The War and Treaty by David McClister

In most cases, if you’re calling someone an “icon,” it means they’ve been shaping the field they’re known for working in for a long, long time. But just because John Legend has only two decades and change of writing, singing, acting and more under his belt doesn’t mean that the label “R&B icon” is misapplied.

The multi-award-winning polymath — the only Black man and the second-youngest person ever to achieve EGOT status — is headed to Ascend Amphitheater tonight for his first Nashville show since 2017. It’d no doubt be an honor for anyone to share the stage with Legend, but the chance to open for him means something a bit more for soulful duo The War and Treaty.

When Michael Trotter Jr., The War and Treaty’s singer and pianist, was serving in Iraq in 2004, he stumbled across a CD on his Army base that would change his life: Legend's debut album Get Lifted. For anyone who thinks art direction and styling don't matter, that's exactly what caught Trotter's attention.

“I was going through the PX and I saw this guy with this cut that I always favored, like a taper fade,” Trotter tells the Scene, in a brief phone conversation during a break from a studio session. “It just looked stunning on the cover. I put it in, and immediately I was blown away.”

Meanwhile, Tanya Blount, who’s now Trotter’s wife and the lead singer of The War and Treaty, actually met Legend while she was on tour with Lauryn Hill. Back then, he went by John Stephens, and “just happened to be in the band,” says Blount. Still, she knew he was something special. “I really fell in love with who he is as an artist and the level of class that he carries with his music.”

The couple, whose powerful blend of blues, rock and R&B won them the 2019 Emerging Artist of the Year award from the Americana Music Association, couldn’t be happier to be the opening act on a run of dates for Legend’s Bigger Love Tour all these years later. They have one more reason to be particularly excited for the opportunity: They’ve named their son Legend after the star. As Trotter says, “I know we're going to introduce him so he can know where he got his name from.”

The show kicks off at 8 p.m. at Ascend Amphitheater. Tickets start at $39.

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