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Coping with loneliness, loss and grief using music: Tragedy Ann - CFMU Artist Sketch

Blog/MusicNovember 28th 2018
Hayley Mullen

The final song, “The Light We Have”, acts as the concluding thought on all of this: Embrace the everyday joys, holding them close through dark times.

The two artists that make up Tragedy Ann, Liv Cazzola and Braden Phelan, are chockfull of talent and things to say. The Guleph-based folk band with shades of alternative blues and contemporary folk-rock, their songs touch upon the universal topics mentioned above, whilst being lovingly crafted, no note out of place.

Music is expression. It paints pictures in our minds so that we, too, can feel what the artist has gone through and let loose the emotions we cannot ignore or hold back. The music from this week’s Artist Sketch is no exception.

We had a chance to interview the recent CFMU chart toppers on their latest album, influences and inspiration, and what songwriting means to them.

Matches is the first LP you’ve released after your EP Stumbling in 2016. What were the core messages you wanted to impart with this album?​

This album reflects on loss, grief, loneliness, friendship, and how we cope. The final song, “The Light We Have”, acts as the concluding thought on all of this: Embrace the everyday joys, holding them close through dark times.

I fell into a daze, in my own little world until a man’s voice came through

Matches incorporates many different instruments into its songs, a “multi-instrumental menagerie” by Cazzola and guitar by Phelan. What led you to learn those instruments, and how did it shape the music you create?

Braden: I sang for a number of years before I started playing guitar. I took it on as a vehicle for songwriting. Since then I’ve had a lot of fun expanding my range and versatility as a player.

Liv: I saw an accordion at St Lawrence Market in Toronto about four and a half years ago, and asked to try it out. I fell into a daze, in my own little world until a man’s voice came through, saying “I have a smaller one that’s black, if you want it for half the price”. So we met up a few days later and I’ve been playing ever since! Then, when we recorded “Stumbling” we had Georgia Urban come in to play singing saw on Nails. My mind was utterly blown and, lo and behold, on my next birthday Braden handed me a bow and saw! I had a lot of fun playing all the keys on the album, as my first and closest-to-the-heart instrument is piano. I like to use my voice and instruments as characters to add dynamic and texture to the storytelling.

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You’re currently on tour for the release of Matches. How is tour life treating you, and do you have any anecdotes/learning experiences to share?​

Canada is massive and beautiful. People are so kind.

The border guard in our way into the states misheard us and said “Ohhh, musicians! I thought you said physicians.” Then he immediately understood the CD and merch declarations. We slept in a converted school bus in Maine the other night and proceeded to spend the following twelve hours driving in a snowstorm - it was supposed to take six.

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Take us through your songwriting process. What drives you to write, and what (or who) would you cite as your biggest influences?

Writing acts as an outlet for any feeling we are experiencing. We tend to write as a tonic, individually and then together. We listen to a lot of Tom Waits, Sarah Harmer, Corin Raymond and William Prince.

Experiencing the nooks and crannies of the landscape is also profoundly inspiring.

What makes you the happiest about being musicians?

For us, it’s all about connecting with people we have never met on such a close level. Songs are powerful in uniting unlikely groups of people. Experiencing the nooks and crannies of the landscape is also profoundly inspiring.

Getting to know Tragedy Ann and their creative process has been a real treat, and we anticipate more great music from them in the future (hopefully with more accordion).

Be sure to check out Matches on Spotify.

Hayley Mullen is a 4th year Communications student and the Production Coordinator at CFMU. She hosts Study Jams every Thursday on CMFU, and has been a devoted musician/composer for over eight years.

WATCH: Jeffery Ramedios, previous CFMU music director and current president of Universal Music Canada, interviews international powerhouse band Radiohead

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