The War and Treaty
with Lauren Daigle (headliner)
Sun. Dec. 2
North Charleston Performing Arts Center
5001 Coliseum Drive
Singer and songwriter Michael Trotter spent his life enjoying, studying, and learning from the greats — everyone from Ray Charles to Johnny Cash, but particularly the voices of Aretha Franklin and Mahalia Jackson spoke to him. And then he actually met a great: his wife.
“Her voice knocked me off my feet. I never thought I’d get close to a voice in person like Aretha Franklin or Mahalia, and then Tanya was there,” he says. “And I remember thinking, ‘We’re gonna make history one day, together, just she and I.'”
And he wasn’t wrong. Now a married couple and musical force with vocal chords to kill, Michael and Tanya Trotter are making mouths drop everywhere they turn as the earth-shatteringly powerful War and Treaty. The combo combines key skills in songwriting and a lifelong self-education in music with the stuff you’re just fucking born with or you’re not: rich and raw passion, hellfire harmonies that come from some miraculous place deep within, and enormous hearts that cannot contain all the love they have to give, both to us listeners and each other. It’s gospel and rock ‘n’ roll, soul and country; but mostly it’s an honest, real display of two people screaming their truths at the tops of their lungs.
You can hear the beauty of the lives they’ve lived, the moment they’re living now, and the future they want for themselves within every note of this year’s offering, their debut Healing Tide. The album was recorded in Nashville, their now-homebase, with Grammy Award-winning producer Buddy Miller (Kacey Musgraves, Nikki Lane, Brandi Carlile, Lee Ann Womack, Kris Kristofferson). The couple’s fire rages from the word go, the opening track “Love Like There’s No Tomorrow” delivering their sky-high voices front-and-center, a capella, setting the stage for the complete masterpiece that follows.
When tracking the songs, Miller constantly declared the task a far-too easy one, the couple never holding back and nailing every track in no time. During the three-day marathon, even Emmylou Harris showed up, birthday brownies for Michael in hand, and lent harmonies to the track, “Where the Loving is At.”
Dropping in August, Healing Tide hit No. 11 on Billboard‘s Top Heatseekers Albums chart, peaked at No. 26 for Independent Albums, and received rave reviews by writers from NPR, Rolling Stone, and more, their sound drawing comparisons to Ike and Tina Turner. History is indeed in the making.
Before the Trotters found each other, Michael made music in church as well as during his time at war in Iraq, paying tribute through song to fallen soldiers. Tanya has long made music, too, singing the highly underrated “His Eye is On the Sparrow” in 1993’s Sister Act 2 — a duet with Lauryn Hill. Both Michael and Tanya also tried to forge paths in the vein of 1990s-esque R&B, not realizing their true destiny would arrive in due time.
Fast-forward all the way through the aughts: The two’s connection began on Aug. 28, 2010 at a back-to-school drive Tanya organized at Laurel Lakes park, Maryland. Michael was enlisted to perform. “She had on a black shirt and some blue jeans and black heels,” he swoons. “I had on a black and red sweater, in August! So I thought she was definitely going to run away from me, this crazy man wearing a sweater in August. But she asked me had I wrote those songs I was performing.” He had.
At that time, Tanya was performing with her brother. The siblings began working on a duet album written entirely by Michael, but Tanya’s brother often couldn’t make rehearsals due to his own family commitments, allowing Michael the chance to stand in during rehearsals. “I am so glad he could not make it,” Michael says.
“And one of our friends heard us rehearsing and completely lost it and was like, ‘Do y’all hear that? Do y’all understand what I’m hearing?’ We were oblivious to it.”
All Michael and Tanya knew was that they were having fun, and, turns out, falling in love: teasing each other, pinching one another, trying to see who could hold notes the longest. “Finally we decided, ‘Let’s just see what people are talking about,’ and that’s when we went out on our own.”
But Michael says their connection made him hesitate. “I told her straight up, ‘I gotta tell you something — I don’t have nothin’. I’m poor. I’m broke. That’s just for real. But I know how to love. And I know I’m supposed to be something in life; I just don’t know what it is that I’m supposed to be,'” he says. “And I just told her the truth. ‘I’m just nothing; I’m low, I’m lowly.’ And she stopped me and she said, ‘Well, that’s fine, you told me what you see — now let me tell you what I see. I see a king who just needs the right queen in his life.'”
For the first time in a long time, Michael broke down in tears, weeping at the mere glimpse of a different life. “I couldn’t even hide it,” he says. “And that’s when I knew, this is something very different here … I knew that something was happening because I showed her all of me. I showed her everything.”
And that’s exactly what they’ve shown the world: everything. It’s all on full display: the tears and sorrow, but also the joy and laughter and love. Whether it’s in the studio or on stage (where you can also catch them at next year’s High Water Festival in North Charleston), the War and Treaty truly do love like there’s no tomorrow.