Strong Roots (Profiles in Roots Music): Tragedy Ann (Liv Cazzola + Braden Phelan)

by Krlmagi

I talk to Liv Cazzola about Tragedy Ann's approach to music, their passion for exploring humanity through song and the importance of a strong folk/roots community in Canada.

Before they were a musical duo, Liv Cazzola and Braden Phelan were a couple. They didn’t perform music together until some time after they’d started their romantic relationship. Liv explains, “Braden brought a song to me that he was writing for a project. I asked if it was okay for him to play it again so I could play and sing along, and he agreed. We stopped afterwards and noticed that it was quite a special experience.”

She continues, “I was accompanying him for his solo gigs for a while and eventually people started to associate the two of us as one musical unit. It became a lot more of a duo dynamic as I contributed more. We eventually decided to create a moniker for the duo.”

Tragedy Ann
Tragedy Ann

Braden and Liv come from different musical backgrounds, so they each approach music a little differently. Liv started out playing piano as a child before taking voice lessons in high school while Braden started out in choirs in high school before taking up guitar.  Both of them pursued music in their post secondary educations as well. Liv adds, “My creative background is a little bit more folk singer/songwriter oriented and Braden came from more of a rock 'n roll perspective. It works out pretty nicely.”


The way in which the duo writes songs is evolving as they grow into their musical project. Liv points out, “At first we'd come up with songs on our own and only later we'd figure out how each of us could best contribute to the piece. We've also created some songs from the ground up in the same room which is quite a challenge because we do come from different backgrounds. It ends up working out in a really neat way that's different from what either of us could expect.”


The approach that Liv and Braden take to music varies between their live performances and their recorded work. Liv says, “When we play our shows live, we keep it acoustic using our voices, acoustic guitar, accordion and ukulele. Lately we've incorporated a backing band for a few larger shows to up the energy for those more raucous shows. We like to incorporate storytelling and engagement with the audience as well as performing the songs.”


On their recordings, the approach is a bit different. Liv explains, “We've played around with a lot of different locations. We like to embrace the environment we choose to be in and figure out how our instruments can play to that strength. We've played around with other things like lap steel and an organ just to spice it up a bit and see our vision through in the arrangement.”

The biggest challenge for Liv and Braden is managing their  time commitments. Liv explains, “It can be a challenge for us to make sure we're making time, not only for ourselves as a couple but also ourselves as a band. We want to find a balance between the time spent just being a couple versus being a duo.”

She adds that these layers to the relationship haven’t been much of a challenge and says, “In fact, it has contributed positively to whole experience.  It's also a way for us to spend time together with each other doing something we both love.”


The folk/roots music scene has a strong sense of community that appeals to Liv. She says, “Between the great festivals that we've been to and heard of and a bunch of the other smaller folk communities within cities and areas, it’s amazing. It's interesting to be a part of that network and see how much crossover there is. Everywhere we go, there's always someone who is familiar with people you know. It's a strong, supportive community!”


There are two major future goals for the duo. Liv says, “On the last night of our tour, Braden turned to me and said, ‘Why don't we think about setting a goal of, within a year, being able to pursue music full-time without any other employment commitments’ - so that's something we have been keeping in our minds and working towards.”


The second goal for the band is to tour more, both regionally and internationally, but that will remain a long term goal because of the costs associated with tours of larger scope.


Inspiration comes from many sources for Liv. She says, “I think it's the people I meet  and the stories they share about their experiences with the world. I’m inspired by thinking about people’s different philosophies and our relationships to the world and to each other.”

For more information on Tragedy Ann, please visit their website here.

This profile was based on an interview with Liv Cazzola conducted and recorded on Sept. 28, 2016.

Updated: 10/05/2016, Krlmagi
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