Like all the songs Michael Trotter Jr. writes for The War and Treaty, the soulful and spiritual Michigan duo that also includes his wife Tanya Blount-Trotter, the song “Are You Ready To Love Me?” — premiering below from the couple's upcoming album Healing Tide — cuts deep with a tough question.
“It’s a question a lot people don't ask before they are ready to get into a relationship,” Tanya, who met Michael during 2010 while performing at the same music festival in Maryland, tells Billboard. “It's kind like when we first started dating; I told him we have to jump f the building at the same time, holding hands. It's a question you have to ask before you make that decision — ARE you ready to love me? Are you ready to go through all the things a relationship requires you to go through and still be there?”
And Michael, a wounded warrior from U.S. Army service in Iraq, says that the question may have been even tougher for Tanya.
“She did not know I was a wounded war veteran when we dated,” he explains. “I never talked about it. She was very confused — Why is this guy running and ducking under the bed when he hears fireworks on the Fourth July? Why do I find him hiding in a dark corner when the rest the day he was so bubbly and happy? She was like, 'You've got to let me in Mike. You've got to tell me what's going on so I can make a decision if I want to roll with this.' And when she finally convinced me to let her into the dark side me, I just gave her everything, told her everything I went through and, then, 'Are you ready to love me baby? Are we still good?'
“And then when she was ready to share her side with me and share what she had gone through…it made us, y'know? Being vulnerable enough to ask the question is being vulnerable enough to accept the answer.”
The music world, meanwhile, has definitely shown that it's ready to love the War and Treaty. After building a reputation with their barn-burning live shows, especially around the Midwest, the Trotters killed it at the 2017 Americana Music Festival & Conference in Nashville and wound up signed to Strong World/Thirty Tigers, which will release Healing Tide on Aug. 10. The set was produced by Buddy Miller and includes a guest appearance by Emmylou Harris — who brought brownies from her mother's recipe to the session — on the track “Here Is Where The Loving Is.”
“We just felt like a family — Tanya and I, the musicians, everybody,” recalls Michael, who confesses to “major studio phobia” that surfaced at the beginning the process. “Buddy and Tanya and all the musicians erased that for me,” he recalls. “I remember we recoded the album so fast, like 14 songs in pretty much four days, and no third takes. We did two takes because we felt really guilty, and Buddy was like, 'This is not right. Something has to be wrong. We should do it again,' but a lot times it was right the first time.”
The War and Treaty has a summer's worth shows booked, including a stop at the Newport Folk Festival on July 29, and recently recorded a live album and video during a pair Detroit-area shows. And once the album is out, they hope to show the world that Healing Tide is as much a mission as a title.
“People are drawn to the message,” Tanya reports. “You hear all about how we're so divided, but I've found out on the road and at the festivals and different shows it's not like that. It's there, but people really want love. They really want it. They come up to us hugging, we hug them. We're not oblivious to (the division), but the truth the matter is we do feel sorry for those who see it any other way. People want to be forgiven more than anything.”
“There's a lot compassion you have to have on both sides,” Michael adds. “It all begins with understanding. People choose a side and they don't even know why they're choosing that side. They don't know why they don't like each other, or why the heck they're fighting. So we want to be known as people who were able to take their music and use it as a big eraser, erase the lines that say you've got to choose a side and then pencil in one race, one nation, one people, one love. That's what the War and Treaty is based on.”