Powerhouse vocal duo The War and Treaty have delivered a knockout album, Lover’s Game, which navigates the twists and turns of relationships while centering their message around the redemptive power of love.
Produced by Dave Cobb, the 10-song collection released on March 10 demonstrates the award-worthy songwriting and musical prowess of husband and wife duo Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Trotter. The duo has been nominated for their first CMT Music Award, Group/Duo Video of the Year for “That’s How Love is Made.”
The War & Treaty talked to Music Mayhem about the stories behind the songs of Lover’s Game, their songwriting process, and how they resolve conflicts both professionally and personally.
Michael and Tanya hope that fans will be inspired by Lover’s Game to fall back in love with the concept of love – loving themselves and others.
“I think we’ve used love now as such a cliché saying and oftentimes in our society where being nonchalant about a thing seems more popular,” Michael remarks. The album takes listeners on a journey of love through different seasons and situations.
From the light-hearted title track that references loving “margarita, hot chicken, strawberry wine” to protecting your heart by surrounding yourself with love in “Ain’t No Harmin’ Me” and the aching love for those who have passed on in “Up Yonder,” Lover’s Game tackles the profound and the mundane with a maturity that can only come from experiencing those moments.
“Have You A Heart”
The album’s last track, “Have You A Heart” is a dedication to listeners, inviting them to join the career of The War and Treaty. “Do you want to continue this journey with us? Cause we got some other places to go in our career,” Michael asks listeners. “If you are still with us, let’s keep rolling. Let’s keep moving on. This is our career and not just me and Tanya’s, but we’re inviting people in.”
Award-winning producer Dave Cobb worked with The War and Treaty on Lover’s Game, encouraging them to have confidence in their strengths. “He said, man, no one has vocals like y’all in the industry,” recalled Michael. “It’s vocals, vocals, vocals.”
After one take, Cobb would tell the duo that’s all they needed, which they had a hard time believing.
“He’s like, trust me, what you have is enough. So I feel like that is another part of his genius. Once he finds that thing about that artist, he’s like, this is what we’re going to trust. This is where you want to lead the ship, but you want to lead it from here. And that’s what he did with the War and Treaty.”
“Ain’t No Harmin’ Me”
The track “Ain’t No Harmin’ Me” is a reflection of the hardships and triumphs that The War and Treaty have experienced personally and professionally.
“The more I think about the song, I think about our journey, the things that Michael and I have had to endure in order to get to where we are,” reflects Tanya. “All of the ups and downs of the no’s and the pain and the struggles we’ve had to endure and we came out unscathed. Yes, we have scars, but those scars don’t define us.” She adds, “Anything that’s harming you, anything that’s evil, anything that’s pulling you away from your purpose and your destiny, it’s not going to harm you.”
Every time she sings the songs, she thinks of her own journey and hopes it motivates listeners to do the same. “I’m hoping that when people hear it, they think of their own journey and just dust your shoulders off… Just get up and keep going. There’s no harming you in anything that you’re trying to accomplish or make happen in your life. There’s no evil or negativity that can hold you down.”
Since originally recording “That’s How Love Is Made,” Tanya says that the meaning of the song has changed for her.
“When I think of that and I’m standing there looking at Michael, I’m thinking about ways and even in our day-to-day marriage and maybe subtle ways that that’s not how love is made. That’s not how you do it. So I’m mindful… and the record is like therapy for me. I’m mindful of how I love him and how he loves me and what kind of energy I’m putting out in order to get the best out of myself and the best out of my husband and my family.”
One of the most powerful stories on the album comes from the song “Up Yonder,” which was inspired by a song that Michael used to sing in church. His mother and grandmother’s little white church in Twinsburg, Ohio would always sing a hymn called “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder” and Michael would wonder what was behind that hymn. To find the answer, he studied the songwriter behind the song.
“He was a Sunday school teacher, and he was doing roll call and one of the students he called wasn’t present and he decided to make that a lesson for his class. He said, see, you don’t want this to happen. When the Lord gives roll call, you want to be present, you want to be there. And when the roll is called up yonder, will you be there and that kind of thing. And later on that day, he just went to check on that student and didn’t realize that the student had passed away in the night. That’s what prompted him to write the song.”
In the past couple of years, both Michael and Tanya have experienced a tremendous amount of loss. He says that this song gives hope.”I know that a lot of people in the pandemic died alone, especially a lot of my family members… I’ve held the hand of an angel before and it was hard to let it go. And it’s really just me giving imagery about a situation I saw when my wife’s mother was dying, how they were holding each other’s hands. But having that faith and hope that we’ll see each other again one day whenever that roll is called up yonder. And that’s our faith moment right there in the record.”
When it comes to their songwriting process, the husband and wife duo may not always agree on how to tell a story, but they always come to a resolution and lean on each others’ strengths.
“I feel that Tanya brings a certain professionalism to my process that I sometimes don’t even like to admit,” says Michael. “Tanya’s like, no, you’ve got to be patient and you have to make sure that what you’re writing is universal, but not so much just self-centered.”
The couple will sit at a piano together and let the music lead them together, as opposed to one person or the other. “We get deeper into each other’s psyche and each other’s heart in the songwriting process.” Tanya admits that she’s a “get straight to the point” kind of writer, whereas Michael encourages her to flesh out the story, expanding the lyrics. “We’re the voice of reason in each other’s lives for absolutely everything,” says Michael.
As their band name suggests, Michael and Tanya know how to deal with conflict and finding resolutions. “Arguing is not a problem. It’s fighting when things get ugly,” says Michael. “Tanya and I have made up in our mind and in our relationship that we don’t fight. We may disagree and we may argue, but we don’t fight.”
Lover’s Game Track List
1. “Lover’s Game” (Michael Trotter Jr., Tanya Trotter, Dave Cobb)
2. “Blank Page” (Michael Trotter Jr., Tanya Trotter)
3. “Ain’t No Harmin’ Me” (Michael Trotter Jr., Tanya Trotter)
4. “Yesterday’s Burn” (Michael Trotter Jr., Tanya Trotter)
5. “That’s How Love Is Made” (Michael Trotter Jr., Tanya Trotter, Dave Barnes)
6. “The Best That I Have” (Michael Trotter Jr., Tanya Trotter)
7. “Dumb Luck” (Beau Bedford)
8. “Angel” (Michael Trotter Jr., Tanya Trotter)
9. “Up Yonder” (Michael Trotter Jr., Tanya Trotter)
10. “Have You A Heart” (Michael Trotter Jr., Tanya Trotter)
The War and Treaty will be joining Chris Stapleton on select dates of his “All American Road Show” tour this summer, where they’ll give fans a taste of the Lover’s Game album.
“We’re going to probably try to do a battle with him [Stapleton] on the national anthem. Challenge him. I think we can do it better,” Michael laughed, referring to Stapleton’s iconic performance during 2023’s Super Bowl LVII.
The War And Treaty Are On Tour
Michael and Tanya will be launched their headlining “Lover’s Game Tour” on March 19 in Oklahoma City, with dates across the country running through May 13 in Nashville, Tennessee at Brooklyn Bowl. Kat and Alex will open the first half of the tour, then William Prince will open the remaining dates.
“We’re doing all of our songs on the album, as well as some throwbacks and some new songs that no one’s ever heard,” says Michael. He also revealed that fans can expect a unique show in Nashville. “We’re trying something special for that show, so stay tuned.”
For a complete list of “Lover’s Game Tour” dates and ticket details, visit https://www.thewarandtreaty.com/