Tanya and Michael Trotter have voices that will stop you in your tracks. It’s what led the husband-and-wife duo, now known as the War and Treaty, to one another in the first place. “I saw him performing, and I completely lost it,” Tanya says, recalling the day she met Michael, a singer-songwriter and Iraq War veteran, at a Maryland music festival called, appropriately enough, the Love Fest. “I ran across the field in four-inch heels, my shoes all stuck into the ground, just trying to get to him.” Meanwhile, Michael says he was well aware of his one-day wife long before they connected in person. “I met Tanya years ago from the screen,” he says. In the 1990s, under her maiden name, Blount, Tanya climbed the charts with an R&B album and broke into acting with a role alongside Lauryn Hill in 1993’s Sister Act 2. “My mother and I would sing ‘His Eye Is on the Sparrow’” Michael says, referencing a duet from the film. “I was Tanya, and she was Lauryn Hill.”
After marrying in 2011, Tanya and Michael began playing music together in 2014 and released their first EP as the War and Treaty three years later. They followed up with their Buddy Miller-produced debut full-length album, 2018’s Healing Tide, showcasing their striking gospel-influenced harmonies and soul-stirring lyrics, garnering comparisons to greats like Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin, and nabbing an Americana Music Award for Emerging Artist of the Year. This September, the Nashville-based duo will release Hearts Town, an album chock full of the staggering vocal highs and uplifting themes that fans have come to treasure.
Today, Garden & Gun is thrilled to premiere “Take Me In,” a song about unconditional acceptance that serves as the album’s closer. “This song is our peace—a peace that we’re trying to transfer to our world,” Michael says. “We all need each other. That’s the power behind the song, and that peace is what we’re transferring to you.”
We caught up with the Trotters about the new song, the role models who guided them as musicians, and how they settled on a band name—after a brief war and a treaty of their own. Listen to the song and read the interview below.
You’ve both been singing your whole lives. Who influenced you as musicians growing up?
Michael: My mother has an incredible voice. She sings from a place that few singers have—it’s an honesty that comes from the gut. She never made a record, and she doesn’t have a music career, but she had a son. My mother spent so much time with me, not just singing, but teaching me how to treat a woman, how to treat my sister and brother, how to treat my father, how to handle disappointments, how to be angry, and how not to be angry. Every fear that she had, she taught me how to beat it. She taught me not just how to be a Black man in America, but how to be a man in the world.
Tanya: My mom was a classical singer, and she really embedded in me [a love for] performing—being on stage and letting people feel what you’re singing. My brother, too. He would come home from school and play the guitar and sing me songs. He never had fear when it came to singing, and that’s one of the things that he taught me: Be fearless, be fiery, and connect with people. Love people. Have a good heart.
Michael, you served in the Army, and you’ve talked openly about living with PTSD. What do you hope your music can bring to others who might be struggling?
Michael: Three things. First, I hope we can let listeners know that they’re not alone—that someone else out there does feel what they feel and has gone through what they went through. PTSD tends to trick you into believing that it’s just you, but that’s absolutely not true. Second, that there are moments of victory. There are moments of peace. It may not be a continual peace—we’re not designed to have continual peace all day—but I hope that our music will show there is relief to be had. And lastly, that there is life after pain. There’s love after pain. There’s joy after pain. Pain is not the end of your story. It’s not the end of our story. Every veteran, soldier, police officer, or everyday citizen, we are all connected. At the end of the day, we can and will overcome.
What’s behind your band name? Why call yourselves the War and Treaty?
Tanya: Oh, we had several band names before we settled on the War and Treaty. [Laughs] And some arguments, too! We were going back and forth about the name, and I said, “This is not a war, Michael! We have to find some peace in this, some calm—a treaty.” He said, “That’s the name of the band, the War and Treaty.” In every relationship—a friendship, a marriage, a business—there are going to be turbulent times. You can argue as hard as you want to argue and fight as hard as you want to fight, but you have to know that at the end of the argument there’s going to be a treaty—that there’s always going to be peace on the other side.
Tell us more about “Take Me In.” What inspired you to write the song?
Michael: So many times we find ourselves yearning for acceptance. We put on a tough skin when we don’t get it. We say, “I don’t need anybody,” but that’s just a bitter response to rejection. So let’s cut the facade, drop the attitude, and be honest: Say, “I need love. Won’t somebody please take me in?” That is a pivotal question in our time. Whether it’s the LGBTQ community, whether it’s the African American community talking to the fathers of this country, whether it’s the people who are overweight, wanting to be accepted—take me in. Not just when I hit the home run, but take me in when I fail, too. Tell me it’s okay. Tell me it’s all right.
Tanya: You cannot take someone in without the absence of judgement. That is the highest level of acceptance, to look at a person with no judgement there. You see the soul. You see through them. It’s an opportunity to love. That’s what “Take Me In” is all about.