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

It is officially out … the 2018 Benztown 50 list of the 50 most heard voices in radio! The Benztown 50 is a compilation of Radio’s Biggest Imaging Voices and it wouldn’t have been possible without enlisting P1 Media Group who compiled and analyzed the hundreds of submissions we received in December (Thanks P1!)

This year we also had a new category, the Iconic Voice Award, which was honored to the prolific voiceover talent, Chris Corley. We are saddened to say that Chris passed away on the day that the Benztown 50 list was announced. He inspired voiceover talents in the radio biz and was loved by many especially by those on the Benztown 50 list.

BZ50_Shareable_2018_1200x625_Chris_Corley_v2

The Benztown 50 is an opportunity to highlight the voices behind the mic that help create experiences between the listener and radio programming. Congratulations to everyone who made it on the list this year!

2018 Benztown 50 (in alphabetical order):

  • Ann DeWig
  • Austin Keyes
  • Beth Cameron
  • Blaze Berdahl
  • Brian Christopher
  • Brian Lee
  • Chad Erickson
  • Cousin Deke
  • Damon Oaks
  • Dave Foxx
  • Dave Kampel
  • David Kaye
  • Donna Frank
  • Dr. Dave Ferguson
  • George W. Robinson
  • Harry Legg
  • Heather Walters
  • Jake Kaplan
  • Jeff Berlin
  • Jeff Laurence
  • Jen Sweeney
  • Jim Cutler
  • Jim Merkel
  • Joanna Stadwiser
  • Joe Cipriano
  • John Pleisse
  • John Reilly
  • John Willyard
  • Josh Goodman
  • Jude Corbett
  • Jules Riley
  • Kelly Doherty
  • Lisa Keys
  • Lynn Hoffman
  • Malcolm Ryker
  • Melody Sharp
  • Neil Wilson
  • Pat Garrett
  • Pete Gustin
  • Rachel McGrath
  • Rena-Marie Villano
  • Rich Van Slyke
  • Roberta Solomon
  • Scott Fisher
  • Scott Matthews
  • Sean Caldwell
  • Steve Kamer
  • Steve Stone
  • Steve Taylor
  • Wendy K Gray

Behind the Mic: Kelly Doherty

Posted: 11th March 2019 by benztownvoiceover in Uncategorized

Kelly Kelly Kelly aka Kelly Doherty is not your average VO talent. You’ll hear her voice on the airwaves, catch her producing radio imaging, see her running the ultimate  resource called “The Imaging House” and you’ll probably be at her radio imaging and voiceover conference next year.

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

K3 photo Oh gosh. I’ve been so fortunate to voice many legendary stations. KIIS/Los Angeles, KROQ/Los Angeles, WHTZ/New York, Capital/London, Virgin/Dubai, KSCS/Dallas, WKSC/Chicago, WBBM/ Chicago, WIOQ/Philly, WTDY/Philly, OnAir w/Ryan Seacrest, x929/Calgary, 5FM/South Africa, etc. Many of those for 10+ years.

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

I’m still voicing many of those stations and lots of others while looking for my next big gig! And I started TheImagingHouse.com which is like Facebook for VO/Imaging Talents and a one-stop-shop for programmers looking for imaging resources. We just launched “Imaging House Radio” which features all things imaging 24/7. It’s really cool! Station launches, jingle packages, promos, sweeps, outtakes, demos from legendary stations, the famous ‘Nine’ tape, the best of Eric Chase, John Frost and other genius producers in our industry. It’s great having it on in the background! Very inspiring! And funny!

What do you love about your job?

It’s an honor having a programmer and producer entrust you with their radio station. I mean- the VO is on 24 hours a day- more than any jock. So, to be THAT person chosen to bring their imaging to life is quite a compliment.

Also- The VO and producer community is so much fun and very supportive. I’ve planned mixers and networking events so everyone has a chance to meet each other face to face. The adrenaline is intense! I’m planning an Imaging conference for 2020 unlike anything out there. Produced by VO/Imaging talent with legendary talent, a one-of-a-kind agenda and lots of inspiration. The goal is for attendees to leave feeling like they can conquer the world!

Check out Kelly’s demos:

 

How did you get started as a VO actor?

I voiced a Thanksgiving commercial for Safeway. LOL! That was my first spot. Then I tried the Imaging side of things and went crazy as a producer. Shortly after I arrived at KDWB, I was told my voice would never ‘print’ on the air and I’d never be a voice talent. THAT gave me the adrenaline to explore VO work even more. When I sent my demo to Miami- I replaced the station VO with my own and finally landed my first official VO gig at Y100/Miami while imaging their six-station cluster.

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

LOTS! LOL My first radio gig was KRQQ/Tucson. I grew up in Los Angeles and left the day after graduation as my father worked for General Dynamics which has transferred to Tucson as Raytheon. So I followed. First day there I noticed ‘KRQ’ on the side of a building and thought- ‘Awesome! They have a KROQ here!’ which wasn’t the case at all- but close! LOL I worked for the city newspaper as a reporter/photographer while I was in high school- so I showed up at KRQ telling them they needed me to photograph remotes and sales presentations. I was hired as an intern and then the PD, Mark Todd, went on vacation so I started helping the programming department which lead to production on a 4track. Then the Roland arrived and I remember spending 12 hours producing one promo. I wanted to know that thing inside and out. Totally worth it. 😊

Who are your VO idols/mentors?

That would be a long list! First- John Frost. I sent imaging/VO demos while he was at KROQ. LOL- I have several stories about those. Haha The funniest is when he told me to send my demos on longer/higher quality cassettes so he could record over them. LOL Eric Chase is up there with John as far as mentors. Eric gave me my voice. I was driving from Minneapolis to my new gig in Miami and stopped in Tampa where my friend, Nick Daley, introduced me to Eric. I was SO nervous! He had me read on the mic and after a while- he stood in the back of the room, leaned up against the wall listening to my reads and said something like – “I think I know what your place is in VO- you’re the bitch in the radio”. I LOVED it. And that began my witty, sarcastic, bitchy read that suddenly took off on CHR and Alternative stations. It was soooo crazy!! And really fun! My female VO idol is Annie DeWig. By FAR the most heard female voice in radio and TV. She’s as authentic as it gets. When I was at KDWB, she was imaging DC101. We were two of the only female radio producers we knew of and people used to make up stories that we hated each other. Haha We’d call each other and say ‘By the way- I apparently said this about you’. And I’d say- ‘Oh! We’re fighting now in case you didn’t know.’ We had fun. I have a ton of respect for Annie. My VO Idol.

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

I’d be a writer and a photographer. Both are creative outlets for me. Or even picking music for movies- whatever fancy title that is. Every time I pick an obscure song for a promo- it winds up on TV or movie preview.

How has new technology changed the way you work?

The biggest change is supply and demand. The quicker you deliver, the better your business.

A close second is connection. Whether it’s networking, brainstorming, finding the newest/best plugins/gear, etc- connection is key to everything we do. It seems like such a generic answer- but there are SO many specific answers to name. Marketing is another big one. The RIGHT marketing opens doors. Sending your tape doesn’t do it anymore- it’s all about having the right marketing to get buyers to LISTEN to your demo.

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

The Sennheiser 416 is my best friend. I call it the ‘Bob Barker’ mic. And the Focusrite Platinum Pro with my secret settings. 😊 I take my laptop, mic and Duet on the road and a Zoom just in case. There are also some pretty cool iPhone apps to use in case of emergency which work pretty well.

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

I haven’t. But there are a couple coaches I’m thinking about- Dave Walsh is one of them. I’ve met him a couple times and he has a great reputation in the VO community.

I’ve done some VO coaching myself. I don’t have a curriculum. I just go by what I know and what I’ve experienced as a VO talent. You’ve just got to find the right coach for you. Everyone has a different method. Talk to people, ask around- you’ll find the right one.

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

K3 VOProdFriends-1I schedule ME first. And then I’m on the mic. The majority of my day is spent voicing, marketing my voice and finding new clients. The other working part of my day is dedicated to The Imaging House. It’s such a great resource for programmers, VO talent and producers. I try to improve the experience every day.

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

Some talent get so wrapped up in cost that they overlook the simple things and psyche themselves out of doing something they might love. Don’t pay to be on a manager’s list- they should make money by getting you work and taking commission. Don’t pay for coaching if you haven’t started practicing. Find your voice first. Get out of your comfort zone. If you want to do commercials- watch a commercial on TV, rewind, transcribe and play it again on mute while YOU voice it. Really simple beginnings. THEN find your coach and spend money on coaches or workshops that benefit YOU. Don’t waste time and money on something you’re doing just because everyone else is. My pet peeve is other VO talent who preach how expensive it is to get into the VO world. It’s not. And another pet peeve is telling someone they can’t be a VO talent. The talent pool is ENDLESS. Don’t let anyone pigeon-hole you into a format or tell you other formats aren’t right for you. Coaches aren’t program directors. And, these days, there might be 15 different reads per format. Maybe a programmer is looking for something completely different. Maybe your CHR read would be great on a country station. Maybe the NewsTalk station wants a softer read. Your job is not to read minds. Your job is to be YOU and do your own take on VO. And don’t be the cheap version of someone else.

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

I’ll give you five. 😊

Network like crazy. You’ll find opportunity but you’ll also find support.

Never stop learning. Sometimes even the best VO talents think they suck. But they never stop learning.

Don’t rush. It takes time to find your comfort zone. Whether it’s radio or TV or even just another radio format,

Stop being so hard on yourself. I’m the worst at this one. And it brings on the depression. I’m  learning that progress is better than perfection.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Get. Stop being afraid to reach out to your mentors. They’re human just like you. Ask them questions. How’d you get the KROQ gig- ask them. How do you read for trailers- ask. You’ll gain so much ‘insider-info’ while making a great contact. 😊 You should be busy getting around the typical obstacles rather than creating your own.

Favorite 2 pizza toppings?

Canadian bacon and Pineapple. THERE. I said it. Mmmmmm! Served. Owned. Bring in the lion. (that’s a frost bit)

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

My future self.

Connect with Kelly and check out her sites:

Sites

https://kellykellykelly.com/

https://theimaginghouse.com/

Social

Facebook: FB.com/KellyKellyKelly

Twitter: @kellythreetimes

Instagram: @theimaginghouse

Behind the Mic: Roberta Solomon

Posted: 28th February 2019 by benztownvoiceover in Voice of the Week

Roberta has been a full time voice artist for over 20 years. Calling herself a radio and TV “lifer,” she’s imaged hundreds of stations, has voiced promos on every major television network, Roberta Solomon and narrates documentaries, concert spots and movie trailers. In a former life, she did morning radio with her husband in Kansas City, appeared on a sketch comedy show carried on Sirius/XM, and drew a rabid following as a TV Horror Host.

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

The bulk of my imaging work has been for AC and Soft AC, Newstalk and Sports radio, and I’ve voiced some legendary stations: WCCO/Minneapolis, KPRI/San Diego, KEZK/St. Louis, WDBO/Orlando, WMGC/Detroit, The Game/Portland, etc.

I currently image radio stations in about 20 markets, including KCBS/San Francisco, Sunny 92.3/Chattanooga, CV 1043/Palm Springs, and I’ve been the sponsorship voice of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network for 14 seasons.

I’m also the branding voice of a number of TV stations around the country and pop up regularly on network TV. (Jimmy Kimmel Live, Late Late Show with James Corden, NBC Sports, Reelz, Adult Swim) I’ve narrated documentaries for NatGeo, Discovery and Smithsonian Channel and have voiced a handful of movie trailers.

Check out some of Roberta Solomon’s demos:

 

 

What do you love about your job?

Well, I’m doing what I was put on the face of the earth to do, and I’m happy every time I’m behind the mic! I fell in love with radio in part because it was a mysterious kind of story-telling, and the “theater of the mind” aspect of VO, regardless of the project, still excites me. Whether I’m voicing a radio imaging piece, a promo or long-form narration, I get to tell stories for a living and how cool is that? But what I really love is when the producer shares a finished piece with me and I can “hear” the story. Creating radio and TV is a communal act, and when I hear how all the elements fit together because of our collaboration, and especially when the CLIENT is happy, that’s the real gift of this work.

How did you get started as a VO actor?

In college, I was a semester away from a degree in theater when I was invited to audition for the campus radio station. The minute I opened the mic for the first time, I knew I’d found my path. Within months, I’d moved to another station in the market, and producers and local ad agency folks started calling the station to see if I was available to voice spots for them. My outside work began to grow and after a few years I joined with a group of busy voice actors to co-found a talent agency. Eventually, it got to the point where I was doing so much outside VO work that it was conflicting with my “real job” on the radio. At that point, I put a studio in my home and stepped into voiceover work full time.

Who are your VO mentors?

The late Drew Dimmel, a talented VO and on-camera actor from Kansas City, was the first guy I knew who was voicing radio and TV stations from home. He was the most generous mentor and basically gave me a template for how to run a VO business. I got a lot of radio-specific guidance early on from consultants: Dick Stadlen (who was also the first to hire me as an image voice), Vallie Richards Donovan, Gary Berkowitz, McVay Media, Holland Cooke, Albright & O’Malley & Brenner, etc. VO legends Joe Cipriano and Beau Weaver were incredibly helpful. Pat Garrett introduced me to my first imaging agent. My current “VO Tribe of Counselors” includes Ann Dewig, Jen Sweeney, Virginia Hamilton and Steve Stone.

I admire not only their work but also how loved they are by their clients.

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

I’ve always been fascinated by the science of sound, and could easily see myself as an audio engineer or field producer. There’s some amazing work going on now researching ocean sounds — I’d love to be out on a boat planting hydrophones and listening to whales. Bernie Krauss’ Wild Sanctuary Project is fascinating: recording and archiving the soundscapes of the natural world. I’d go to work for him in a heartbeat.

How has new technology changed the way you work?

It’s made the work so much easier, but it’s also turned VO into a solitary job. On the one hand, the technology has freed us: with the right gear, voice work can be done from anywhere. On the other hand, we’re often alone in our booth for hours at a time. And the more successful you are as a voice talent and the bigger the projects you work on, the more isolated you can become.

The days of “next day turnaround” are over; producers often need their VO tracks back within the hour, sometimes late at night, early in the morning, often on the weekends. It’s part of the job to be available whenever you’re needed, and depending on the type of work you’re doing it can be nearly impossible to unplug. The voiceover joke is: “You wanna book a big job? Try to take a vacation.”

In addition, technology has changed the way we tell stories, and that’s changed the VO performance. Social media in particular has had a huge impact on the “sound” of voiceovers. That’s why working with coaches is more important now than ever.

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

In my home studio, I use a Sennheiser 416 most of the time and a Neumann U-87 on occasion. I pair the 416 with a vintage Focusrite Red-7 processor, and I also use an Avalon 737 from time to time. I built out a gorgeous studio above the garage in my last house, but when I moved cross-country to an apartment a few years back, I bought a double-walled Vocalbooth with a floating floor and a window.

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I carry another Sennheiser 416 when I travel, run it through a Scarlet 2i2 interface, and plug it into my laptop. In addition, I’ve got a little Apogee mic that I toss into my purse for emergencies when I’m in transit. I can plug that into my phone for quick fixes; I once used it to record tags for a TV spot while sitting under a massage table at an airport spa. (Long story.)

Roberta's road gig set up

Roberta’s road gig set up

I use Adobe Audition in both my home and main travel studios because it’s the software I’ve used forever, but if I’m recording on a mobile device, I use Twisted Wave.

For longer projects when I’m traveling or if there’s a ton of work, I’ll sometimes book a session at a pro studio and let someone else handle the recording

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

Yes and yes. I’ve worked with voiceover coaches for years and it’s been an essential part of my growth as a VO artist. Each coach has different techniques and tools but they all focus on the same thing: helping you get out of your own way so you can best serve the story with your voice.
A good coach will not only teach you how the structure of each genre of VO differs, but can also help you identify the trends in VO and how to stay current with your read. That can be really difficult to do on your own, when you spend all day talking to yourself in a booth.
I’ve worked with Marice Tobias for years. She’s kind of legendary, and has coached most of the top VO artists in the biz. I’ve also studied with David Lyerly, Bob Bergen (for character VO) and Dave Walsh. In addition, I’ve trained with a number of singing coaches, which has been helpful in learning how the voice actually works and ways to keep it healthy.

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

There’s no real schedule to my day; I voice projects as they arrive, prioritizing by the deadline, and I juggle sessions all day long. I live on the West Coast but I’ve got a lot of East Coast clients, so my days start early. Directed sessions (usually narrations or network promos) are scheduled ahead, so on those days I work everything else around those bookings. But it’s not unusual for me to start recording a project and then receive a promo that has to be cut immediately or an audition due within an hour. So I drop what I’m doing to accommodate the most pressing deadline. Auditions can come all day long, and I average about five a day. There will always be a couple of auditions due first thing the next morning, so sometimes I’ll record those after dinner.

I’ve always told people that if you’re not dealing with ADHD before you begin a voiceover career, you will be once you’ve done it for a while. If you’re working a lot, it’s a life of constant interruption.

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

  1. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. The art of VO is what you’ll spend the rest of your life studying. And just when you think you’ve “got it,” the art form will change. That’s the exciting part to me, and it’s why this work is never boring.
  1. The gear is not the career. VO folks love to talk about what mic they’re using and how they’ve constructed their studio. And yes, you need to know how to set up a studio, record, edit and deliver broadcast-quality audio. But those are merely the tools for the work, not the work itself.
  1. It’s not a hobby, it’s a business. If you’re serious about getting into VO and don’t know how to run a small business, you’ll need to learn. Should you become a Corporation? How will you market yourself and to whom? What are the particular needs of your potential clients? As your business grows, developing a trusting relationship with a bookkeeper, accountant and lawyer is important, and each of those people needs to be familiar with media and entertainment.

Want to see more of Roberta Solomon?

Check her out on the Benztown Brigade roster, here or on her website.

Connect on the Socials:

 

Behind the Mic: Lisa Keys

Posted: 21st February 2019 by benztownvoiceover in Uncategorized, Voice of the Week

Hi! I’m Lisa Keys! As a fan of the Benztown’s Behind the Mic feature for years, I’m so flattered to be included! I’m currently doing imaging voice over full time based in Toronto for stations all over the world.

Lisa Keys - Photo

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

Lisa Keys - KOIT

I’m incredibly fortunate to be on board voicing with:

  • 96.5 KOIT/San Francisco
  • 92-5 XTU/Philadelphia
  • The Rogers Country Network across Canada
  • Radio Globo/Rome, Italy
  • 100.3 The Bear/Edmonton where I got my start
  • B93.3/Milwaukee
  • Now 100.5/Sacramento
  • Sunny 106.3/Colorado Springs
  • among other amazing stations!

 

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

Working full time doing voice over in Toronto from the comforts of my basement suite recording studio. I made the leap to full time VO in September 2016. Prior to that, I was a promotions director for the Bell Media cluster in Edmonton, Canada. After pursuing voice over on the side for a couple years while in radio, I knew there was a time to make the leap, and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.

What do you love about your job?

The people and the product! I have met some of the coolest, kindest people through radio and voice over and treasure the relationships that have formed over the years. I’m so honored to help radio stations with their branding and SO incredibly grateful to every station who’s ever used my voice.

Getting a piece of production back and blasting it, getting chills or having it make me laugh out loud – I can’t get enough of that feeling. There is SO much about this industry I’m absolutely obsessed with and I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to take part.

How did you get started as a VO actor?

I got into VO through working in radio. One of my best friends – Gary McClenaghan – our imaging producer at the time, started using me on our rock station and the rest is history. Gary, Jeff McKnight (another very talented producer I previously worked with) really helped me find my sound and both built me demos and demo material I could start sending out on my own.

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

It was a local commercial with our station cluster. The first time I heard it on air it was a feeling I had never experienced before, was surreal! One of my most memorable gigs was a skit for Jimmy Kimmel!

Who are your VO idols/mentors?

Ann Dewig, John Willyard who’s been an outstanding mentor to me, the fantastic human that is Rachel McGrath, Wendy K. Gray, Kelly Kelly Kelly, Chad Erickson, the crazy talented Jamie Watson up here in Canada – the list goes on. There is no shortage of inspiring talent in this industry. A couple other amazing mentors have been Rob Vavrek, my previous PD in Edmonton and Brian Figula at KOIT who gave me one of my first big breaks.

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

Probably running events in some capacity. I like organization a lot.

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

Amazing. Absolutely loved it. Thought it was way too cool. I was hooked. Anytime I catch anything of mine on air, I freak out a little bit inside.

 

Gear/Technology:

How has new technology changed the way you work?

My studio (as you’ll read in the next answer) is nothing crazy. I record in my closet! My mic does a lot of heavy lifting with sound. New technology has made building my own studio a possibility.

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

I use the same gear on the road as I do in my studio – Sennheiser MK416 mic, Focusrite Scarlett-2i2, laptop.

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

Adobe Audition CC. I love Adobe. I’m not currently using any plug ins with my voice work.

 

Skills and Helpful Tips:

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

I have worked with voice coaches in the past – with the very talented David Lyerly, Dave Walsh and K3 (Kelly Kelly Kelly). Coaching is absolutely something I want to pursue more of as I explore more niches of the voice over industry.

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

I watch for anything that comes in as ASAP, but otherwise, first that comes in is first up! Depending on how many auditions come in throughout the day, could be an hour to several auditioning for new work. I try to get up early enough that I can take care of other things on my to-do list before imaging starts rolling in.

How do you market your services to potential clients?

Along with my amazing agents at Atlas Talent who hustle like crazy on my behalf, I reach out to program directors across the US and Canada with my demos, introducing myself and my product to them! I’m a huge fan of conferences too. Getting that face to face is invaluable to me.

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

In terms of technique, what I’ve done in the past to be more conversational is to pretend like I’m talking to my friends. I’ll sometimes drop names or specifically the word “dude” (I don’t know why) before lines to try to get more into a natural feel.

Check out another one of Lisa’s demos below!

 

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

  • If you want this, you have to work hard at it! Voice over is crazy competitive.
  • Don’t compare your level of success to anyone else’s. You’re on your own adventure. Everyone’s path is different.
  • Be humble, grateful and kind! Be someone who people want to work with!

 

For Fun:

Favorite 2 pizza toppings?

Mushrooms and more MUSHROOMS

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

Jonah Hill or Seth Rogen. I love those guys. They’re HILARIOUS.

 

Check out Lisa’s website: https://www.lisakeysvoiceover.com/
FB: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009476790826
-Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/keys.lisa/
-Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/lisakeys