When Dierks Bentley had a big question for the War and Treaty — would they perform at the 2021 ACM Awards with him? — he kept it casual: He sent them a text.

Husband and wife Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Blount Trotter first met Bentley in 2018, at that year's Country Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony. He invited the couple to play his Seven Peaks Festival in 2019 — and then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

"We kept in touch with one another, not as artists, but as Americans going through the same thing," Michael Trotter shares. "We were texting him, making sure that he and his family were okay, and he was texting us back, and we just stayed connected."

Still, the Trotters admit, Bentley's "bomb" of an ask was a surprise; Tanya laughs as she talks about his "new, modern technology" way of asking. Then again ...

"The way that Dierks does things is from the heart," Michael says. "We were prepared for that kind of mantra when we first got in the industry by the great Buddy Miller."

Bentley, in fact, reminds Michael and Tanya quite a bit of Miller, himself a legendary singer-songwriter: "Their styles are very reminiscent of one another," Michael explains, "so to be able to be embraced by Dierks and to see that his entire team, the temperature of their character matches Dierks', I think that's what's most impressive about that whole crew."

Together with Bentley, the War and Treaty will be performing a cover of U2's 1984 single "Pride (in the Name of Love)" at the 2021 ACM Awards. Bentley previously covered the song for his 2010 bluegrass album Up on the Ridge.

"[It's] such a powerful song ... It's a powerful piece," Michael says. "We're just honored."

They're honored, too, to be performing from the Station Inn, an iconic bluegrass club located in Nashville's Gulch neighborhood. Bentley has often spoken about how the venue played a formative role for him when he was new to Music City; the Trotters, however, have only played there once, during AmericanaFest one year.

"We know that it's a coming home for Dierks," Michael says, "but it's another visit for us, and we're just excited."

The Station Inn also earned some time in the spotlight during the 2021 Grammy Awards in mid-March, when club owner JT Gray presented the Best Country Album award from the venue. Sadly, Gray died less than a week later, on March 20. Bentley and the War and Treaty's performance will be the first major event at the venue since his death.

"We're just honored to be a part of that moment," Tanya Blount Trotter says, stressing the need for independent music venues such as the Station Inn, and the importance of helping them weather the pandemic.

"Artists need a place like the Station Inn," she adds, "and we're just grateful that the Station Inn has been one of the pillars of the Nashville community."

The War and Treaty, originally from Michigan, were named the Americana Honors & Awards Emerging Act of the Year in 2019, in part on the strength of their 2018 album Healing Tide. They released their newest album, Hearts Town, in 2020; that same year, they were also named Folk Alliance International's Artist of the Year.

After relocating from Las Vegas to Nashville in 2020 out of necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic, the ACM Awards are back in Nashville in 2021. As showrunners did last year, they're spreading this year's event out across three iconic Music City venues — the Grand Ole Opry House, the Ryman Auditorium and the Bluebird Cafe — though a few performances, including Bentley and the War and Treaty's, will take place elsewhere. They'll be following national, state and local guidelines related to the pandemic, as well as additional, self-imposed safety measures.

The 2021 ACM Awards are set for Sunday (April 18). They'll begin at 8PM ET and will air live on CBS and be available to stream on Paramount+; sign up for the streaming service here.

2021 ACM Awards Nominees: The Full List

Maren Morris and Chris Stapleton lead all 2021 ACM Awards nominees with six each and Miranda Lambert has five, including Female Artist of the Year. Thomas Rhett and Ashley McBryde will be up for four ACM awards on April 18. The CBS broadcast will award trophies for Entertainer, Song and Album of the Year, in addition to Duo and Group of the Year. This is a list of all ACM Awards nominations for 2021.

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