The War And Treaty Overcame COVID-19 To Release 'Hearts Town'

Dec 20, 2020
Originally published on December 20, 2020 11:23 pm

NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro speaks with musicians Tanya Blount and Michael Trotter from the band 'War and Treaty' about their new album, "Hearts Town."

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

2020 was shaping up to be Tanya Blount and Michael Trotter's year. They played the Grammys in January and booked gigs throughout the year as The War and Treaty, a duo act that was finally hitting it big after working a long time to do so - then, the pandemic. And like it did for you and me and pretty much everybody else, the year went off the rails.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YEARNING")

THE WAR AND TREATY: (Singing) And we'll be lovers now. Let go of the past that hunts us down. Can we find...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tanya Blount and Michael Trotter, who are married in addition to being artistic partners, join us now from their home in Nashville.

Thanks for being with us.

MICHAEL TROTTER: Oh, thank you for having us.

TANYA BLOUNT: Thank you for having us.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. March 12 in New York City, the Love Rocks benefit concert - let's start with the good. Tanya, how well did you perform? And Michael, feel free to jump in if Tanya's being too humble.

BLOUNT: Oh, we had a blast. It was just such a pleasure to be on - an honor to be onstage with Jackson Browne and all the legends that were on that stage with us - Cyndi Lauper. And it was amazing.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You also contracted the coronavirus there, and it hit your lungs pretty badly. Can you tell me about being sick with COVID-19?

BLOUNT: I was in the bed about - for about 30 days, and it took me until July to actually come full circle with everything and all those different symptoms to pass on through my body.

TROTTER: My son and I - we definitely thought that she was actually not going to make it, and we were terrified. But as Tanya has proven time and time again, she beats all odds.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tell me what it was like to have finally sort of dropped into gear, to play the Grammys, to be sharing the stage with legends and then for everything to just kind of stop.

TROTTER: Well, at first, it was kind of like a big bummer. You know, we had to breathe because the trajectory for us felt really good. Well, then when we start to see - from Kenny Rogers to Bill Withers to John Prine - I myself have lost probably four family members...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm so sorry.

TROTTER: ...So far. And at this moment, my uncle - well, he's everything to me. He is fighting for his life in ICU. So our prayers go out to Zilbert Trotter (ph).

BLOUNT: You know, the things that we kind of take for granted - your family, your husband, your friends - the small things that we call the small things are actually the large things.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You released the song "Five More Minutes" this year, and it's on your new album, "Hearts Town."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIVE MORE MINUTES")

THE WAR AND TREATY: (Singing) Leaving so soon. It's like we just arrived.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to ask you about this song because it sounds like it's a rollicking good time, but - and I'm going to put a trigger warning here concerning self-harm - "Five More Minutes" comes from something very, very hard that happened.

BLOUNT: Well, it was a very difficult time for us. Michael and I are very open about mental health and the struggles that we've had as a family with combat PTSD.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's right. He served in Iraq. He is indeed a combat veteran.

BLOUNT: This was just one of those days where this was it. You know, he had this look in his eye. He didn't say anything to me about it - that he was going to take his life. He didn't say anything. But I knew that this day he had reached his breaking point.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIVE MORE MINUTES")

THE WAR AND TREATY: (Singing) Stay with me. Don't leave just yet. We got all night, so please forget about tomorrow.

BLOUNT: And so I went to him, and I got down in his face. And I asked him to give me five more minutes. But at that time, I was waiting for the police to get there, and I was waiting for his therapist. And I asked him - I said, I know that you are tired, but if you just give me five more minutes to show you how much I love you, then it will be worthwhile. And as he would say, we are together living in that five more minutes right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIVE MORE MINUTES")

THE WAR AND TREATY: (Singing) Five more minutes. Five more minutes. I need five more minutes to love.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Michael, can you tell me about your thoughts about that story?

TROTTER: I was tired of promising my family better and then not being able to deliver. And I thought the only way for them to have some sort of relief financially was life insurance. So I just thought, you know, I'll just go ahead and end it here. And I like to say love snitched on me and somehow, Tanya came in and stopped all those plans. And thank God she did.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Thank God she did. You know, this is a tough time for so many people, as we've mentioned. Michael, what advice would you give to someone who might feel the same way you do?

TROTTER: I think the first thing is I'm a stranger. And if you're listening to my voice, this stranger's voice, the power that we have is to dig deep and to say, you matter. And for me, I would tell that individual that they matter so much more than they think. You matter. Your problems matter, but you matter above your problems. Your issues matter, but you matter above your issues. We love you, and we want you around. And we want to help, and we want to get you the help you need.

BLOUNT: You know, every storm runs out of rain, and there's joy on the other side of it if you can just give yourself that five more minutes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tell me about this moment right now. How are you both feeling and doing?

TROTTER: You know, I'm feeling hopeful, perky. I think that we need to hold on and really see the blessing in the big picture. The pandemic has presented us an opportunity to be equal, and I am hopeful that we've learned something in all of this. Tanya?

BLOUNT: Yeah. I was actually just reflecting on my mom raising three children, going through a divorce with my dad, walking back and forth to work, sometimes catching two buses and a train and subway with the hope that she had that one day her children would be able to live out their dreams because she had put so much hard work in. So I hold on to that, and I'm hopeful because so many others have gone through really hard times and been able to see the light.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tanya Blount and Michael Trotter are The War and Treaty. Their new album is called "Hearts Town."

Thank you both so very much.

TROTTER: Thank you.

BLOUNT: Thank you very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEARTS TOWN")

THE WAR AND TREATY: (Singing) You're sitting on my shoulders.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: If you're worried about yourself or someone you know, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at 800-273-8255. That's 800-273-8255. And you can text the crisis text line at 741741.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEARTS TOWN")

THE WAR AND TREATY: (Singing) You're weighing me down. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.