Behind the Mic: Saint John

Posted: 14th August 2019 by benztownvoiceover in Interviews, Regular Features, Voice of the Week

St. John has been the voice of the San Francisco Bay Area (and beyond) for the last 2 decades. St Headshot

“I got into radio because I love music and I love the art of communication. Early in life I had the good fortune to be able to listen to some of the best in the business… some of the greatest radio stations and biggest personalities of all time. And of course , I fell in love with the theatre of the mind … not just of the on air talent but of the ever present “phantom personality” … the imaging announcer. The voiceover artist conveys more about your station in 3 seconds than many personalities do in an hour. As a station voice, I love working with program directors in helping to create something unique … something that no one else can duplicate. My style can be over the top … it can be intimate … and it is always engaging. And with station imaging that’s the whole point.”

How did you get started as a VO actor?

I began in radio as weekend on air talent and at WZOU/Boston (now WJMN) I was also assigned the task of dubbing music and spots … and then voicing the occasional 60 second commercial. My first station. Imaging voice experience was at Boston’s KISS108 … I was asked to fill in for the station’s creative director for a few weeks and fell in love with both the creative process and hearing my work on the air defining the station. Haven’t looked back since!

What radio VO work have you done in the past?

I’ve been the voice of some pretty exciting stations over the past 2 decades including

  • WXRK New York
  • KBIG Los Angeles
  • KYLD San Francisco
  • CKBE Montreal
  • HOT957 Houston
  • WPOW Miami
  • Z90 San Diego
  • KXJM Portland
  • KIKI Honolulu
  • B97 New Orleans
  • WLOL Minneapolis
  • B95 Fresno
What are you up to presently?
I am currently hosting Afternoon Drive and am the station imaging voice for KMVQ FM (997NOW) San Francisco.
My voiceover roster also includes:
  • iHeart Radio DANCE NATION 90s
  • KDON Salinas Santa Cruz Monterey
  • DaJam983 Maui
  • 91.4 Studio1FM Dhahran Saudi Arabia
  • 105.7NOWfm Spokane
  • Q97 Fresno
 Additionally, I do weekend fill in on Philadelphia’s TALKRADIO 1210 WPHT and am currently working on creating YouTube channels to compliment my San Francisco and Philadelphia radio shows.

 

Check out Saint’s demo:

 

What do you love about your job?

I love entertaining and making real connections with people through radio. With 997NOW, having a 2 decade relationship with people in San Francisco is incredibly rare and allows me to have a real place in people’s daily lives. Bonneville encourages our personalities to make a difference in our communities which is incredibly rewarding. On my shows on WPHT I love giving a different perspective and challenging our listeners. Engagement is really what gets me excited. And that’s what I also go for in the voiceover booth. It drives everything I do.

On Air!

St. John has been on-air at 997Now for twenty years!

What was your on-air first gig?
First radio experience was during high school. I had a free period … and had access to the radio station at the college next door (Virginia Wesleyan College). From there its was Z104/Norfolk … WHTT … WZOU … then KISS108 Boston

What was your first voiceover gig?

First official station voice gig was B97 New Orleans.
First client station B95 Fresno.

Any memorable ones since then?

All (ok MOST) clients are memorable in that their individual situations are unique. That said … any time I have non English language vo … it’s challenging and fun (especially since I’m not fluent in Mandarin Portuguese or Spanish).

Who are your VO idols/mentors?

IDOL … Hands down it has to be the late Chuck Riley. First worked with his VO at X100/San Francisco and was blown away.

MENTORS … Almost everyone else doing voiceover. I’ve learned so much (stolen so many ideas…lol) from so many other incredibly talented vo people. I can’t name a single voice artist that hasn’t made me hear things in a different way than I normally would.

If you weren’t doing voiceover, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career?
If I weren’t in radio or voiceover, I’d be producing electronic dance music full time (which I do in my spare time) and performing at festivals and clubs. And if not in music or entertainment, I’ve always had a fascination with flying.

How do you continue to stay motivated throughout your long career?

I am blessed and grateful to have relationships with people who challenge, motivate and encourage me daily. From my radio fam from 997NOW (Michael Martin and Jazzy Jim) and Greg Lawley at Lawman Promotions to people like Chachi and the Benztown crew, I get perspective and opportunity to brainstorm with some of the absolute best in the business. Working around fresh talent is a also a huuuuuuge benefit and keeps me from getting myopic. And while I don’t really actively think about how to stay motivated, my friend and mentor (Michael Martin) believes that a key for creatives is having other creative outlets … so it IS that music production and doing talk radio that is a pressure valve. Also taking vacations and enjoying the food, fashion, music and theatre scene in San Francisco is energizing.

Building great relationships is key in the radio biz!

Building great relationships is key in the radio biz!

How has new technology changed the way you work?

As a voiceover talent, digital technology has been a game changer. Editing is so simple and cleaning up tracks couldn’t be easier. Uploading and emailing has made turnaround time almost instantaneous. And going on vacation is infinitely easier. I used to travel with a full rack kit and now the Neve gear comes with me on a laptop in plug in form.

What gear do you use In your studio? On the road?

The mic for most of my clients voiceover is a Sennheiser 8060 (a little more present for me than a 416 and its smaller so it travels better). Processing in the booth at home is Neve 1073spx pre/eq and Neve 2254R compressor into Sound Devices USBPre2 interface and of course Wheatstone Voxpro. On the road its the Sennheiser into a UAD Arrow (Neve 1073 and 33609 plugins) into Ableton live 10 to record and Wheatstone Voxpro to edit and clean up.

Which production system do you use and why?

For voiceover it’s Wheatstone Voxpro. It’s idiot proof (lol) and since I use it on air every single day I’m lightning fast and it’s second nature. For the very infrequent full promo that I might produce Ableton Live 10 is fantastic … easy … and is incredibly stable. I use it with Waves and UAD plugins (although the stock plug ins it comes with are decent). Of course I can rock with ProTools (started on a system from Pacific Recorders called ADX then on to ProTools) but for me Ableton has made it obsolete.

Have you ever had a voice coach? Would you recommend it?

I’ve just started to work with Marice Tobias and find it valuable. Working with a coach is probably not for everyone but I personally believe that being challenged and encouraged to see things from a different perspective can give you a different edge and a serious advantage.

What is the best voice processing trick everyone should know?

Actually not really a trick but audition EVERY MIC until you find the one (or ones) that works for YOU. Don’t just look at what everybody else uses and assume it’s best for you. Some people sound better on a $100 handheld Shure mic than on a $3500 Neumann U87. DON’T BE AFRAID TO EXPERIMENT.

As for processing … EQ sparingly to sound natural to slightly bright … compress with slow attack time and relatively quick release … then a bit of peak limiting

Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry?

1. FIRST and FOREMOST … MAKE SURE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH THE PROCESS. Don’t be in love with the idea of being a voiceover artist… love the work. If the satisfaction solely comes from getting the gig and the check … you’ll be disappointed far more than delighted. If the work itself isn’t the turn on you’re doing the wrong thing.
2. Like everything in life … don’t overthink it. Especially in a creative field DO NOT SECOND GUESS. When you’re first starting out, don’t be afraid if you’re not perfect. YOU HAVE TO SHIP! It’s easy to get paralyzed because your early work isn’t all the way there. Do your best … ship your best … and always work toward perfection (if there is such a thing).
3. LISTEN TO EVERYONE ELSE’S WORK and get a feel for why you think it works. Incorporate that essence of what makes their work resonate where it makes sense but DO NOT IMITATE. Make friends … network … and talk to other voiceover artists about THEIR points of view and possibly think about voice work from a different perspective than when you began.

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If you could go back in time and hang out in any decade which one would you go back to and why?

I think the 70s were incredible … media and music were exciting and vital. Between Top 40 and rock radio were so dominant. And some of the best (and IMHO most important) albums of all time were recorded in the 70s.

If you could invite one person to dinner, living or dead, who would it be?

I could easily give you a hundred … historic, political, spiritual, music or media people … hard to narrow down to just one…but at this moment I’d love to sit down with Gary Vee. He’s always thought provoking, inspirational and challenging…and cuts through all the BS.

Favorite 2 pizza toppings?

Pepperoni and Jalapeños … I’m pretty basic… lol.

 

Behind the Mic: Alyson Steel

Posted: 7th August 2019 by benztownvoiceover in Voice of the Week

Alyson Steel VoiceoverAlyson Steel is a voice you’ve heard not only the radio waves, but on some of your favorites commericals. She began her career in front of the camera and eventually found her passion behind the mic. 

What radio VO work have you done in the past either in stations or markets?

Tons of Commercials – too numerous to count over the last 20 something years. Including National, Regional and local markets. (and international as well!) Also Imaging around the country in small and mid sized markets as well as Los Angeles.

What are you up to presently?

Tons of TV/Radio Commercials, Infomercials (But wait- there’s more!), Imaging, Promos, telephony, TTS and narrations also keep me busy.

Check out Alyson’s Demos:

 

What do you love about your job?

My clients are very cool. People in this industry understand things like – “I need to go to yoga early in the morning to warm up my voice and that also helps me be a happy VO artist and not a grumpy person if I don’t get to do my practice. As well as understanding things like “Mercury is in retrograde which is why things can get a bit wonky. Clients in VO get those psychological things. 😉

Wearing comfy clothing. I can’t imagine dressing business casual every day LOL.

How did you get started as a VO actor?

I started as an on camera actor – and still do that when I get the opportunity. I trained in the Theatre in HS in NYC and then started working in the business professionally and then after grad school came to LA and thats when i got the Voice Over Bug – but I trained and honed my Skills- honoring the profession and taking my time. Paid my dues etc.

What was your first gig?

Funny enough – it was the MOM in “All dogs to go Heaven 3”. I got cut out but still get residuals – thanks to a great SAG residuals systyem. 😉

Would love to do more animation – and take it when I can get it – but it isn’t my mainstay.

Any memorable ones since then?

Well one job that has yet to make it to market but ought to soon– I signed a 16 page NDA and can’t tell anyone about – but when it DOES come out – it will be pretty GIANT and basically be in MANY people’s homes.

A Current Fun one Men would recognize: I’m the Voice of Pajamagram and Vermont Teddy bear for the last 6+ years….

Who are your VO idols or mentors?

Mentors: Marice Tobias for sure.

Idols: Tara Strong and Mark Hamill – I would love to do more animation, and she is amaze balls at the craft. He’s insanely talented. And BOTH are incredibly lovely people.

If you weren’t doing voiceover, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career?

I adore ASL and would have strived to become fluent and a translator.

What did it feel like the first time you heard your voice on the radio/television?

I was filled with glee and thought ‘Oh my gosh how cool is that?’ I also took (and still do) a second when I hear myself currently- and say – ‘hey that woman sounds familiar….’ and then I realize ‘wait -it’s me!’ LOL

How has new technology changed the way you work?

Truthfully- Work is easier  – you never have to leave your home – which is why I got a dog initially because I was diagnosed with LOW vitamin D….yeah In Los Angeles. How ironic is that? There are days I wouldn’t leave and just keep knocking out jobs and auditions….

Also, you don’t have to go to your agents office – though WME Likes when I come by and show face – but mostly, I read from home.

What gear do you use on the road? In your studio?

On the road: Mac Pro and the Apogee Mic – recording onto twisted Wave – and building wound forts and blanlets over my head serve as the makeshift booth. 😉

At home: ISO Booth. Twisted Wave. AKG Mic. CA projects pre 73 jr. And an ambient round it all out.

 

IMG_0350

Anyone else have booth envy? Alyson Steel’s at-home ISO booth to record her voiceover sessions.

Which production system do you use and why?

Twisted Wave. I don’t produce and I use a MAC. It’s the most stable platform and super simple.

Alyson's voiceover studio and production space!

Alyson’s voiceover studio and production space!

Any favorite plugins?

Loud max. Adds depth and volume.

Have you ever had a voice coach?

Absolutely! I’ve had Several.

Would you recommend it?

100%. Michael Phelps has a coach – Athletes have coaches. People have life coaches…..It’s something I think is not only necessary to learn the lay of the land in a new industry but mentally important.

How do you schedule and prioritize your work?

Great Question.

Working from home – people think that it’s easy and you don’t have to report to anyone. But it is just as demanding as going to an office in some ways.

In terms of scheduling, I always prioritize on what needs to get out ASAP to a client. Sometimes it is within an hour sometimes within 3 hours or end of day and sometimes things can wait til the next day. So I try and handle work as it comes in and go from there. Moment by moment. It’s being able to juggle and being in the flow  of the present moment to determine what gets done when.

How much time do you spend auditioning for new work?

Sometimes a few hours a day – sometimes a few minutes a day.

Today I only had 2 auditions but a bunch of work. Other days I can spend an hour or two banging out auditions. It just depends on the day.

How do you market your services to potential clients?

If I told you – I would have to kill you. HA. Just kidding.

I used to go on the ‘pay to plays’ to meet many new clients and I still do to some degree – that said – I reach out by doing Google searches and using the internet and following up on leads. It’s an ongoing, ever present process.

When it comes to VO work, studio & gear, what are your most ingenious methods or  discoveries for saving time and cash?

To save time and cash – I don’t get overly caught up in the technical aspects of VO — only focusing on that – which I see a LOT of newcomers as well as VO’s who aren’t working a lot, seem to do. It gives them something to chew on – when in fact they are really wasting a lot of time.

I have an “audio guy” and a “Computer (MAC) Guy”….My students laugh – “You have a guy for everything!…” So I have everything done and set and I pay for it and they help me – but to spin your wheels on all things technical is ridiculous. That is not going to help you do a better read and performance. My mom used to say – K.I.S.S : Keep it Simple Stupid. (Nowadays I leave off the last “S” LOL) but that is to say – if it is getting complicated for yourself – then youre on the wrong track and concentrating on the wrong things.

What is the best voice processing trick or voice-over technique everyone should know?

There are so many: So when I think of only 1 – I’ll get back to you. LOL  😉

Do you have a different approach to reading radio imaging copy as opposed to TV or Radio commercial ads?

Absolutely! Totally different animal.

Even though all of the VO genres wildly differ, the commercial techniques I use and teach will infuse into EVERY read.

Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry?

  1. Get training. Lots of training. Get a coach. Someone you can count on and feel 100% supported by.  Your coach should make you feel as though you are safe and taken care of and that you aren’t missing out on ANYTHING and that you are fully integrated in the VO world.
  2. Practice. Rehearse.
  3. So: Get training. Get a coach and rehearse.

Connect with Alyson

Facebook.com/AlysonSteel

Instagram.com/AlysonSteel

Twitter.com/AlySteel

Behind the Mic: Pete Gustin

Posted: 10th July 2019 by benztownvoiceover in Voice of the Week

Pete Gustin is a current and 3-time winner of the Benztown Top 50 award and also the current title holder of the SOVAS Voice Arts Award for “Outstanding Movie trailer of the Year.”  Pete is the voice of dozens of radio stations worldwide as well as the exclusive voice of Fox News and has been featured on Fox, ABC, CBS, USA, Cartoon Network, Comedy Central, FXX and ESPN.  Pete’s work on movie trailers has grown exponentially in the last couple of years coinciding with his move to San Diego where he actually tries to get out of the booth every once in a while to enjoy his new sport of surfing in the Pacific.

Surf Shot

 

What radio VO work have you done in the past (stations/markets)?

I’m on in LA, Boston, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Portland and many many points within that geographical circle along with stations in Africa, the south of France, the Seychelles, Trinidad and Tobago, the British Virgin Islands and … more.

What are you up to presently either freelance or on-staff at a station?

I am full-time freelance VO but still do a little production here and there, including handling all of the imaging needs for WRIF in Detroit. I’m also the sole creator of the Tirade Imaging Library and am presently working on my second novel.

What do you love about your job?

I love competing to “win” gigs.  As kids, we have so many more opportunities to compete in things like youth sports and in school.  Being able to compete on a daily basis with so many other talented VO people around the country and the world for VO jobs adds some excitement to every single day.  After that, I love the opportunity to perform and to bring life to copy.

Pete Gustin

Pete Gustin received a Voice Arts Award!

How did you get started as a VO actor?

Long story short?  I hit puberty and my voice dropped dramatically.  I used to sound like a little girl. Like … not a young boy … like a little girl. When my big-boy voice came in everyone started telling me I should grow up to be on the radio. I took their advice as soon as possible taking my first internship at WRKO in Boston my freshman year at Boston University.

What was your first gig? Any memorable ones since then?

My first gig on air was actually as a traffic reporter for WBZ in Boston while I was a freshman at Boston University.  First gig making promos was for WRKO in Boston my sophomore year. Junior year I started my first DJ’ing job on WPXC on Cape Cod.  First Production Director job was for WEEI and WRKO right after I graduated. Like, the day after I graduated. First “station” I ever officially voice was Liquid Metal (then called Hard Attack) on Sirius/XM……..which I’m still the voice of today some 19 years later.

Who are your VO idols/mentors?

The first guy I ever wanted to be like was a local Boston celebrity/VO artist by the name of Dana Hersey.  I also got in touch with Don LaFontaine my junior year of college who used to give me acting and VO lessons from the back of his limo on his way home from gigs at the end of his days out in L.A.  It was kind of……..amazing.

If you weren’t doing voiceover, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career?

I studied advertising and psychology at B.U…..so I’d probably be putting both of these degrees to good use in creating ads at some agency somewhere.  VO’s was actually kind of always just the “dream plan”. I thought working in advertising was actually much more likely….but I’m REALLY glad it’s worked out the way it has.

What did it feel like the first time you heard your voice on the radio/television?

The first time I was on air I was a guest on a morning talk show in Boston and I was 10. I was like … “holy crap….I totally sound like a girl!”

How has new technology changed the way you work?

Well…I would not be able to work if it were not for new technology.  I am of course legally blind. I can’t actually “read” anything. Hell…I can’t see much of anything these days.  So, my copy gets red to me via a little computer voice in my left ear and I recite it back in real time as I hear it.  it was hard as all hell to master the skill…but it was completely necessary in order to do what I really wanted to do in life.  Fortunately, the human brain is adaptable and I’m not easily dissuaded by a challenge.

What gear do you use on the road? In your studio?

I pretty much never get to go on the road.  I’m locked in the booth pretty hardcore every day.  I had a soundproof recording studio built by a company called Soundproof San Diego.  The booth is absolutely amazing. It’s soundproof and, well…pretty much bomb proof. I use Pro Tools on a PC with a Prism Lyra 2 fed by a Sennheiser 416 shotgun mic along with 2 mice at the same time with 32 different macros for editing.

Pete Gustin's recording studio ... This is where the magic happens!

Pete Gustin’s recording studio … This is where the magic happens!

Which production system do you use and why? Any favorite plugins?

I use Pro Tools because it’s whatI learned on.  Well…technically I learned on the DSE 7000FX but they don’t make that beast anymore so….Pro Tools it is.  One handy dandy little plug-in I found is the Black Box. It honestly doesn’t do a heck of a lot to the VO….but it does just enough to make it sparkle and cut through.  Juuuuuuuust enough.

Have you ever had a voice coach? Would you recommend it?

Yes.  Oh yes.  Of course.  I’ve worked with Marice Tobias, David Lyerly, Artt Butler and Richard Redfield.  Were it not for them I’d still be growling at a mic thinking my baritone sound was enough to be a voice over guy.  They all worked with me extensively to teach me how to…you know……..act.

How do you schedule or prioritize your work? How much time do you spend auditioning for new work?

I try to do work at the moment it comes in.  I think all of my clients would tell you that they are amazed with my turn-around time.  All scripts are usually done in maybe 5 to 10 minutes and I usually handle between 40 to 60 sessions a day.  I will of course have to put some of the bigger and more demanding clients like Fox News and other TV networks at the head of the line even if something else had come in first…but no one ever waits very long.  Some days I do zero auditions. Others I can do up to maybe five or so. I am however always working on new demos and new ways to market and advertise which I think is just as important as auditioning.

Pete hanging out on the cliffs!

Pete hanging out on the beautiful seaside cliffs of California!

How do you market your services to potential clients?

Like a hooker.  I am a total prostitute.  I show off my goods and try to tempt people into sleeping with me … I mean … hiring me to read copy.

When it comes to VO work, studio & gear, what are your most ingenious methods or discoveries for saving time and cash?

The big time-saver is the left-hand mouse I use called the Contour Shuttle Pro v2.  I don’t even need the keyboard when I use pro Tools. I play the program like a piano; cutting, copying, pasting, moving and everything else with my fingers floating over the keys like a pianist on his ivories.

What is the best voice processing trick or voice-over technique everyone should know?

Don’t over-do it.  Seriously…..the old-school big, forced “radio” sound is dead and has been for a long time.  Let your natural sound shine through. I mean….don’t JUST talk like you normally would…but don’t pop a vain in your neck unless you’re the voice of a death metal station.

Do you have a different approach to reading radio imaging copy as opposed to TV or Radio commercial ads?

Yes…completely.  I also have different processing for different jobs.  Radio is a little bit exaggerated. Above I said don’t push your VO…and you shouldn’t…..but a lot of radio copy does call for a bit of an  exaggeration to what you’d normally do as an actor. It’s just the nature of the type of promotion radio does. TV promos are more natural.  Trailers are far more laid back than people think when they talk about them…and commercials are completely natural and will book based solely on your acting skills.

Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry?

  1. Take acting classes
  2. Read as much copy as you can as often as you can.  Repetition and practice are your best friends
  3. Wear as little clothing as possible when you read copy.  Clothes can restrict your diaphragm so … underpants only when possible.

If you could go back in time and hang out in any decade which one would you go back to and why?

I wanna go back in time to the era of the ancient Greeks and Romans. I know I wouldn’t be able to be a VO guy but I could be like a Town Crier or something and I feel like that time of innovation for thought and technology would be fascinating to see first-hand.

Pete and Superdog!

Pete and Superdog!

Favorite 2 pizza toppings?

Ham……..and pineapple!

If you could invite one person to dinner, living or dead, who would it be?

Julias Caesar (and a translator).  I would like to witness first-hand the personality and magnetism that made him who he was.  I’m actually pretty sure he’d be kind of a huge dick and really bossy, but it would still be very interesting to see.  I feel like he’d be kind of like Donald Trump but somehow even MORE arrogant cuz, well…he actually does (or did) rule the world.

Connect with Peter

www.facebook.com/petegustin

www.twitter.com/petegustin

Behind the Mic: Jude Corbett

Posted: 27th June 2019 by benztownvoiceover in Voice of the Week

2020 will mark Jude Corbett’s 25th anniversary of being behind the mic for Radio and TV. He’s been Creative Director for various stations from St. Louis (KPNT) to Chicago (WLS) to New York (WXRK) all while doing freelance work.

Jude Corbett

“I’d like to say first, thnk you for having me on “Behind the Mic” and, second, thank you Benztown for including me on “The 50.” It’s an honor to be on the list!”

What radio VO work have you done in the past?

Just naming a few…

  • Chicago – 890 WLS, 94-7 WLS, 97-9 The Loop, Q101
  • New York – 92.3 WXRK, 92-7 WLIR
  • Philadelphia – WDRE, WPLY Y100, 92.5 WXTU
  • Dallas – 96.3 KSCS, Hot 100
  • Houston – 104 KRBE, 96.5 The Mix KHMX
  • San Jose – 106.5 KEZR
  • Seattle – 107.7 The End KNDD
  • Cincinnati – WKRQ Q102 *20th anniversary this year
  • Boston – WKLB Country 102.5
  • Providence – 95.5 WBRU *was on the station for 19 years
  • St. Louis – Y98 KYKY, 101.1 The River WVRV, 104-1 The Mall WMLL
  • Montreal – CHOM 97-7
  • Toronto – Kiss 92-5 CKIS
  • Vancouver – 102-7 The Peak CKPK
  • Denver – 99-5 The Mountain KQMT, Alice 105.9 KALC
  • Indianapolis – 99.5 WZPL
  • Tampa Bay – 99-5 WQYK,
  • Portland – 105-1 The Buzz KRSK
  • Pittsburgh – 105.9 WXDX
  • Milwaukee – 96.5 WKLH

A few television VO work include: ABC, NBC, CBS, HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, ESPN, VH1, CMT, Weather Channel, TLC, Discovery, FS1, CNN and Nickelodeon.

What are you up to presently?

My first 1099 VO gig was back in 1995 while I was working as Creative Director at The Point in St. Louis.  In 2006 the side work became a full-time option and I decided to go fully independent. Then, a couple years ago, I added a client to my roster and to my surprise, the Creative Director was a fellow, successful VO artist.  It got me thinking about going back to work. Radio is what I went to school for and it is what I love to do. So, about a year and half later, after 13 years at home, last September I accepted the Creative Director role at 94.7 WLS-fm and 8-90 WLS-am… in addition to the free-lance clients I have with Atlas Talent Agency.

Here’s a demo from Jude:

 

What do you love about your job?

Entertaining people.

How did you get started as a VO actor?

I was asked to impersonate Ronald Reagan in High School for one of our school plays.  My first paid VO radio gig was for WDRE back in ’95.

If you weren’t doing voiceover, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career?

I was a volunteer for our local youth organization and I coached a lot of baseball.  I really enjoyed it! Now my two sons are in high school playing ball and I’m enjoying being a fan on the sidelines.  I think I would have liked being a high school teacher and a coach.

What did it feel like the first time you heard your voice on either on the radio or TV?

Radio – painful.  TV – nervous! Anybody who says they liked their voice the first time they heard it is probably lying is definitely lying.

 Jude's own FMQB CD back in1997

Jude’s own FMQB CD from 1997

How has new technology changed the way you work?

From reel-to-reel to DAT to CD to thin air.  MP3s are a hell of a lot cheaper than overnighting a DAT.  I’m definitely more efficient and effective for my clients today.  Can you imagine, “oh I had the date wrong on yesterday’s session, could you just read this one line?  And overnight it on a DAT for me? Thanks!”

Which production system do you use and why?

I produce on Pro-Tools because it’s what I learned on and I think it’s the best and most versatile.  I do my VO client recording on Adobe Audition because I can save files immediately in various formats. Plus, I can manage and send files easier on PC.

This is where the magic happens. Jude's setup doesn't look to shabby!

This is where the magic happens. Jude’s setup doesn’t look too shabby!

Have you ever had a voice coach? Would you recommend it?

I have seen coaches and done workshops.  I think it’s good to get honest feedback and learn possible new techniques.

What is the best voice processing trick or voice-over technique everyone should know?

Use your headphones as little as possible. With headphones you’re constantly judging how you sound and that can be prohibitive. If you’re in a live session with a client, just wear them over one ear.  The one ear approach is also a safety tip when you’re being fed audio by someone else. I have had my eardrums rung a few times by producers who’ve inadvertently had the volume cranked up.  One ear destruction is way better than two ear destruction when doing a session.

Do you have a different approach to reading radio imaging copy as opposed to TV/Radio commercial ads?

Shifting gears from promo to commercial is tough.  There is an absolute mental adjustment to be made. From format to format, topic to topic, there are different approaches for radio and tv messages but, they’re all on the same “announcer” spectrum, a spectrum that commercial casting directors do not like, typically speaking.  My “trick” in making a distinction between promo and commercial is the amount of air you start with in your lungs. I breathe in to begin promo and I breathe out to begin commercials.

If you could go back in time and hang out in any decade which one would you go back to and why?

While I’m fascinated with the Knights Templar, dying and defending by the sword doesn’t sound like very much fun. I think I would love to experience Philadelphia in the 1770s to watch the secret societies, the conflicts and the conspiracies.

Favorite 2 pizza toppings?

Spinach and mushroom.

If you could invite one person to dinner, living or dead, who would it be?

Continuing with the Knights Templar, I would seek the truth from the dude who orchestrated the treasure vault on Oak Island.  It’s mysterious and curious and, if this is true, it just might mean that I’ll have to tune in next week for more shiny things and petrified wood.


 

Connect with Jude on his website  www.judecorbettvoice.com

Behind the Mic: Cayman Kelly

Posted: 17th May 2019 by benztownvoiceover in Voice of the Week

Cayman Kelly in the StudioKelly was first introduced to Radio when he was 15 years old and has consistently been in it ever since.  He was complimented on his voice at a young age and a lot of people told him he should be doing something with it…but he didn’t yet understand how to utilize it.  However, through years of experience and training, he now has it down to a science.  Consequently, his voice has been heard on numerous television and radio stations across the country, in movies, video games, concert tours and commercials as well.  He loves being able to look at words and bring the to life with his voice!

What radio VO work have you done in the past?

When I entered the Voiceover world, I started in television promos first and because I was on the radio as an on-air personality, I never really considered being a radio imaging voice.  However, when my radio career led me to Satellite radio, there were so many different genres of music and talk channels, that we all utilized each others amazing talents. So, I became the voice of a variety of imaging, inclusive of the Dr. Laura Show, College Sports Nation, Urban View, Real Jazz, Watercolors, Soul Street, and some of the occasional pop up channels.  Later, after a merger with Sirius and XM, I met my good friend Bryan Apple, who introduced me to Kwazi and POWER 1051 in NY, which happened to be my first Radio Imaging gig in terrestrial radio. Since then I have done Milwaulkee, El Paso, Boston, Atlanta, Washington DC, Philly, Detroit, Orlando, Syracuse, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Birmingham, Ft. Wayne, the Breakfast Club syndication, etc.

What are you up to presently?

I am currently still on the air as a personality at SiriusXM Heart & Soul, Channel 48.  I have been doing my satellite radio show for the past 15 years.

Check out Cayman’s Demos:

What do you love about your job?

I love the fact that I can do what I love!  I fell in love with radio when I was about 15 years old and since that period of my life, I have been around radio in some capacity. Even though it has presented some challenges over the years, I have had a lot of growth in the process.  In my current on-air position, part of my job was programming the channel as well as being on-air. But, as my Voice-Over career started to grow and take shape, I was able to shed some of my responsibilities of programming and just be on the air, which is really my passion.  So, nowadays I am able to do my voice-overs and my radio show from my studio in my house, which is another thing that I love! Plus, my commute consists of walking down a couple flights of steps every morning…What’s not to love?

How did you get started as a VO actor?

My voice-over career actually started by “accident” while I was at BET.  I had been hired to Cayman Kelly Voiceoverprovide content for BET UPTOWN, which was a 3rd party channel for the newly launched technology, XM Satellite Radio.  So, in an attempt to be in the know of what was happening on the television side, we had meetings with the Creative Services Department.  As we became familiar with each other, they started asking me to voice some of the radio commercials that they needed. Then, I started doing ALL of the radio commercials for their programs.  Shortly thereafter, I became the voice of the TV Network itself. They also, had some new digital networks that I voiced as well. There’s a Proverb that says, “A Man’s gift will make room for him and bring him before great men!” That’s how it all began…Something I always wanted to do but never knew how to start and the doors were opened!

What was your first gig? Any memorable ones since then?

My first VO gig was BET, which lasted for about 7 or 8 years for me.  Since then, I have done some really FUN and MEMORABLE gigs! One of them that stands out to me was the first CARTOON NETWORK promo that I ever did for ADULT SWIM.  I remember looking at the script and seeing a line that said, “When he’s not kicking ass…He’s Getting It!” I felt like a kid that was getting away with bad behavior…it was just so much fun to get loose like that on a read.  My other standout had to be my FAVORITE and that was having the opportunity to voice some reads on GRAND THEFT AUTO V! That was another session that I got to get loose on. The crazy thing is, when I did that session, I couldn’t tell anyone!  Trust and believe, I didn’t say a word…I wasn’t about to be the ONE who caused a leak for a Billion Dollar game. Oh, and there’s one more…I played myself as a Radio DJ in the movie, “Barbershop: The Next Cut!” I remember going into that studio and there was a huge screen in the booth where I could see the parts of the movie that I was going to provide voice for, and when the LION roared at the very beginning of the movie my voice was the first thing people heard!  Oh what a feeling! I had the opportunity to walk the red carpet at the premiere and party with Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Common, Nicki Minaj, Anthony Anderson, and so many more celebrities at the After Party. Made me feel like I was a STAR!

Who are your VO idols/mentors?

There are a lot of people that I look up to in the VO world such as Joe Cipriano, Don Lafontaine (RIP).  But as far as radio imaging is concerned I would definitely have to say Dr. Dave. He was doing imaging before I even knew what it was.  I remember watching him record his voice for different stations across the country on reel-to-reel and then package them up in boxes and fedex envelopes (way before Mp3’s and internet).  I was a young teenager with a deep voice and he used to always tell me, “You need to be doing something with your pipes!” I didn’t really know what that meant until years down the line. So, when I landed POWER 1051 in NY and started to pick up more and more radio stations to image, I remember calling him and telling him, “This  life is awesome!”

If you weren’t doing voiceover, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career?

That’s a great question!  I often think about that too.  But to be brutally honest, I really have no idea.  However, I do still enjoy being a personality on the radio and I woud love to transition into TV at some point.  So, I guess I do have an answer. Lol

What did it feel like the first time you heard your voice on the radio/television?

The first time I heard myself was on television and it was soooooo exciting!  I don’t think there are any words to describe the feeling of hearing yourself do something that you’ve always desired!  I also voice a lot of concert spots. So, seeing or hearing one of those spots unexpectedly still gives the same feeling of excitement.  I guess it never gets old!

How has new technology changed the way you work?

Technology is so amazing!  It allows you to be portable and still maintain the quality of a “Studio”sound.  All while not even having to carry big bulky hardware. Also, you can work and audition from anywhere in the world and with the internet, turn around times are QUICK!  Like I mentioned earlier, I can remember when there was no internet and seeing Dr. Dave record his station imaging on reel to reel and Fedex out to the stations. We have certainly come a long way.

What gear do you use on the road? In your studio?

I have an Apogee mic that I plug right into the bottom of my iphone and record on an app called Twisted Wave when I need to do quick pickup type stuff.  But, when I’m traveling and I can set up in my hotel, I carry a Macbook, shotgun Mic (Rode NTG3), and my Universal Audio Apollo. If I need to do something in my car I just purchased the Universal Audio Arrow (which is bus powered).  As far as the main studio in my home is concerned I use a Mac, Adobe Audition DAW, I have a few different mics that I use (the Nuemann TLM 103, Shure SM7, and my favorite Rode NTG3). I use a Universal Audio Twinfinity and a Mackie board as well as the UA Apollo (which I bought in 2014 and just recently took it out the box, thanks to a post on FB that I saw Rick Party do).

Which production system do you use and why? Any favorite plugins?

I use Adobe Audition probably because I’m used to it.  I learned on that program when it was called Cool Edit.  Since, I’ve added the UA Apollo to my arsenal, I stay trying different plugins.  But, Rick Party turned me on to the Manley VOX BOX, Little Labs, and Valley People, which I absolutely LOVE.

Have you ever had a voice coach? Would you recommend it?

I’ve actually used several voice coaches and I highly recommend it.  I’ve gained nuggets from each one of them that I have applied to my voice-over gigs!  If you think about everyone is a unique individual and we all have different ways of doing things.  Consequently, working with others allows you to learn from some of their techniques that YOU may not have ever thought of.  I think it’s really beneficial to keep an open mind to learn. It just makes you that much better as a Voice Artist.

How do you schedule and prioritize your work? How much time do you spend auditioning for new work?

Unless I have a scheduled session, I usually just voice my scripts in the order that I receive them during the day. I really pride myself on a quick turnaround.  So, as soon as it’s in, I voice it and send it back to the client. I also spend quite a bit of time auditioning. Afterall, being an entreprenuer, I really can’t afford to get comfortable.  Things change really quickly in this business and if I want to keep up with the lifestyle that I desire, its certainly important to be heard and try to increase my clientele.

How do you market your services to potential clients?

I don’t have a particular formula that I use to market.  I’ve been blessed to have landed a lot of gigs through recommendations and auditions.  Sometimes, when I land something really cool, I will mention and post it on social media and/or send a blurb to the blogs to post.

When it comes to VO work, studio & gear, what are your most ingenious methods or discoveries for saving time and cash?

VO work can be one of the most amazing things that I have ever done.  Sometimes, its kind of surreal that you can make a living using your voice!  As far as Studio and gear, you no longer need a lot of expensive hardware to give you that studio sound.  For example you can get the same exact sound using the UA Apollo and it’s plugs, which would cost you in the $1k range opposed to $12k for the hardware.  That’s saving some serious cash and it’s portable! Plus, that’s not a lot of wiring that you need to be bothered with. Doing VO as a career saves you commute time as well as fuel costs because most of the time, you’re in the comfort of your own home working.

What is the best voice processing trick or voice-over technique everyone should know?

I’m really not an audiophile kind of guy, so I have relied on people that actually do sound design and engineering to show me some things as far as processing is concerned.  I’ve learned a lot by trial and error, turning knobs and flipping switches until I get the sound that I desire. I will say that Mic Technique is very important. If I’m doing a comedy read, I need to back of the mic and if I’m doing a dark supsense read, I need to ride the mic close.

Do you have a different approach to reading radio imaging copy as opposed to TV/Radio commercial ads?

Usually, looking at any script, whether it be radio imaging, TV Promo, or commercial, every script needs its own technique regardless of what it is.  As you grow in VO artistry and understand the gift of interpretation, it’s almost like the copy speaks to you and tells you how it should be delivered!  It’s amazing when you find your voice and can use it for the instrument that it is to bring word to life! I know it sounds weird, but those who actually do it will understand exactly what I mean!

Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry?

There are so many people that ask me how do they break into voice-overs.  I think a lot of people look at it as being an easy way to make some quick money.  So, the first thing that I would suggest is to erase that thought and do the research to understand the competitive nature of the field and learn as much as you can about technique as well as the business side of it.  The next thing I would suggest is to get some training from a coach or some classes because it’s not enough just to have a nice sounding voice, you have to know how to use it. Lastly, I would advise that you find the lane of voice-over that suits you because it is a very broad field, there’s commercial, promo, trailers, narrations, audio books, etc.  Not to say that you wouldn’t be able to do it all eventually, I just think that it’s easier to learn when you focus.

If you could go back in time and hang out in any decade which one would you go back to and why?

Wow! That’s a good question…I think I would choose to go back to the late 80’s or 90s.  I really loved the New Jack Swing genre of music that was created in that time period as well as the fashion (that’s now coming around full circle).  Plus, if I knew then what I know now, I certainly would’ve started doing voice overs back then and I would have been a lot more aggressive and assertive!

Cayman Kelly Voiceover

Favorite 2 pizza toppings?

Hmmmm! I would probably say spinach and onions.

If you could invite one person to dinner, living or dead, who would it be?

Another good question! I’ve met a lot of people throughout my career that I have become friends with but I think I would have to say Stevie Wonder.  He’s someone that I’ve always admired as an artist. His amazing gift to paint a picture with his song writing skills and he’s just a genius in music and his philanthropy efforts are nothing short of GREAT!  There was an occasion when I was chosen to be the voice of the TV spots for his “Songs in the Key of Life” Tour and I felt like I met him then! LOL But, man I would have a conversation about him being a radio owner, song writing, and a whole host of topics…then I’d probably ask him what’s the possibility of me voicing KJLH??? LOL

 

Connect with Cayman

Facebook: Caymankelly
 Instagram: caymankelly
LinkedIn: Caymankelly

Behind the Mic: David Kaye

Posted: 6th May 2019 by benztownvoiceover in Interviews

When working with any client – whether it be trailer houses, network television, animation, video games or promotional branding for radio and television – my number one job is to make their job easy.  The last thing I want is a client worrying about me. I’m good at what I do and they hired me for a reason. I never want them regretting that decision.  – David Kaye

What stations are you on currently?

  • KSRZ-FM Omaha-Council Bluffs
  • WIAD-FM Washington, DC
  • KJHM-FM Denver-Boulder
  • KBEZ-FM Tulsa
  • WOWO-AM/FM Fort Wayne
  • WDAE-AM/FM Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater
  • WCJK-FM Nashville
  • WBZE-FM Tallahassee
  • WOMC-FM Detroit
  • CFXL-FM Calgary
  • KHCM-FM Honolulu, HI
  • CJAD-AM Montreal
  • KTTH-AM Seattle-Tacoma
  • WBZO-FM Long Island
  • CIRK-FM Edmonton

Check out David’s Radio Imaging Real:

What was your on-air first gig?

Like many in this business, I began as an on-air jock in my hometown of Peterborough, Ontario, Canada at the age of 17.  I was hired for overnights on weekends. Some of my fondest memories. I was horrible but Program Director Rick Johnson trusted me enough to throw me on the air. Between school announcements and weekends on the radio, I began to see a way forward as to what I wanted to do with my life.

Who are your VO idols and mentors?

I became a fan of Rick Dees and admired what he was doing on the air and as a businessman.  I wrote to anyone who would listen, including the late John Major from Chum FM Toronto/Much Music fame. To my surprise, we wrote back an incredible letter of encouragement. Much later on the late Don Lafontaine, the great movie trailer narrator, offered me a glowing review and again words of encouragement. These are  incredibly important people in my life and I owe them a great deal of gratitude. My dear friend Tara Strong, who is one of the top animation voices in the world, suggested my time would be better spent in Los Angeles and told me to “get my ass to LA!” Without these wonderful folks, including my amazing wife and family, I’m not sure my career would be anywhere remotely where it is today.

Many years back I realized if I could get a small percentage of work from the many radio and television outlets throughout North America, I could supplement my radio income and really start to grow something.  The great Jim Conrad was a hero of mine at the time in Vancouver. I remember hearing his voice as the voice of Rock 101 years ago and saying, “wow…I want to do THAT!” He inspired me to start my imaging business which at the time I had no idea that’s what it was even called.

What did it feel like the first time you heard your voice on either on radio or  television?

My first big break for television affiliate work happened in Vancouver for U-TV, which I believe was a ‘Global Television’ outlet. Now it’s owned by Rogers in Canada I think.  I had a dozen letter ‘K’s made of chocolate sent over as an introduction. To this day, former employees still remember that. They hired me after a trial and the rest is proverbial history.

I went on to acquire a couple hundred stations throughout the 90’s and into the following decade.  One of the big ones pre 9-11 was ABC 7 in New York. I was the fill in for about 4 months and I remember the first time I heard my voice on the news opening in New York I almost cried.  This led to many more radio and television clients from WMGK Philadelphia, CFOX Vancouver, Detroit (now on WOMC FM) to Washington DC, Raleigh, North Carolina, and even around the world from Africa, The UK. Trinidad & Tobago and Thailand.

Radio and television imaging led to many other avenues and I quickly realized I needed to be not just ‘good’ at it, but good at many other genres of the business as well.  I wasn’t interested in being a ‘one trick pony’. In the late 80’s, early 90’s animation came calling and my first talent agent started sending me out to auditions because I told him, “yes, I can do voices.”  I had no idea what he was talking about or what I was doing until GI Joe came calling in ’89. I landed the role of General Hawk for DIC Animation’s ‘Joe’ series which was recording, of all places, in Vancouver, Canada!  Here’s this Canadian kid voicing ‘The Great American Hero.” Trust me, I felt guilty. So much so, that I got my US citizenship 4 years ago just to rectify that situation.

From the moment I was cast and began recording ‘cartoons’, that was it.  I quit radio and ventured out on my own. I wanted to get good at ALL of it!  On-Camera beckoned with my small share of roles in a burgeoning film town like Vancouver as well as many other cartoon roles until THE BIG ONE !  Transformers was going to do a new computer animated series in Vancouver and I secured an audition in 1993 for the role of Megatron. From the moment the first season aired, things changed. Imaging business was booming, a fair number of commercial campaigns had themselves under my belt, cartoons were speeding full ahead, on camera was still calling but I wanted more. My eye was on trailers.  I wanted to reach that pinnacle at some point. It’s the most difficult to break into and that’s why I wanted it.

How do you continue to stay motivated throughout your long career in voiceover?

There was a time not long ago I was thinking of getting out of the radio imaging game and focus on everything else.  I remember the exact moment and the conversation while driving the 134 freeway near Glendale (The home of Benztown) with my assistant at the time,  Steve Sisk. He said, “Listen, you remember Nate Zeitz from William Morris New York? He’s over at CESD now as a junior. Why don’t you reach out before you make any decisions.”  I always liked Nate and called him. To this day, he continues to not only grow that side of the business, but most importantly he is a very close friend. Thank you Steve and thank you Nate!

David Kaye and his agent and BZ amigo, Nate Zeitz

David Kaye and his agent and BZ amigo, Nate Zeitz

These days I still have a blast providing VO for radio around the planet. Everyday is different and I look forward to Mondays.  That’s always been my goal. I’ve been scratching trailers for 10 years almost and finishing on more and more lately. Hey, if you’re going to climb Mt Everest, you need to establish a base camp. Current campaigns are Secret Life Of Pets 2 (also did the 1st one), The Aretha Franklin doc, ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘Sonic The Hedgehog.’  Animation has been steady with my roles in the Avengers animated series for Disney playing JARVIS, Vision and Baron Zemo.  My favorite moment was during Black Panthers Quest when I got to work with both Mark Hammil and Stan Lee. What a day that was. Also for DC’s Justice League I played Vandal Savage. I’m Grandpa Max in Ben 10, King Peppy for Dreamworks Trolls: The Beat Goes On and coming this fall will be appearing in the Ellen Degeneres executive produced Dr. Seuss series. I cried again when I saw my voice coming out of a Seuss character.  I guess the tears don’t necessarily stop and I hope I never grow up. Over the years many video game projects have come and gone but the one near and dear is the on going Ratchet & Clank series from Insomniac. I’ve had the privilege of providing the voice for the loveable Clank for over 15 years no …. long enough for them to make a feature film for us. I’ve been the voice for the past five seasons of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.  To think I’d be anywhere NEAR an Emmy award seemed absurd, but I’ve done it now 3 times. What an amazing team they are. If an old ‘me’ would have also told a young ‘me’ you’re going to work for Saturday Night Live and do a bit with Edris Elba, I would have called myself certifiably insane. Thank goodness I didn’t ! It happened. ‘Surreal’ isn’t quite the word.

What gear do you use on the road? In your studio?

Things continue to be busy and I thank the stars I still love the hustle. I have to always travel with the ‘Road Kit’ though. George Whittam, my engineer has me firing on all cylinders.  A leather shoulder bag which consists of an Apollo twin, a Sennheiser mic, and cables assure I’m never ‘not available.’ My Tesla is also a perfect mobile studio. Many emergency sessions have been recorded from that cabin. Thank you, Elon!

In the home studio I use a Peluso vacuum tube LAB P-12.  It was the only one I was able to replace my beloved U67 with. This mic and the Apollo twin allow me to bang the hell out of it and get very intimate without blowing up the recording track. Because I’m switching gears all the time, day in and day out, I needed a mic that could take it. One minute screamy animation, the next an intimate story teller for NFL Football. Love the mic.

How do you schedule or prioritize your work? How much time do you spend auditioning for new work?

As far as scheduling, people ask how I’m able to accommodate so many varied clients on a daily basis. Radio imaging and TV affiliate comes in throughout the day and I don’t let it ‘cook.’ I hate seeing anything in my inbox so my goal is to get it out asap. If I’m in animation for 4 hours I can usually work around it but there have been times when on break I’d quickly use my road kit and set up in a vacant room or even my car if it’s close and get something done that needed attention. I’ve been in commercial sessions where I was able to set up (with agents and clients permission) in the booth itself and when I have some time or break I’ll get some stuff banged out. It is possible to be in two places at once but you need to know your client and the situation. I would never do anything if it wasn’t all agreed to in the first place. If you don’t, you could end up looking like an asshole. Whether it’s a large client or small, everyone gets the same attention. I do my best to accommodate when I can but some days can be a circus.

Can you offer tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry?

I’m also asked for advice often about getting into the business.  I got into it just when the internet was taking off. When you could place an ad in Radio and Records. I had no plan other than it’s what I had my heart set on doing. I wanted to get as good as I possibly could and then take it to another level.  I won’t settle of ‘ok’ or ‘good’. I want to be excellent and if I’m not, work to become excellent. If you want to do this you shouldn’t settle either just be forewarned there’s many more folks wanting to get into voice over more than ever.  There’s a lot of ‘noise’ out there. The best thing you can do is be comfortable with who you are behind the mic. Don’t BE anyone else but you. It’s easier said than done but that’s why it’s a lifelong profession. Travel, eat something different, read, be curious.  All of those give you perspective and a reference point, so when your asked to read a piece of copy, you already have an idea of how your going to read it. Everything you read should come from truth. From a REAL person. Study acting, take improve, write. What’s going to distinguish you from the thousands of others sending in demos to agents or hanging their shingle out to open a business ? You.  That’s it. Just you. So work on that.

Connect with David on the web!

Twitter  @dkayevo
soundcloud: @davidkaye

 

Behind the Mic: Jen Sweeney

Posted: 17th April 2019 by benztownvoiceover in Interviews, Voice of the Week

Tap tap tap…is this thing ON?  Hi! I’m Jen Sweeney. Like WEENIE with an S!  I’ve been doing Jenn Sweeney VoiceOver this VO thing for quite some time now and frankly… It found ME! For Real.  I was in a play my Freshman year of college and was literally hired off the stage to become an “ANNOUNCER” (such a naughty word these days) at KEZA in Fayetteville, AR…where…I I made TONS OF MISTAKES!

What radio VO work have you done in the past?

As far as radio imaging goes, I’ve been on some GREAT stations over the course of my career.  KLLC, San Fran … KFOG, San Fran when Alice let me go because the PD became the voice. That’s for another article.☺ KINK, Portland, KISS-FM, Dallas, KBCO, Denver, WMMR, Philly, WYCD, Detroit, KPEK, Albuquerque, WCLZ Portland Maine, The River, Boston, WWUZ, Fredicksburg, Sunny FM, Ft. Wayne, WRVW, Nashville … Just to name a few.  Most of these stations I’m still voicing!

Check out some of her demos:

CHR Imaging Demo

Hot AC Imaging Demo

Country Radio Imaging Demo

AC Imaging Demo

 

What are you up to presently?

I’ve been at this full time over 20 years. Before that I worked as a DJ in the Chicagoland area, Boston area and Denver. I work or have worked in all aspects of VO including imaging, TV and radio commercials, promo, video games, TV affiliate, IVR, narration, e-learning … all of it!

What do you love about your job?

There are so many things to love about this career … work from home … dress like a hobo … fart and just delete it!  But seriously, I am a mountain of gratitude for being able to make a living this way. I’ve spent so much time standing in front of a mic that it feels like home. The job becomes me and I become it. Pretty sure it’s my dharma. And here … I am. Ha! There’s your Zen with Jen.

What was your first gig? Any memorable ones since then?

My first job was for the EZ listening station I mentioned earlier, KEZA. My very first paid VO gig was for The Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs, AR. They brought in a mobile recording studio from Los Angeles and I was cast as all the DARK bible characters…Salome…Claudia…Leper Woman 1 … voices in Hell!  They paid me $30.00 and hour for 3 weekends of work AND put me up in a hotel! My Dad told me I was the first Sweeney kid to ever send money HOME!

One job I’m very proud of was being cast as a female Orc in World of Warcraft. Blizzard Entertainment was looking for a very specific voice and when they didn’t find it in LA they searched the country and somehow I booked it.  It totally trashed my voice. Especially the fight scenes. LOL … but it was a huge honor.

Who are your VO idols/mentors?

Years ago, a  voice guy I worked with doing Promos in Denver became my good friend.  His name is Bill Hessin. He had his own studio in his basement. I knew I wanted that and actually was one of  the first of a handful of VO women in the country with her own studio. Today I have a coven of VO babes that amaze, inspire and make me spit take on a regular basis. Annie DeWig, Roberta Solomon and Virginia Hamilton. Email water cooler talk with outtakes!

If you weren’t doing voiceover, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career?

I’d be an actor or a sushi chef if I wasn’t doing VO!

What did it feel like the first time you heard your voice on the radio/television?

First time I heard my voice on something? I honestly don’t remember my reaction but I DO recall hearing something on TV once and I was all like WHO IS THAT!  I liked how she sounded and was jealous for a second until I realized it was me. Is that totally conceded? I don’t care if it is. It’s true.

How has new technology changed the way you work?

OMG… keeping up with technological changes is a job in itself!  Things move pretty quickly so ya gotta keep up with it whether you like it or not.  And it’s next to impossible to unplug. I work every time travel. It’s just the way it is now.

What gear do you use on the road? In your studio?

At home I have a Whisper Room with a U87, Grace Pre,  Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, a Mackie board and a Mac. I use 2 Macs in my studio, one for editing and one for Source Connect, ipDTL and Skype.  The technical part of my job is not my forte, my performance is… But I hire people to help me with that techo stuff.

Jen Jen Sweeney's Production Studio

On the road I use the Scarlett, A Sennheiser 416 and a Mac Air.  I also carry an ipad, an Apogee mic and Twisted in my bag. You’d be surprised how often I have to whip that thing out! LOL  On a moving train I think was the funniest and most MOVING time…if you will.

Which production system do you use and why? Any favorite plugins?

I currently use Pro Tools.  Way more than I need but I know how to get myself around in it.  All my engineer friends used it so I knew I’d have tech support.

Have you ever had a voice coach? Would you recommend it?

I’ve worked with some AMAZING coaches!  All of them have their own unique approach to doing VO.  Nancy Wolfson, David Lyerly and Marice Tobias. I gravitated toward Marice because she was more like an acting coach when we started working together and that resonated with me.  I still work with her today and when I do…she’s SO intuitive about what she does it’s like getting spiritual CPR for not only the VO biz but also the being HUMAN biz!

How do you schedule/prioritize your work? How much time do you spend auditioning for new work?

I have a dry erase boards and sticky notes in my studio and in my house.  I make notes all the time. I have my phone remind me too! LOL! The more places it’s written down the better!  I totally SUCK at math but somehow I’m really good at time management! Perhaps it’s because I often work in :30 to :60 increments!  ☺

How do you market your services to potential clients?

Most of my work is…wait for it…word of mouth.  I work hard at keeping clients happy and try to make their job easier.  I’m in the service business, after all.

What is the best voice processing trick or voice-over technique everyone should know?

One of the VERY BEST techniques I learned was from a casting director in Chicago when I was pursuing an acting career there.  Judith Jacobs was her name. She had me record myself on the phone…over and over…and listen to my natural way of speaking. THAT was invaluable.  I have an acting background so I think learning the art and craft of acting is also important, at least for me it has been. You can never have enough tools in your bag o’ tricks!

Do you have a different approach to reading radio imaging copy as opposed to TV/Radio commercial ads?

More or less, yes.  Radio imaging is it’s own breed of read…however…I really try to keep it real…even when I’m doing a more heightened or energetic read.  Commercial is often more understated…quieter but it really depends on the type of read the copy calls for.

Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry?

My 3 tips for newbies?  You wanna seriously do VO?  Sell your soul to it. It’s not just talking into a mic and something you can do in your spare time.

Study. Get a coach. Take acting classes. Get some experience behind a mic however you can. Be real and make friends along the way.  Plan for rainy days when you ARE successful and just be nice.  Okay that was more than three. Sorry.

If you could go back in time and hang out in any decade which one would you go back to and why?

Pretty sure I was a Victorian Burlesque performer in a past life.

Favorite 2 pizza toppings?

Pizza makes me fat.

If you could invite one person to dinner, living or dead, who would it be?

Cher!  I’m really a drag queen trapped in a woman’s body… are you detecting a THEME here?
Grateful for you Benztowners for having me on  your roster with such an amazing group of talent.

Connect with Jen

Behind the Mic: Joe Alan

Posted: 4th April 2019 by benztownvoiceover in Voice of the Week

Joe Alan HeadshotHi, I’m Joe Alan! Voice guy, imager, exotic dancer. Excited to be part of the Benztown family.

What radio VO work have you done in the past (stations/markets)?

KZII/Lubbock, TX – WTNJ/Beckley, WV – WBRX/Cresson, PA – KSTT/Atascadero, CA –  WBYZ/Baxley, GA CKOS/Fort McMurray, CA WSUX/Seaford, DE The Beat Online KNID/Enid, OK

What are you up to presently (freelance/on-staff at a station)?

I’m a morning co-host at 93-7 WSTW in Wilmington, DE (just south of Philly).  I also handle imaging responsibilities for the station. I’ve been with the company since 2000. When I’m not on the air, I’m in my home studio auditioning for anything and everything.

Take a listen to Joe’s Demo:

 

What do you love about your job?

What’s not to love? I enjoy EVERYTHING about VO and radio! Nothing excites me more than when a station chooses ME to help with their branding. Hearing the finished/produced product on the air is always an event. I’ve been fortunate to work with some pretty amazing imagers/PD’s. I’m thankful for those who make me sound good.

How did you get started as a VO actor?

It sort of happened by accident. I started lending my voice to promos that I was producing for the station. After a few compliments, I put together a demo and started emailing stations my work.  I actually signed a station! And then another….and another.

Who are your VO idols/mentors? 

There are so many people who’ve helped me. I appreciate it when people at the TOP of this business are kind enough to respond to emails or answer phone calls. Chad Erickson is heard literally EVERYWHERE, but always takes the time to help me out. Sean Caldwell helped me setup my processing. I’ve gotten help from Dave Foxx, John Pleisse and too many to name. So many kind people in this industry.

If you weren’t doing voiceover, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career?

Driving a school bus probably. Haha. SOMETHING media or audio related.  I’m an audio nerd to the max. Running live sound would be fun.  If I couldn’t do any of that, I’d work on motorcycles.

How has new technology changed the way you work?

Technology has definitely made things easier and A LOT faster. Being able to receive copy, edit audio and email out a finished product within minutes is amazing.

Joe's Studio Setup

What gear do you use on the road? In your studio?

I’m sort of a gear nerd. At home I use the sennheiser 416 with a WARM WA12 Tube pre into an Airtools Digital 2x processor.  I had an Avalon 737 for ten minutes, I just can’t seem to fall in love. A really nerdy side note: The first station I ever worked for upgraded their studios and I got to purchase the (Wheatstone Audioarts A50) airboard I used on the air.  I had it completely rebuilt (to new specs) and installed at home. I enjoy the red lights.

On the road I use the Senny 416 or Rode shotgun with a Yamaha MG10xu USB mixer, into my notebook.  It’s always in the trunk of my car.

 

 

 

 

(Click image to englarge)

Which production system do you use and why? Any favorite plugins?

I use an old (1.5) version of Adobe Audition.  It’s totally antiquated but I know it inside and out and I just love it. When producing I’ll use the Waves Diamond Bundle. It can’t be beat!

How do you schedule/prioritize your work? How much time do you spend auditioning for new work?

I check my email for new copy first and foremost.  I try to cut stuff as it comes in. Once I’ve finished recording copy I’ll start auditioning.  Most of what I do now is auditioning. I’m always trying to land the next gig. Always!

How do you market your services to potential clients?

I’m fortunate to be signed with Benztown.  They’ve been incredible! Cold calls and emails have proven to work well for me.  I reach out to every PD I can! I try not use mass mail marketing sites… I have more luck with a personalized message.

What is the best voice processing trick or voice-over technique everyone should know?

I’m not sure that I have any real “tricks.”  I use a little bit of gate and some compression and bump up the highs a bit (for an airy sound).  I’ve learned that less is more when it comes to processing.

Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry?

I still consider myself a newbie in the business.  BUT I’ve gotten a lot of great advice that I’ve found to be extremely helpful.

  1. Network!  Talk to everyone!  Make connections and friends.  You never know who or what could potentially lead to a gig.
  2. Audition!  I spend a ton of time reading copy for free in hopes that I’ll land the gig.  If nothing else, it’s great practice.
  3. Have fun!  It’s super cliche’ …. but if you don’t absolutely love it, you’re not going to want to put in the time to really make it work.

If you could go back in time and hang out in any decade which one would you go back to and why?

I’d wanna hang out in the early 60’s.  I think drinking scotch and smoking at the office would be cool….or maybe I just watch too much “Mad Men.”

via GIPHY

There are few things you can put on a pizza that I won’t eat… That being said, my go to is ground beef, onions and green peppers.   I wish I could still participate in the Pizza Hut “Book It” program. I’d read a book a day for the personal pans.

If you could invite one person to dinner, living or dead, who would it be?

That guy in the movie “Night of the living Dead” …. the one who says “They’re coming to get you, Barbara.”  He’s cool. We’d go to Outback and have the bloomin’ onion.

Connect with Joe

Keepin’ It Fresh 2.0 with Marice Tobias

Posted: 1st April 2019 by benztownvoiceover in Uncategorized

Keepin’ It Fresh 2.0 with Marice Tobias was a hoot! ICYMI, the legendary Marice Tobias came by our Benztown HQ in Glendale to graciously lead a voiceover master class as a kick off to WWRS (World Wide Radio Summit). We had a full house with 15 attendees and another 10 who streamed the class online if they couldn’t sneak out of their caves.

Marice Tobias Keepin It Fresh

Last year we offered this with Marice during the week of WWRS so we thought it would be great to offer it up again after so many people showed interest in Keepin’ it Fresh! Let’s face it, burn out is a real thing in any industry especially in the voiceover biz and we recognized a need to help keep our extremely talented VO freshest as can be. Plus, there aren’t a lot of opportunities for VO to spend time together.

During the masterclass, the attendee extraordinaires worked on improving their delivery with coaching and feedback from Marice who had them deliver liners in our studio, listen to them and then have them re-record once they’ve received feedback. There is always room for improvement and really just freshin’ things up.

Huge thanks to Marice for hosting the workshop and to everyone who attended. We can’t wait to do it again next year!

 

Marice Tobias Keepin it Fresh 2.0 Benztown

Behind the Mic: Amanda Madi

Posted: 25th March 2019 by benztownvoiceover in Voice of the Week

Amanda Madi- HeadshotHey, I’m Amanda Madi! I’ve been doing voice overs full time for almost 7 years from my home studio in Toronto, Canada. I can be heard on radio stations and commercials worldwide!

What radio VO work have you done in the past (stations/markets)?

Here’s some station I’m rocking now:
WUBL, Atlanta, GA
KREV San Francisco, CA
KIMN, Denver CO
Radio One, Beirut, Lebanon
KFRH, Las Vegas
MIX FM, Nicosia Cyprus

Plus other amazing stations!

What are you up to presently (freelance/on-staff at a station)?

Along with radio imaging, I do a lot of commercial work all over the world! Some cool stuff I do is with record labels to promote their artists on Spotify.

What do you love about your job?

I love that I get to talk for a living, because I loooove talking haha! Being the voice of a radio station is a very important job and I love that I get to do that. I also love the people I get to work with daily- they are crazy creative, the VO’s/ producers I have met and connected with, such incredible talent! And of course the flexibility!!!

How did you get started as a VO actor?

I was a receptionist at Z103.5 in Toronto, the production team and management heard my voice and started me doing VO work.

What was your first gig? Any memorable ones since then?

My first imaging gig was an active rock station- Live 105 in Halifax Canada.

Who are your VO idols/mentors?

K3, Chad Erickson, Heather Walters, Taylor Kaye, Gary McClenaghan, Dave Foxx, Steve Taylor and the list goes on and on… There are so many amazing people in this business!

If you weren’t doing voiceover, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career?

Entertainment reporter or a fashion stylist

What did it feel like the first time you heard your voice on the radio/television?

Like a giddy middleschool girl whose crush just talked to her- It felt great!

How has new technology changed the way you work?

I can work from anywhere I travel to. I have actually cut stuff from my car while stuck in traffic.

Amanda Madi- Studio PicWhat gear do you use on the road? In your studio?

I use the same gear on the road as I do in my home studio: MacBook Pro, Sennheiser 416 Shotgun mic and Steinburg UR22 MKII interface.

Which production system do you use and why? Any favorite plugins?

I use Adobe Audition, that’s what I learned on in college and I don’t use any plugins.

Have you ever had a voice coach? Would you recommend it?

No, I have not but it’s something I want to do. I’m hoping to do that in the next few months.

How do you schedule/prioritize your work? How much time do you spend auditioning for new work?

When something comes in as RUSH that gets done first but mostly first come first serve. Every day I take time to audition for new work.

How do you market your services to potential clients?

Along with my agent Nate Zeitz at CESD Talent, I network on social media and I’m constantly hustling … Sending my demo out daily to stations all over the world.

Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry?

  • Don’t try to sound like someone else, just be you!
  • Hustle
  • Listen to the constructive criticism

If you could go back in time and hang out in any decade which one would you go back to and why?

I’d like to be an adult in the 1980’s- For the fashion and music

Favorite 2 pizza toppings?

Green Olives and Red peppers

If you could invite one person to dinner, living or dead, who would it be?

Marilyn Monroe

 

Connect with Amanda!

Website: amandamadi.com
Facebook: FB.com/AmandaMadi1
Instagram: @amanda.madi