Before Tanya Blount and Michael Trotter Jr. met and fell in love, they were two different people madly in love with the power of music. Tanya was heavily influenced by strong female powerhouses like Dolly Parton, Mahalia Jackson, and Aretha Franklin, and Michael found solace in making music while he was a soldier in Iraq. Together, the soul duo combine their distinct talents as The War & Treaty for a passionate, wild, high-powered roots-soul fusion, apparent on their upcoming EP, Down To The River.
Down To The River begins with its title track, a slinking, ribbeting instrumental line coating the track before Tanya and Michael join together for impressive howls and harmony. Next is the EP’s big single, “Hi Ho,” led by swelling bluegrass arrangements that dance in a fury as the duo provide an intense, impassioned vocal performance, singing a gospel love song. Later, “Till The Mornin” acts as the EP’s standout track. A sparse, gorgeous ballad, the song moves at a slow crawl courtesy of sparkling piano and light strings. Here, Tanya shines as her clear voice aches at a low drone then at its highest power when she belts “I just wanna hold you until the mourning is gone,” accompanied later by Michael’s soulful croon, creating an almost unbearably moving, chilling harmony. Next, “Set My Soul On Fire” is a bluesy, slinking tune led by Michael’s howling and outlaw rhythms. Eight tracks later, Down To The River ends with “Wanna Get Outta Here,” a piano-based gospel anthem featuring an upbeat call-and-response. The multi-instrumentation jumps with rapid rhythmic lines as the duo give their all on a strong, united vocal show.
Down To The River finds The War & Treaty mashing their separate skills together for a deliciously wicked roots-soul blend. Led by powerhouse vocals dancing atop punchy, layered Americana rhythms, The War & Treaty have successfully filled the empty space in music that we didn’t even know was missing.
Read our exclusive Buzz Artist Q&A with Michael and Tanya below and get ready for Down To The River‘s release next week:
Buzz Artist: First, can you tell Buzz Artist a little about yourselves and your music?
The War & Treaty: Tanya and I are kind of like one-in-the-same when it comes to our background in both music and life. We both have two siblings, both grew up singing in the church, both were considered “green” or “gullible ” when it came to love. So when we met in Laurel, MD in August of 2010, falling in love was inevitable and I think the pure essence of that 1st initial connection is shown strongly in our music.
BA: Describe each other using five words each.
The War & Treaty: Tanya says Michael is a genius, driven, innovative, vulnerable, and handsome. Michael says Tanya is brilliant, funny, sexy, caring, and classic.
BA: What is the music scene like in Michigan and how has it influenced your work?
The War & Treaty: The music scene in Michigan varies. You can experience blues on one street and Celtic-folk across the street. But if we are talking about the music scene in Albion where we live, then I would say that it’s an experience like you’ve never had. You would have to come to Albion to see what I’m talking about!
BA: What was the production process like for your upcoming EP, Down To The River?
Tanya: Eye opening. Michael and I discovered things about ourselves that I would say elevated our own thinking to heights that were unimaginable maybe a year ago. And the comradeship between us and the musicians is part of what Michael was speaking about. Recording in the basement of our bass players’ house have that true grit-and-guts feeling. We even adopted the mindset of one take, so the “get it right” mentality, just to feel as close to the legends of the 50s and 60s as possible.
Michael: Emotional. I mean… well, think of the current state our world is in. In the middle of writing songs like “Florida” and basing it off of Trayvon Martin (and what happened a few years back) and then with the release of the Philando Castile tapes, it was tearing both Tanya and myself apart. Yet we had to stay focused on the freedoms to express and write versus the chains of injustice which can throw you into an emotional stupor. It almost makes you wanna go away and hide. But for me it took me back to my roots — what some will attribute to being a religious grounding, it was more like “I just wanna be under my Momma right now and cry in her arms and listen to her sing to me.” In times like these we need a Savior. That was my church. That was my Down To The River experience, so all those thoughts rushed forward and we wrote this EP.
BA: Where do you get your lyrical inspiration from? Is songwriting a collaborative process for you guys?
Michael: Triple E — everything, everyone, and everywhere because inspiration is always speaking a language within itself. Like in the 80s, [American gospel group] The Winans had a song called “Everything You Touch Is A Song” and I agree, but it’s not limited to just the touch of an author or creator. Everything that we touch or come in contact with creates its own song based on experience. So to hinder or generalize or even compartmentalize inspiration would stifle one’s ability to be fully and truly inspired. On this EP, you hear that. I wrote all the songs with the opinion of Tanya, and believe me, her opinion is strong and without it, the birth of this EP would not have been.
BA: What is your favorite track off Down To The River?
Michael: “Set My Soul On Fire”
Tanya: “Till The Mornin”
BA: Can you talk a little about the record’s single, “Hi Ho”?
Tanya: It’s about the times in life when we may have experienced a broken heart and we vow never to allow anyone to ever break it again. Michael and I have been married more than once and we both said at one point or another that we would never get married again. Then we met at a Love Festival in Laurel, MD and here we are one month later falling in love just watching Cupid aim his thrifty arrow at us and we get hit BAM! Therefore “Hi Ho” was conceived and birthed.
BA: How has being parents influenced your work as musicians?
The War & Treaty: I would say it has definitely created a deeper hustle and flow in our art. We actually had to slow things down a bit because you get so caught up in putting out this music and gigging and making the finances to feed your team and your family, and having or creating a killer legacy and inheritance so you can pass down to your children’s children that forget about your children in the current or present tense. So we have had to slow that hustle down and put it into perspective a bit. However, our children have definitely been the source for why we do what we do and we tell the stories most dare to tell about our history, our culture, and our contributions to our own civilization.
BA: If you could collaborate with 5 bands/musicians (living or dead), who would they be?
Tanya: Mahailia Jackson, Dolly Parton, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Barbara Streisand
Michael: Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, BB King, John Legend, The Civil Wars
Buzz Artist: Finally, what’s next for The War And Treaty?
The War & Treaty: Releasing our full-length album in February of 2018 so stay tuned!