Local Wire

Brian Chartrand's Musical Identity Crisis

Looking at local musician Brian Chartrand's musical biography, you might say he has an identity crisis.

There are his solo acoustic releases, which include his unique arrangements of well-known songs from contemporary artists as well as strong guitar work on his original numbers. There's his work with the critically-acclaimed local jam band Ten Dollar Outfit and the harmonies of the Crosby, Stills, and Nash-influenced trio The Sweet Remains. But it's his work with the Voce Project, which he describes as his "dream band," that brings him the most satisfaction.

"The beauty of being in multiple bands is you can find a home for each song," he said. "Everyone in the band has this flavor. We can do anything! I don't give them a ton of direction. When we play live, we all got each other's back."

The Voce Project has its roots in the now defunct Voce Lounge in Scottsdale. Michael Florio tapped Chartrand to perform at the jazz venue.

"I was a little different than who normally played there," Chartrand remarked.

He quickly became acquainted with the house musicians and realized that together they created something unique. The result was their 2011 self-titled debut, which included Khani Cole on vocals, Florio on drums, bassist Mel Brown, Todd Chuba on percussion, Lamar Gaines on keys, and Adam Armijo joining Chartrand on guitar.

"I really wanted to capture what we were doing live," Chartrand says, "It was about creating an atmosphere. The club was closed and I wanted to keep it together."

With the band's latest album, Worth The Fight, he wanted to present his songs in their purest form, despite the fact that The Voce Project is first and foremost a live band.

"I knew it was a diverse sounding project. The band's musicology is so deep. It's a good mix of genres," Chartrand describes.

Listeners will hear Chartrand's guitar, along with elements of country and soul that represent each band member's particular musical flavor (Mario Mendivil takes over bass duties for this album). The title track was inspired by something he said on the phone as a relationship was ending. While it is certainly a break-up song, Chartrand feels it takes on a bigger meaning when he steps back.

"It applied to things in my life, including being a musician," he says, "People don't see 90 percent of all the work. I'm still grinding it out in the trenches. [The song] is a battle cry."

The thread that keeps Chartrand's output together is his ability to serve the songs he writes and take them to the next level. "I think at the end of the day I'm a traditional singer-songwriter, like my heroes James Taylor and Jeff Buckley."

The CD release party for Brian Chartrand and the Voce Project's album Worth the Fight is Thursday, May 29 at The Rhythm Room.

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Jason Keil was the Phoenix New Times culture editor from August 2019 to May 2020.
Contact: Jason Keil