The War and Treaty Says Hardships Feed Inspiration, Call Grammy Nominations "Unmatched Honor"

Michael Trotter: "I pray that country music can springboard further into changing its narrative off of these nominations."

Speechless is the only way to describe how Tanya and Michael Trotter Jr., felt when they were nominated for two Grammy Awards in November – including the coveted all-genre Best New Artist.

Tanya has watched the Grammy Awards her entire life and knows nominations from the Recording Academy are the pinnacle of recognition from their peers.

“This is an unmatched honor,” Tanya said.

The married couple comprise duo The War and Treaty and are nominated for Best New Artist and Best American Roots Song for “Blank Page” from their major label debut album, “Lover’s Game” that came out in March. They’ll find out if they win on Sunday when the 66th GRAMMY Awards air live (8 -11:30 p.m.ET) from the Arena in Los Angeles on CBS. The Grammys will also stream on Paramount+.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 31: (L-R) Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Trotter of The War and Treaty attend A Celebration of Craft Presented by Producers & Engineers and Songwriters & Composers Wings for the 66th GRAMMY Awards at The GRAMMY Museum on January 31, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Tanya remembers predicting these nominations at a much lower point in their lives. Many years ago, the Trotters lived in someone’s basement in Maryland, and Tanya told Michael the world would hear his songs. He just had to keep going. Michael didn’t believe her.

“No one knows me,” Tanya remembers him saying. “I'm like, ‘Look, your song is going to be nominated. To have our song in the Americana Roots category and to be nominated as Best New artists for the Grammys, that is the pinnacle because of how low we were and what was said in that basement.”

The War and Treaty were wowed when the nominations rolled in because they realized how all of the pieces fit together. They remember being homeless in 2015 and watching awards shows on television at other people’s houses. This year, the Trotters won’t be tuning in. The couple plans to glam up in Los Angeles and attend what could be a career-making show for them.

Their history makes the couple appreciative and gives them a convicted understanding of what they want to accomplish. The Trotters said it took Tanya’s mother passing away, Michael’s PTSD, failed marriages, failed relationships, falling on their faces and getting bruised up to make them the people and artists they are.

Yet, when milestones happen, Tanya sometimes misses her mother even more.

“Losing someone puts things in perspective,” she explained. “Most people take for granted that they can get up and call their mom or dad and say, ‘Hey, look, I'm nominated for this.’ But what happens when your parent is no longer with you?”

For the Washington D.C. native, career success is a daily reminder that she has no one she trusts as much as her mother she can call and celebrate with.

“It makes you stop every single day and acknowledge first that they're not here, but also acknowledge that this is happening to you,” she said. “And because you have to acknowledge that first, then everybody around you, you learn to celebrate. You learn to slow down.”

Living in the moment is also key for Michael, a combat veteran, who struggles with PTSD. He’s been open about struggling with suicidal thoughts years ago that were so intense he had a plan to end his life. His wife saved him.

Tanya sensed Michael was going to hurt himself and reached out to the local fire department and police department for support. Michael was sitting on the stairs when she got home with the emergency services personnel. He remembers that she knelt in front of him and told him that she knew he planned to “end it all.” She said that if he would give her five more minutes to love him, she promised to convince him that continuing to live made sense.

“Then people who didn’t even know me – the Albion police and Albion fire department – said, ‘Stay with her, man. Listen to her. Hold on. Don’t leave us just yet,'” Michael recalled of the local Michigan emergency services. “For some reason, it reminded me of something. The same thing happened to me in Iraq. Every day I kept waking up thinking that I was next … that I was going to die. But every day, I had a commander walk up to me and say, ‘You’re going to make it home. Do you believe me?’”

The commander was killed, but Michael believes he came back to him in 2017 in the form of the men and women in uniform in Albion, Michigan.

“My wife said, ‘Five minutes,’” Michael said. “I’m still living in those five minutes right now.”

The morning of the interview, the couple worked through an episode of his PTSD by allotting five minutes to mourn.  Tanya encouraged Michael to tell her what was happening and feel every emotion that he had.

“Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't,” Michael said. “But the mere fact that you're allowing yourself to have a relationship with it is the key.”

Then, Michael explained, “The light shines and you can breathe. It's like, ‘Oh, hell yeah. We definitely made it through that.’  So, we celebrate.”

Now Michael uses his experiences for inspiration.

“The heart of why we got into this and why Michael writes the way he writes is because of his experience in life as well as in the military,” Tanya said. “And to be here doing it is amazing.”

The couple’s introduction to the country music industry came one year after he planned suicide when Peter Cooper invited them to participate in inducting Dottie West into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

“That was the start of something beautiful,” Michael said. “We met Trisha Yearwood backstage back that year. We met Brenda Lee. We met Dierks Bentley there and Chris Stapleton, and that's how those relationships began to forge.”

Last year, they were back to help induct Ray Charles into the Country Music Hall of Fame – another milestone moment because Michael considers Charles a hero. When CMT invited the couple to sing for Patty LaBelle at the network’s “Smashing Glass” special, the duo made another memory.

“I'm going back now to my childhood and I'm looking at old Soul Train music videos, and I'm seeing this black woman with her skin glistening and in this glittery outfit with this hair that's stretching to the heavens,” Michael said. “And she's singing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow,’ and she's going for it. Then CMT offers us a chance to stand on the stage, look right into this woman's eyes and to sing to her. There's no greater feeling than being able to tell your legend that you love her.”

With everything the couple has accomplished and two nominations to their credit, this trip to the Grammy Awards is different for the Trotters. Before they felt like they had imposter syndrome because they always had to be introduced and explain why they were there. They weren’t on any ticket or in any interviews. But with two nominations – including the all-genre Best New Artist – their peers are reaching out. Jelly Roll is also included in the Best New Artist category, and Michael wanted to reach out to him. But Jelly Roll beat him to it and sent him a video.

“You represent something there,” Michael said of the Best New Artist category. “To know that Jelly Roll, this overweight, tatted up white male who has a hip hop story and then The War and Treaty, this black overweight couple who has an American story, and neither one of us fit the poster of country music. But for whatever reason, country music is screaming something loudly and we're representing it. And how ironic is that? That is awesome. And I pray that country music can springboard further into changing its narrative off of these nominations.”

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