By Barbara Salsberg Mathews, GAC Volunteer
Pandemic shutdowns have been so challenging for musicians. I checked in with Tragedy Ann band members Liv Cazzola and Braden Phelan to see how they managed to survive during the pandemic and what their future plans are.
Barbara Salsberg Mathews (BSM): Can you briefly describe your band?
Braden Phelan (BP): We are a forward-looking folk duo. We play a variety of different instruments centered around vocal harmony and storytelling.
BSM: With tours canceled during the lock-down, what things did you feel you could control?
Liv Cazzola (LC): I could control what I eat and our home environment, such as gardening. I also started my day with yoga, making my body and mind feel as one.
BP: We decided to stop online concerts because they weren’t filling our cup as they were for some others.
BSM: Reflecting back over the past 18 months, what are you grateful for?
BP: Nature, community and the social safety net. I struggled to be creative for the first year of the pandemic. In the spring of this year, I found a private space where we could create. I need solitude to do this, allowing for our creative juices to exist.
LC: Relationships. I’ve also spent a lot more time outdoors than I normally would do. Gardening, daily walks and seeing friends outdoors provided a sense of calm.
BSM: Did this influence your music?
BP: We had to pause our album project. We believe this will result in a better album as it has given us time to drill deeper into these songs and experiment with other parts that we might want to add to the original essence of the music.
LC: This slower and more stationary time allowed us to explore a quartette of our voices with two others who are part of our bubble. My sister, Anita Cazzola and our brother-in-law, Sam Boer, are our collaborators. Because the four of us have been a bubble for most of the pandemic, we’ve been able to make music together. Before the Pandemic, our plan was to have played music as a quartette in Europe. This slower and more stationary time has allowed us to look more closely at those songs and how we want to arrange them. As a result, we’ll be more prepared for when we do travel together and play music.
BSM: What opportunities have presented themselves to you during this time of isolation?
BP: We were able to engage with community in a way that is more difficult for us when we’re away touring.
LC: We got to write a podcast theme song by collaborating with Our Food Future. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit, CERB, the financial aid for people who lost income during this time, opened our eyes to what could be if there was universal basic income. As artists, our finances fluctuate a lot. With the pandemic, finances stopped coming in. We are incredibly grateful for that support which allowed us to take hold of opportunities that we would not have had time for if we had to get other types of work.
BSM: How have you been of service to others and our community during these unusual times?
BP: I was effectively unemployed, so something that really filled my cup was doing what I could in service to community. I put my labour into not-for-profits and community organizations such as the Guelph Arts Council, where I’m a board of directors member. I also wrote and secured a grant for the Two Rivers Neighbourhood Support Group, to present a series of concerts in the community garden. This funding went directly to other neighbourhood artists.
LC: I’m working with an international group called Music Declares Emergency [ https://www.musicdeclares.net/ ]. Artists and music industry professionals work together to declare a climate and ecological emergency. We call for a governmental response to protect all life on Earth using the power of music to promote the cultural change needed to create a better future.
BSM: How has your mindset changed – e.g. will this pandemic matter in a month, year or 100 years from now?
LC: I’m grateful that we’re living through a pandemic where the internet allows us to connect with others.
BP: There’s so much potential with technology and the internet, but when it’s in the hands of a corporate monopoly it doesn’t have human wellbeing at its core.
BSM: What advice can you offer other musicians to help them stay the course during adverse times?
BP: Engage as much as you can in the music community and do your best to avoid the music industry. No matter which genre you’re in, there are going to be folks who are community minded and some who would rather exploit others.
BSM: What are your plans going forward?
LC: We are finally able to record our new album, Heirlooms, in a studio, with collaborators, in person. We hope to share this in the spring.
If people wish to get in touch with Tragedy Ann they can contact them here: