Behind the Mic: Cameron Griffith

Posted: 9th April 2020 by benztownvoiceover in Regular Features, Voice of the Week

Cameron Griffith is from Atlantic Beach, Florida, a proud Navy Veteran and voice over actor on the Benztown roster. He can’t emphasize enough how stoked and honored he is to share his voice over industry experience with everyone.

Cameron is represented by Donna Baldwin Agency in Denver, CO, Premiere Talent Management in Vancouver, B.C., and Premier Talent in Jacksonville, FL.

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

1010XL/92.5 FM Sports Radio WJXL – Jacksonville, FL
Surf 97.3 FM, WQFB-LP – Flagler Beach, FL
930 the Fox Sports Radio, WNZS-AM Jacksonville, FL
1460AM News Talk Radio WZNZ-AM, Jacksonville, FL

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

My voice over work is all freelance. 

Check out Cameron’s Demo:

What do you love about your job? 

I tell you what, if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life. I love to have a great degree of control and freedom within my job. It enables me to love and enjoy other passions in my life. Personally, I am not a fan of being the center of attention, but it affords me to entertain people at my own expense. I get amped up every time I am behind the microphone – it gives me chills.

How did you get started as a VO actor? 

Oh wow, where do I begin? Well long story short, I grew up in a broadcasting family. My father was a DJ along with his brothers, including my grandfather; so therefore, it was always in the household. One day during my senior year in high school, I enrolled in the On-the-Job Training (OJT) working at a hotel resort. After the shift manager fired me because I was caught prank calling the employees in the reservations department from hotel guest services, I asked my old man if he could land me a job at the radio station here in Jacksonville, Florida (Clear Channel Radio at the time). He said, “If you want to work in radio, you’ll learn how to work the board first.” I said fair enough, so therefore, he landed me a position working at WZNZ News Talk 1460 AM and WNZS 930 AM The Fox producing and operating a number of radio shows and various sporting events. Later on, I learned how to cut my own commercials thanks to a little help from my father and Doug Lewis, Creative Services Director at Clear Channel at that time. If Doug needed me for something, I was always available to help out. I ended up joining the United States Navy two years later. While I was cruising around listening to the AFN network on the island of Okinawa, Japan, it suddenly hit me, and I believe that was the turning point to prepare and plan a new career in the voice over industry. When I got out of the service, I purchased my first microphone. Since then I’ve been hooked. Personally, I believe it was inevitable. 

Where Cameron makes VO magic happen – his home office.

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

Oh let me think, I cut my first spot at the age of 5, which was Burger King. My old man dragged my brother Casey and I from time to time to cut a few more radio spots for a local mall here in Jacksonville. I only remember because the sound track underneath was cheesy. My most memorable one covered the Children’s Hospital at First Baptist Medical Center; I had a hard time pronouncing the word “pediatrician” believe it or not; however, I got the job done and they handsomely paid me 25 dollars in “ones”. Pretty stoked for a 6 year old. In any event, I still have a hard time negotiating that word from time to time.    

Who are your VO idols/mentors? 

Dude, the one and only Jeff Berlin, Malcolm Ryker, and Brian Christopher. While I was in highschool, one day, I remember Doug was online via ISDN with Jeff Berlin, the voice for Planet Radio 93.3 at that time. With his permission, of course, Doug allowed me to sit beside him during a live session with JB. I was so stoked lemme tell ya. From then on, I wanted to be more involved in Radio Imaging. As far as my mentors, for starters, my father Jack O’Brien; his wisdom possessing over 40+ years of experience in the radio unquestionably led me in the right direction and preconditioned me to work hard and hustle because it’ll pay dividends in the long run. The rest of my mentors and friends include Voiceover Actor/Coach Nick Omana, Tom Fridley Productions Director/Voice Actor 1010XL/92.5 FM, and Josh Klinger Radio Personality, DC101 and the list goes on.    

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

I would have continued to advance my career as a Navy Search Air Rescue Swimmer (SAR) and then eventually work hard to be a frogman (SEAL) or Navy Diver; I’m a big fan of serving my country. 

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

How would I sum it up, “Voice Confrontation”? Thought I sounded like Mickey Mouse, it made me cringe. It was weird. 

How has new technology changed the way you work? 

It allows us to respond faster so I can turn work around as quickly as possible. Also, I enjoy communicating with clients and love participating in workout groups either on Zoom, Skype or Face Time; I believe it’s more  personable instead of corresponding over email.

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

In my home studio, I alternate between my Shure SM7B and Blue Baby Bottle from time to time. I pair them with my Avalon M5 pure class A preamplifier and an Apogee Duet interface running on ProTools. On the road, I’ll plug the SM7B and apogee in my laptop.  

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

Most certainly. A coach will be able to hear what you’re doing and assist with helping you make adjustments. I’ve worked with coaches Tom Fridley, Nick Omana, Lynda McCarrell, and Mary Lynn Wisner. 

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

Empty coffee mug, full of energy, can’t lose.

Setting a functional boundary for yourself is extremely important to me; so therefore, I’ll hit the gym at 4am so I can get a jump start for the day; I know, I am an early riser, but it makes me feel that I’m one step ahead of the game from everyone else, and more importantly, alert and focused. Throughout the day, I spend a lot of time auditioning in the morning, and when copy lands in my inbox, I’ll jump on it immediately. Of course, more and more marketing and cold calling.

How do you market your services to potential clients? 

Lots of cold calling because I think it’s an essential part of marketing your biz. In addition, I’ll send the prospective client a postcard, and more cold calling. 

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

You know, that’s a great question. Personally, I believe they are very similar in ways. With any piece of copy, just ask yourself, who am I speaking to? What is the bottom line of the script? As opposed to TV/Radio commercial ads, I personally believe radio imaging copy enables me to unleash all, I mean all of that creativity lurking inside of me, and grant the copy permission to drive me in a state where I would not normally behave out in public. Unless the liquid courage is flowing. 

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

1: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Thanks to social media, there’s a wealth of knowledge out there. Use it to your advantage because it’ll help you stay up to par of what’s trending in the voice over industry. 

2: Learn the craft (because it’s not going to happen over night) and hire some coaching. Once it’s time for a demo, hire a professional to produce it.

3: And more importantly, be YOURSELF.

Favorite 2 pizza toppings? 

Pepperoni and sausage… and lemme add extra sauce and cheese!

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

Robin Williams.

Connect with Cameron:
Website
Soundcloud
Facebook

Behind the Mic: Melissa Thomas

Posted: 2nd April 2020 by benztownvoiceover in Regular Features, Voice of the Week

Currently heard in markets across North America, Melissa Thomas specializes in Hot AC, CHR, Country, Alternative, and Rock Imaging. She would love to take on any new project thrown her way! 

Melissa is represented by
Hoss Management Group!

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

I have been very blessed with a lot of opportunities including the syndicated program HardDrive XL with Lou Brutus, 104.3 WZYP, Play 107, Kraze 101.3 and various others.

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

I am the Imaging Director of X92.9 and X100.7 in Calgary as well as all the duties of my freelance business.

What do you love about your job?

I love the person it inspires me to be every day – creatively, personally, and professionally. The community is incredible and so uplifting as well, it’s just a blessing to be able to contribute something to radio stations across the world that hopefully make people smile every day.  

Check Out Melissa’s Demo:

How did you get started as a VO actor? 

I was always interested in it, but the true kickoff was when I was a student at SAIT’s Radio Broadcasting program. My professors were (and still are) extremely invested in helping me see the possibilities of the VO world and the potential I had to become something in it. 

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

My first VO gig was an award ceremony voiceover. Since then they’re all memorable! I’m extremely grateful to every company that I have worked with, but I will say that jumping into the Canadian radio market and signing Hot 107 (which has now become Play 107) in Edmonton was a huge milestone for me. 

Who are your VO idols/mentors?

Where do I even begin?! Hoss, Trevor Shand, Erin Setch, Ann DeWig, Lisa Keys, K3, Drew Patterson – the list is endless! There are SO many incredibly talented people that I look up to.

Melissa’s secret recording weapon: the MKH 416!

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

I always had a lot of interest in midwifery. I likely would have gone into that or nursing!

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

Surreal. It was a lifelong dream. I still get the same feeling, but it has shifted more from the shock of it to making sure it always sounds good. 

How has new technology changed the way you work?

I’m new enough in the game that I have been fortunate enough to use modern tech my entire career, but what I do use makes things pretty efficient! 

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

I use a Rode mic with my Scarlett 2i2 and ProTools on the road, and my Sennheiser MKH- 416 Mic in the studio with a Mac desktop. 

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

I use Protools! For VO alone it may seem like overkill but I am also an Imaging producer and I produce demo’s frequently so I went all out on it! 

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

Before I worked in VO I had 15 years of voice training and that taught me a lot of physical techniques as well as voice control that is invaluable. I haven’t had an official VO coach since I started working professionally, but I plan to this year.

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

I work on a 24-hour turnaround, but I make a point to get copy to clients as soon as I am able to. As a producer, I like prompt copy, so I do everything I can to deliver exactly that to my clients. The time I spend auditioning varies, but it typically takes 2 hours to write, voice and produce a demo depending on what it is.

How do you market your services to potential clients?

My incredible manager Hoss plays a big part in this and helps tremendously (hit him up at Hoss Management Group online!). Aside from those efforts, I market online. 

As an imaging producer, Melissa is a Protools pro!

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

I don’t want to claim to make any discoveries because to be honest, everything I do is something I have learned from someone else! 

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

Learn to breathe properly. There are plenty of resources online to learn if you don’t know how!

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

Oh totally, those are completely different styles. I like to read imaging as naturally as possible or however clients request. Commercials depend entirely on the client, style, and concept.

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

Reach out to those who inspire you, pitch your talent to managers and agencies, remember that everything you do 9-5 is for the man…everything after 5 is for your future.  

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

I would LOVE to experience the 1950s and late 1800’s. I’m a huge history nerd and those two eras are super interesting to me for a lot of reasons. 

Favorite 2 pizza toppings?

Pineapple, tomatoes!

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

Lauren Graham. I would love to meet her! She could adopt me and I wouldn’t be mad lol

Connect with Melissa:
Facebook
Instagram
Twitter

Behind the Mic: Rich Boerner

Posted: 26th March 2020 by benztownvoiceover in Voice of the Week

For two decades Rich Boerner has been one of those familiar voices inside your head. Real, self-aware and sometimes self-deprecating, with just enough gravitas to believe that he might actually be right. 

Rich is represented by TMG in Salt Lake City

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

I have done voice work for KLSX, the once-proud FM Talk Station, and KRTH 101 in Los Angeles, KLLC in SF, WNEW in NYC The LOOP in Chicago, Real Radio 104.1 in Orlando, Rock101 and 99-7 the FOX in Vancouver BC, Y107 in Hamilton/Toronto, and a handful of smaller markets in North America. In the video and digital world I have done some work in the past for Fox TV and the CW. And in 2016 I was the opening and closing voice for the Rose Bowl Parade.

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

I’ve been concentrating on creating great podcast content for the last few years, which has thinned my current roster. I voice many of the commercials for the Broadway Media Radio cluster in Salt Lake City. I handle west coast radio for Amtrak and still do occasional 15 to 30-second ads for Spotify. But this year is about ramping things up again, so thanks for chatting with me.

Check out Rich’s radio demo:

What do you love about your job?

Performing – putting on the skin of a voice that’s trying to convey a new message. VO work isn’t about imitation or “doing voices” it’s about making real human connections.

How did you get started as a VO actor? 

Doing voices and skits on my handheld cassette recorder as a kid, then bringing that to the job when I got my first few paying radio gigs.

Who are your VO idols/mentors?

I definitely have a handful. In the Radio/TV it’s Joe Cipriano who admittedly stumbled into the field being discovered while doing weekends in Los Angeles. He is one of the nicest, smartest, and coolest people I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Plus he’s always innovating on the job and appreciates honest feedback. Deserves every accolade he’s received. I have also been fortunate enough to work with Tasia Valenza, who’s warmth and humanity have graced so many eardrums.  

As far as mentor/teacher, Leigh Gilbert basically helped me unlearn and relearn from scratch. She was amazing. Then when it came to a necessary boot camp experience, Bill Holmes the VO Doctor was an invaluable resource. I was also fortunate enough to participate in some Animation classes taught by the one and only Bob Bergen.  

Check out Rich’s commercial demo:

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

This one’s easy, because VO isn’t my current career – it’s part of the mélange of what I do. My current full-time gig is creating amazing podcasts and audio content, and also speaking to and advising others on how to do so. Wherever I’ve been throughout my career, I’ve always been the in-house therapist/consultant. I enjoy working with people to find out what their passions are and then help them figure out how to pursue them.

Rich’s Home Studio

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

Blew my mind – it was in NYC and I was 21 years old.  Thought, “I’ve made it!” Then, when the spot was changed out a week later, it dawned on me that this is a marathon, not a sprint. Of course, I was also concerned that it might have stood out as being less than what surrounded it.     

How has new technology changed the way you work?

Well, high-quality home studios are now easy to build and pretty affordable, feedback on auditions comes much more quickly, and being connected digitally allows you to bond with clients through the creation process. 

What gear do you use in your studio?

It’s a pretty simple and effective set-up. I use a Rode K2 fed directly into my Focusrite 18i8 – and as a back-up mic I have a Rode NT1a. All my recording is done in Adobe Audition.  

Rich’s Main Mic

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

I record everything into Adobe Audition. Their plug-in suite is pretty amazing. The DeNoise plugin (used properly) is SO vital for home studio recording.

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

Absolutely – I’ve had a few amazing voice coaches over the years (Leigh Gilbert, Bill Holmes, Bob Bergen) and they all taught me something unique that helped me perform.

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

This might sound a bit “out there” – Before you start recording, figure out which version of yourself that you want to be as you deliver this particular message. Then, once you’re in character, laugh out loud and say something angrily. If you can find the emotions behind the character, you’ll be locked in.

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

Radio/TV is a bit more of an energy read and sometimes voice of authority, based on the character of the station itself. Commercials are generally more emotion based and “real” person reads. For imaging reads it’s generally necessary to lock in the energy level first, then lay down the reads. In commercials, you need to find the emotions behind the read before doing anything.

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

1. Get into a good beginner class that gives you A LOT of mic time in front of the room. 2. Listen carefully to current VO work and rather than imitate, see what emotion they are evoking. 3. Don’t get frustrated by all the “No’s.” Instead try to find out why not and what you can learn from it to improve for the next round.

Rich laying down some hot VO!

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

The 90’s, because it was filled with so much opportunity and creativity. It was the last decade where creativity had real power in the boardroom and bottom line was a long-term play. You could take chances and had some time to see if it really worked. 

Favorite 2 pizza toppings?

Pepperoni and Sausage – please don’t put green things on my pizza

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

There are so many ways to go with this one. I could take the simpler route and say big names like Abe Lincoln, Ben Franklin, Oprah, or Mike Piazza, but I’m going to say one of the two Carl’s. Either Carl Jung or Carl Sagan. There’s so much we could discuss, the possible connections between his Collective Unconscious theories and the perceived power of thought and how they may be directly related to quantum theory (and the universe itself).

Connect with Rich:
Website
LinkedIn

Behind the Mic: Heather Foster

Posted: 19th March 2020 by benztownvoiceover in Voice of the Week
Tags: , , ,

The Merlot of VO. When you need a little more gravitas from your female imaging voice, Heather has that deep, raspy thing down.

Heather Foster is represented by TAG Talent, Pastorini-Bosby Talent, and Impressive Talent!

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

I’m pretty new to imaging! I didn’t even know it was a thing until a little over 2 years ago. I swear I thought the DJs did the imaging. I was a finalist at the That’s Voiceover Promo competition and there was a panel about imaging. Joe Cipriano was the host and David Kaye, Lynn Hoffman, Nate Zeitz, Craig Schwalb, Pat Garett and Eric Romanowski were on it. It was career-changing. I didn’t win the competition but I did find a brand new genre of voiceover!  I’ve been with KRSB-FM Best Country, Roseburg/OR for almost 2 years and have just added WJRI-FM IN North Carolina and WXKC Classy 100 in Erie, PA to my list of stations. 

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

In addition to imaging work, I also record lots and lots of commercials, B2B videos, e-learning modules, etc. I am the announcer for several tech conferences including CloudFest, the largest cloud conference in the world, and I’m the promo voice for the television show The Houston Sports Show.

Heather’s VO time machine!

What do you love about your job? 

So many things, but I love playing behind the mic. My booth is like a time machine. I just go in for a few minutes to play around and the next thing I know 3 hours have gone by.  The people in this business are incredible. Seriously, I’ve met the coolest, nicest people! 

How did you get started as a VO actor? 

I was introduced to it by my on-camera commercial acting coach 4 years ago. I found myself in a new city with not much to do so I took an on-camera commercial acting class. My coach, Deke Anderson, had this really great boom mic and when we would watch our playbacks at the end of the class session, people would comment on my voice. So, I started doing some research – turns out you could record from home. Who knew? That was all I needed to know. That will be 5 years this fall. 

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

My first gig was for TiVo – it was for a regional television spot. I thought “Hey, I’ve made it!” Ha. Not exactly. I have to go out there and bust my behind every day. One that really stands out was being the voice of the ship for the new Alien short film “Harvest”- it was included on the 40th Anniversary DVD. I kind of geeked out on that. I’m a huge Alien fan!

Check out Heather’s Demo:

Who are your VO idols/mentors? 

Whoa, where do I start? One of the very best things about voice over is how supportive people are in this business. I am so grateful that I get to spend the rest of my career trying to pay it forward. Off the top of my head for the women: Randy Thomas, Jen Sweeney, Rachel McGrath, Ashley Cavaliere…For men: David Kaye, Joe Cipriano, Chad Erickson, Rob Reed…Pretty much the entire Benztown roster – it’s filled with talent that just blows me away! I ❤️ Benztown! I still can’t believe I’m on this roster. Somebody pinch me!!! 

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

I have no idea. I don’t even know what to think about it! Although, I’d have to do something that involved performing. I could never go back to my old job as a paralegal. UGH. I’m just so happy that I get to do what I love every day. I know it’s cliche but man, it’s true. 

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

I was in the car driving with my kids. It took a second to dawn on me that it was ME. I started squealing! My kids were very unimpressed. They were like, “Meh, we hear you all the time.”

Has new technology changed the way you work? 

Not really. I started late in the game.

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

Sennheiser 416, UA Arrow, and my Mac ProBook. 

Heather’s view during recording!

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

I am an Adobe Audition gal and I don’t do much production, so I rarely use plugins. I like my audio how I like my hands – clean. 😉

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

YES, I’ve had several. Dave Walsh for commercial work, Kelly Doherty and Gabby Nistico for radio imaging, Harry Dunn and Roger Leopardi for promo. There have been more, but these are most recent. I am a huge believer in coaching. 

How do you schedule/prioritize your work? 

I eat, breathe, and sleep voiceover and imaging. I have a really hard time with time management when it comes to work. I have to set timers to stop working on things. I have found the thing I love to do kind of late, so I guess I am making up for lost time. 

How do you market your services to potential clients? 

A variety of ways, but I really like social media. LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram have been great for finding new business. What usually happens is that I make new friends on these platforms that lead to job opportunities. It’s all about relationships! Also, going to WWRS last year was such a blast. I’m going to make sure I keep hitting conferences.

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

Gosh, I wouldn’t know. Ha. I suck at saving money. 

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

Hmmm…For me, I say the copy over and over to myself before trying to perform it. Once I have the muscle memory down then I can relax and really let it fly. 

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

Not really. It’s definitely a different vibe, but the process is the same. 

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

1. Read and record everything you can get your hands on just so you can start to find out all the cool things your “instrument” can do.
2. Google is your friend.
3. GET A COACH!

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

The 70s. I was a little kid then and everything seemed really groovy, but I was too young to fully enjoy it. The clothes, the T.V., the MUSIC. 

Favorite 2 pizza toppings? 

Canadian bacon (although I’m trying not to eat meat anymore!) and jalapeños. 

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

Dave Grohl. I just love that dude. 

Heather thinks voiceover (and Dave Grohl) ROCKS!!

Connect with Heather:
Twitter
Facebook
Instagram
LinkedIn
Soundcloud

Behind the Mic: Wendy K. Gray

Posted: 25th February 2020 by benztownvoiceover in Uncategorized

A female voice talent launched the Entercom New York Alternative Station, Alt 92.3 at the same time as Alt 103.7 in DFW. For months the stations had no commercials and no on air talent. Just a female voice! Yeah, that was me! How did this happen? This is my story, the story of WKG.

Wendy K Gray in the Booth
Wendy K Gray is represented by Benztown and Nate Zeitz of CESD!

What do you love about your job?

Many things to love about being a voice over actor! One thing, for me at least, is the anonymity of the job. I’m a shy and private gal. I don’t like the whole wide world knowing what I’m up too. That kind of secret spy information is reserved for my Rottweiler only! However, kicking off my own (dream) side project this last year has forced me to come out of my shell and spill it! So thanks for having me, Benztown! 

It’s an honor!

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

My very first radio VO imaging job was on Star 98.7 in Los Angeles decades ago. Doing some stations ID’s and promos for a Billy Idol concert. I had no idea, later on, this side of the industry would embrace me. Flash to…Trevor Shand finding me on an Internet search after a friend insisted I create a Youtube channel for my voice over spots. Clever! Folks weren’t utilizing Youtube this way back then. Trevor asked me to demo some stuff for a jazz station. That led to nothing. But years later, he found me again and hired me for his show Hitstorm on Kiss in Toronto. Then, he started using me on the “Uncover New Music” promos on KROQ in LA. And that’s when things exploded! I got my first contract with Rogers working with Justin Dove, Ron Tarrant, LF Fabiosa, AJ Traspaderme and Russell James. Soon, Adam Schneider, voice over actor and imaging producer of Rock 105 in Atlanta, hired me from hearing me on KROQ! And the list goes on from there. Lesson here was to say “YES” to opportunities, like doing free demos!

Check out Wendy’s Demo:

How did you get started as a VO actor?

I was a really good waitress! And I liked my job at Mexicali in Studio City, CA. I was a lead singer/songwriter in a rock band pursuing a career in music. The owners let me play my CDs in the rotation on Friday nights and I had lots of regulars! I met tons of people, like writer and director, Mick Garris, who licensed out a song of mine on his NBC Movie, The Judge. I also met Rolf Hanson who produced TV promos and trailers.  He got me started in voice over! He changed my life. Even though I loved playing music and I desperately wanted to be Alanis Morissette, I said “YES” to an opportunity he gave me.  

I worked for an entire year for him and took classes at the same time. Once I had enough jobs to make a reel, I started sending it out to agents.  I had some small agents interested but it’s when Rolf asked Debbi Cope to help out that things began to happen. She, admittedly, didn’t get my sound but as a favor to him, sent it out to a few agents. They all asked to meet with me! It was like what I dreamed about with record companies. Everyone wanting to sign me… a singer, a waitress and a shy gal from Colorado! Amazing! I wonder what my life would be like had I NOT taken the opportunity that one person gave me…..

What was your first gig?

My first job was Christmas TV spots for VH1.  I got paid $1,000. Which took me two weeks to make waiting tables.  Rolf hired me for loads of TV record releases, like Josh Groban, Hillary Duff, Faith Hill, and Madonna. And TV spots for movie soundtracks like Valentine, Scooby Doo and Space Cowboys. This was a time when mostly men voiced these kinds of spots. Rolf was ahead of his time. Like I said, he changed my life. One person!

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

I think I was most excited to see/hear my first national commercial. It was Philadelphia Cream Cheese and it aired during Entertainment Tonight. I wasn’t expecting to see it, I just happened to have switched to that channel and there it was. It didn’t sound like me but it was me! I don’t even remember recording it! I do remember the lobby at Buzzy’s Studio in Hollywood, being so scared out of mind and nervous I was pacing. I started a conversation with another voice over gal, Jessica Anne Bogart, to calm my heart before they called me into record.

When I saw, I squealed out loud at the TV thinking I’ve made it! A national commercial! I’m in. Only to discover I was just cast for that particular commercial and new casting specs where handed out at William Morris for the next Philadelphia Cream Cheese commercial, which I did not get! Ouch! Ahh, to be that green again! 

Any memorable ones since then?

It seems jobs are memorable because of the people. I remember like it was yesterday, auditioning for the voice of Bellmedia Much More Music in Canada with my then-agent, Jeff Jones. We spent hours on a phone session with the producers going over and over this one spot, a football spot. After the session was done, I wasn’t done! I had something I wanted to do as an alternate and Jeff trusted me enough to voice it and then send it! This was a risky move and he did. I booked that job and a few months later went on to be the main and only TV station voice of Much More Music, then Much More and then M3. No other voices on the TV stations. Just me. They were also ahead of the times. You don’t always get to do what you want when you are working on someone else’s project. And most of the time you don’t get a second chance. This was a rare occasion and risky for both of us, for that, it was memorable!

How has new technology changed the way you work? 

Because I sang/sing I already had a mini studio in my home when I began VO. But after I signed with CESD in LA and got the introduction to Nate Zeitz in NY, my “at home” work-life became much bigger. Everything radio came out of my studio. Then some TV stations started having me work from home. Soon I had enough work to step away from LA for a few years and take all of my at home jobs with me.  That wasn’t the world I started vo in. Now I have two studios to work out of. In my home is my back up set up and The Barn is the main creative place I like to be. I also take my laptop, Sennheiser mic, and Scarlett 2i2 with me when I travel. Except on vacation. A gal deserves a break every now and then!

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

Wendy K Gray is a
Wendy has an awesome side project called Sidewalk Stories, a children’s audiobook, which she voiced!

Yes and yes! My singing coach is the amazing Liz Lewis of The Singers Workshop. Her husband is also a long time voice over actor. Singing keeps my voice in good condition and I still enjoy it. I take classes regularly for voice over too. And, when you work so much on your own, like I do, I find it helpful to have that direction and socialization with a casting director or coach.  Elaine Craig, Jeff Howell, Kathy Kalmenson. And the late Cynthia Songe gave me a piece of advice I am really using on my side project right now. She said not to think about making “funny voices” but rather to think about the character, what do they look like, are they nice, mean, heavy, small, old, young, etc? Then, the voice will come. I also learned from her to catalog my voices. So when a director says they want something, that may not make any sense to me, I can start going through my catalog, in my head, to find something for them. Making a choice at the beginning gives you a place to start from and the director (or you) can easily move around from there.

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

 I have to be honest, there is no one-way to get in. But I do think it’s really about who you know. Everything I have is because I met someone who helped me get to the next place. Yes, I did the work. Yes, I love my job. But I am no more deserving of it then the next girl. Three things I do and suggest is… 

Be prepared. That means read out loud, go to auditions, practice on the mic, with and without headphones, know your voice and what you are capable of. Ask for help. Everyone around you needs to know what you are doing and what you need, so speak up! 

Keep trying! CESD passed on me two other times before I finally connected with Vinnie Biunno in promo, which led me to Nate Zeitz. And knowing Nate has opened up so many doors for me, like Benztown, where I have been on the Top 50 list since it’s beginning, back when there was only four gals on the whole Top 50 list! Along with providing me the support I need to be happy and successful. I am very lucky. If I had quit before I met Nate I would not be doing this interview. 

And when you do get there…help someone else. It makes the world go round

How do you market your services to potential clients?

Wendy and her dogs!

I’m not the best at slinging my name around, schmoozing with folks and strutting my stuff. I let my reps do that kind of work. I do my best work, I care about the copy, I try to get requests returned quickly and if people like working with me and what I do, then they keep me on and take me other places with them. But what if you don’t have an agent? Casting directors in LA hold classes! This is a great way to meet them. Yes, it costs money. So wait until you are ready to showcase yourself to them. Because I know they will call you in again if you are good! 

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

No, I do not! This is what is so fabulous about radio! I have a variety of stations Country, CHR, Rock, Top 40 and Alternative. I get to do everything.  I started voicing TV Promos, then Commercials, then Animation. Voicing radio stations, I read on promos, commercials, sing and sometimes play characters! I have never been confined to one area or genre.  And it keeps me on my toes moving from genre to genre every day. Keeps me versatile and creative and allows me to continue to love my job!

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

Well, I would say Madonna but I waited on her once at a fancy restaurant I worked at so I kinda feel like I already did that! Ha. She smelled like raspberries and I have never seen so many other people take notice of a famous person. The room was hers! And she did nothing but walk in, sit down and eat her food. It was surreal. But my real answer would Jim Hensen. Hands down. I connected with Kermit the Frog from an early age. 

Who are your VO idols/mentors?

So much fantastic female talent out there, Jessica Bogart, Rena-Marie Villano, Vanessa Marshall, Lisa Keyes, Rachel McGrath, Kelly Doherty, Heather Walters, Anne Dewig, Kari Whalgren, Kate Higgins, Amanda Madi, Taylor Kaye, Cindy Robinson, Marieve Harrington, Joanna Rubiner, Melissa Disney, Jessica Lynn, Blaze Berdahl, Anne Vydra, Tara Sands, Sylvia Villagran and hundreds of others!

The real superstars are the people who make me and everyone else sound SO good! 

The producers! Adam Schneider, Scott Fisher, Dan Stone, Justin Dove, Ron Tarrant, Steve Dubbs, Pants, LF Fabiosa, AJ Traspaderme, Chris Rice, Dan Gustafson, John Reilly, Taz, Justin Weiner, Chris Knowles, Albert To, Troy Dorman, Greg Murray, Matthew Anderson, Patrick Laporte, CJ Wilson, Patrick Laporte, Andy Safnauer, Edward Sisneros, Chris Chatburn, Brian Thomas, Sean Galbraith, Brian Viggiani, Axel Lowe, Trevor Shand, Benztown Imaging, Rich Witt, Ryan Drean, Savannah Volzone, and so many others! Can I name them all?  I can keep going….

Thank you to ALL of them over the years who made me sound the way I do!  I couldn’t have done any of this without YOU!

Visit Wendy’s website to check out her demos and projects!

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