intrinsically emotional, something universally relatable: the War & Treaty sing to heal everyone in their audiences.
They met in Baltimore in 2010, while they were both involved with other music projects. After seeing Michael perform for the first time at a music festival, Tanya approached him about working on a song together. Not only did they wind up making nine extra songs on their first day of working together, they also fell in love. They moved to Michigan a few years later. “We love Michigan,” said Michael. “It’s the place that embraced us and claimed us, and we feel proud, now, to be in the company of great Michigan artists like May Erlewine, The Accidentals, and Greta Van Fleet.”
For Michael, though, meeting and singing with Tanya went beyond just a musical collaboration. Trotter served with the U.S. Army in Iraq during the mid-2000s and has struggled with PTSD ever since his return. “We had to go through a journey as a couple,” recalls Tanya. “Once we started working towards healing (Michael’s PTSD), I came to admire him so much, to be able to get up every day, and see him fighting, internally, the memories and thoughts and experiences that he still carries from the war That is inspiring: to watch a person fight toward hope.”
“Love is a hope, a hope that will never fail,” says Trotter. “It can’t fail. It’s impossible that it would fail. And that’s not just about me going through my PTSD moments… Because there was a moment in our marriage where we hit a tough snag, and I had to stop seeing Tanya as this perfect person, but rather as a flawed woman who wanted to help me—who was going to help me, because she looked at all of my faults and then saw beyond them. And then we were able to start seeing ourselves and others through a lens that identifies the best parts. We want to look to see the best parts in everyone, the best parts of the human soul.”
This year, the War & Treaty followed up their 2017 debut EP Down to the River with the critically acclaimed full-length Healing Tide. They are currently working on their next album, collaborating with Kalamazoo-based musical director Max Brown and Ferndale-based multi-instrumentalist/composer Joshua James (for horn arrangements). Michael said that the next batch might surprise those who pre-categorized their band as just soul or R&B, and that these new songs are going to be bigger, heavier, more rock-influenced.
The War & Treaty recently spoke with Essential Music Host Ann Delisi about making the video for “Love Like There’s No Tomorrow.” While they currently don’t have a local show booked in the near future, they are scheduled to perform at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville this Sunday and Monday evening, with Old Crow Medicine Show. You can follow online at thewarandtreaty.com to keep track of their upcoming shows. If you have already experienced them live, then you know it can be a force of nature.
“It feels like being unleashed,” said Michael, when asked about their live performances. “It also feels like the highest form of vulnerability. Especially with (“Love Like There’s No Tomorrow”) when you have no instruments to hide behind. It feels like our life, in a way; we’ve decided to live uncaged, unraveled, not put together, unrehearsed, and instead, literally jumping out there and putting it all out to everyone, being completely open. It’s euphoric.”
But it’s also very intense. Michael has spoken candidly about overcoming the trauma of going to war, and how this time of year can be rough for many. “Humanity seems lost this year,” he said. “And so Tanya and I want to get a jumpstart on this message: that the resolution for the New Year should be the love! We can be so concerned about the future, that we’re not paying attention to what’s happening in the present. We have to learn how to respond to brutalities, to poverty, to bickering with love! To learn to respond with love! And that’s not a message that is a Church message, or a gospel message: it’s a humanity message!”
Throughout this holiday seasons we hear the phrase “peace on Earth…” But Michael and Tanya’s overarching message is about letting go… “We’re letting go when we sing,” Michael said. “Because what if this is our last moment? ‘Tomorrow isn’t promised.’ So let’s concern ourselves with what we can do to make this life better. We have a long way to go, but I also believe our best shot is yet ahead…!”