Benztown Voice-Over Blog
We are so excited to have Kelly Malone join our roster! She’s got a versatile voice that’s perfect for any station. Oh and total side bar…she has a Stanley Cup ring…WHAT!
What radio VO work have you done in the past? I have been voicing radio stations for close to 15 years; mainly in the Northeast including markets around New England and Pennsylvania.
What are you up to presently? Freelancing and loving it! I spent close to 8 years hosting mornings on WBMX in Boston and have been doing voiceovers ever since. Commercial and radio imaging are my passions.
What do you love about your job? I’m a media geek. When most people turn off commercials, I love listening to the latest production and radio station imaging…and I still love hearing myself on radio and TV!
How did you get started as a VO actor? What was your first gig? My VO career began while I was hosting mornings in Boston. I picked up some commercial gigs and radio stations to image. One of my good friends, the great voice talent, Damon Oaks, was the Imaging Director at the station and helped me gain a few clients to voice after I was off the air in the morning.
Have you ever had a voice coach? Would you recommend it? Yes! and Yes! I’ve worked with the legendary Marice Tobias. Her guidance has been worth its weight in gold.
What is your dream gig? I spent 11 seasons as the Public Address Announcer for the Boston Bruins…but I’m still waiting to voice a McDonalds commercial.
Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry? Don’t give up; you won’t get every gig, but you’ll get the gigs perfect for you. Talk to audio engineers for advice on affordable equipment. Never correct your clients. And don’t wear headphones.
If you weren’t doing voiceover, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career? Media in general has always been a passion. I’ve hosted a TV show for the local CBS affiliate in Boston, but radio and voice work has always been what I love. Although I’d love to be on a sitcom.
What’s it like being a part of the voiceover community? I’ve been lucky to have many ultra-successful friends in the industry who have been nothing but supportive!
How do you schedule/prioritize your work? Work is always a priority. I’m constantly in contact with clients in cast there is a scheduling conflict or if I’ll be out of studio. Courtesy goes a long way.
How much time do you spend auditioning for new work? Depends on the length of the script. I try not to get caught up in my head too long, but always listen back to the audio with a critical ear while trying not to over think it!
How do you market your services to potential clients? Word of mouth has worked wonders for me and I’m in the process of updating my website while beginning to market my services.
Which production system do you use and why? Well…Garage Band, to be honest! I spent quite a bit of money on Logic a few years ago, which was unnecessary. A good friend of mine, who is an audio engineer, set up my recording system. It’s been highly effective for the last 8 years!
What gear do you use? Focusrite and M-Audio at home; Apogee One for Mac when I’m traveling.
How has new technology changed the way you work? You can work from anywhere!
What is the best voice processing trick or voice-over technique everyone should know? My audio engineering friends!
1) What radio VO work have you done in the past? After doing my first commercial at 12 years old, I started in radio at 15 and became a Production Director at 17 and then Imaging Director for stations in my hometown of Colorado Springs including: KKMG, KKFM, KILO, KKCS and KVUU. I later voiced KSPN/Aspen, KSNO/Steamboat, KSMT/Breckenridge, KAFA/US Air Force Academy and KTFX/Muskogee. I also help at US-103.5 Tampa from time to time.
2) What are you up to presently? I’ve been a freelance VO talent since 2001 and have been with the legendary Atlas Talent since 2011. I’ve worked for ABC, CBS, Discovery, History, Nat Geo, TBS, truTV, A& E, Spike, Cartoon Network and others. I’ve currently been working as the promo voice for the Weather Channel during all the hurricanes in 2017. I’ve been getting into TV affiliate too and just picked up 4 stations! I also own a post-production studio called Audio Architects for sound design and commercial work.
3) What do you love about your job? I love that every day is different and it’s always an adventure! I absolutely enjoy helping spread the word with the power of voice.
4) How did you get started as a VO actor? I did my first Commercial at 12…my sister was a model and the agency needed a kid for a commercial for a local Chiropractor. That commercial is on my site at www.davehoffmann.com.
5) What was your first gig? I worked in promotions at KATM. I was a mascot. Yup…a “Kat”. You’ve gotta start at the bottom and work your way up, right? lol
6) Have you ever had a voice coach? YES. I trained and learned from many of them.
7) Would you recommend it? Absolutely. You don’t know…what you don’t know. It made a huge difference in my ability to self-direct and my range.
8) Who are your VO idols/mentors? I remember rewinding tapes of Brian James and Joe Kelly and trying to learn off the reels they sent in where I produced. (Boy, that was a long time ago, eh?). I later was able to work with the talented Chris Corley, the late Sam O’Neil and Joe Cipriano. I have also always been a huge fan of Dave Foxx and Brian Lee! Brian once used my studio for a week while on vacation in 2007 and that’s when I really got bitten by the VO bug. Undoubtedly, I’ve learned a lot about this business from Jonn Wasser at Atlas too. His belief in me changed my life.
9) Who influenced your work as a VO artist? My coaches, for sure! I’m better because of them! And Brian Lee has been a big supporter of my work and I owe a lot to that guy.
10) What is your dream gig? I’d love to voice Z100 or KIIS FM. Who wouldn’t, right? They are epic stations!
11) Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry? Get coaching to get better, be persistent and don’t give up.
12) If you weren’t doing voiceover, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career? I hope I never know, but I wouldn’t mind being a race car driver.
13) What’s it like being a part of the voiceover community? This business of VO is growing and becoming more competitive. But, conversely, what I love is that people still are willing to help each other along the journey. It’s a supportive bunch as we all hear no…way more than yes! Oh, and hearing great talent is always humbling…and inspiring!
14) How do you schedule/prioritize your work? I try to do it as it comes. But some scripts are more urgent than others and I shuffle around things every day. You know, like they say, “Everyday I’m shufflin’”!
15) How much time do you spend auditioning for new work? It’s daily and often.
16) How do you market your services to potential clients? I try to make connections everywhere I go. You truly always have to be planting seeds and watering your “Client Garden”.
17) Which production system do you use and why? I love ProTools, and after 15 years, it’s hard to stop.
Dave’s booth AND his two studios in case one goes out. That’s dedication!
18) What are your favorite plugins? I love WAVES. They have everything you could need. The C4, L1 Ultramaximizer and on and on. Izotope is awesome too.
19) What gear do you use? I use the Neuman TLM-103 and Sennheiser 416 shotguns with Presonus and Symetrix pre-amps. The booth I made with my Dad years ago helps make it all nice and quiet. I even recently recorded VO when my house was being re-roofed and on the same day my neighbor put up a new fence. Nothing will stop me from talking. Ha!
20) How has new technology changed the way you work? I think technology is making us all faster. Source Connect is awesome but I still like ISDN.
21) What is the best voice processing trick or voice-over technique everyone should know? Try talking quiet, you can sometimes sound huge that way.
22) Do you have a different approach to reading radio imaging copy as opposed to TV/Radio commercial ads? Radio Imaging can still be very stylized in sound, whereas many commercials are more natural these days. I do what is needed to cut through, but I think knowing what you are talking about and finding an angle to share the story is the biggest thing. It all starts with the copy.
23) What did it feel like the first time you heard your voice on the radio/television? Hearing myself the first time is still the same feeling as it is now. It’s pretty cool.
24) If you could go back to any decade and hang out which one would you go back to and why? I liked the 90’s, it’s where I grew up. I would just tell myself to “go for it” sooner.
25) If you could invite one person to dinner, living or dead, who would it be? I would like to dine with Casey Kasem. You know, cause he would have the best radio stories.
26) What’s your guilty pleasure? Dark Chocolate…and Seinfeld.
27) If you could travel anywhere in the world right now where would you go and why? I’ve always been fascinated by Egypt…but Paris or NYC is always awesome too.
From Fox News to big moves, we caught up with our “can’t stop won’t stop” friend Pete Gustin…who by the way, nails Blue Steel. I mean come on! It must be hard being that ridiculously good looking.
1) What have you been up to lately (new projects, life happenings, etc)?
Well it’s been a busy year. In July 2016 I sold my house in the suburbs of Boston and built a brand new house and a brand new studio right by the beach in North County San Diego. 8 months later, I landed the largest single VO job I could ever imagine getting in becoming the new voice of the Fox News Channel along with Fox News Radio and all of their affiliated network properties. The opportunity came out of the blue but actually landing the job was A LOT of work. I’ve added six new stations to my roster in the last year including major markets like Boston and Denver and also became the Creative Director in Charge of Music Imaging for TuneIn. I’d been the voice of TuneIn for the past 3 years but took on the added responsibility of running their imaging near the end of 2016. My work in the land of movie trailers has also been going great as I was able to be a part of the latest Pirates of the Caribbean campaign over the summer of 2017. Along with all that WORK, I’ve decided to try and have some FUN out here in San Diego as well. Some may know and others may not, but I am legally blind suffering from a degenerative eyesight disorder called Stargadt’s disease. The disease made it impossible for me to “read” copy and so I developed my ear prompter system. It also made it impossible for me to partake in any of the sports my friends in Boston were playing like basketball, golf, tennis and all that good stuff that involves….you know….seeing. Since I’m right around the corner from the Pacific out here though, I walked into a surf shop in late October 2016 and grabbed a surf board thinking “hey…the ocean is pretty damn HUGE. I can probably see that, right?”. I started with an 8 foot foam board and just a few months later was riding with some pros down in La Jolla on my 6’ 2” Channel Island Pod Mod. It’s super exciting for me to be able to get out of the studio and do something really physical. True I might end up getting eaten by a shark someday….but at least I’ll never get hit in the face with a return volley of a tennis ball. The latter is SO MUCH more embarrassing and “blind guy eaten by shark while surfing off coast of San Diego” is a pretty cool headline.
2) You’ve had an outstanding career already. What are some goals you have professionally?
I started in radio and always wanted to be the voice of as many radio stations as would have me. Every time a station makes the choice to use me as their voice I get all kinds of excited just as if it was the very first time. There are just so many people doing VO’s these days, the fact that a station can decide on just one of them…and it ends up being me…..is a huge honor and I absolutely love that feeling. I want to experience it as often as I can. I also had a pie in the sky dream of becoming the voice of a TV Network and never would have dreamed I’d land that job as the voice of the most watched cable network in America in Fox News. Now, I’m looking to do even more in TV promos and especially trailers. The trailer pool is an extremely small and extremely elite pool of talent and I’m both super excited and very honored to be competing with them for those coveted jobs. Going forward, I’d like to land more and more of them.
3) Any new gear or upgrades?
Most of my gear is still the same, but I made a HUGE upgrade to my studio. I built this San Diego house from scratch and so I was able to build a really awesome studio inside of it. I hired a company called Sound Proof San Diego to build me a booth from the studs up. The walls are air gapped, packed with max weight vinyl and all that other good stuff that makes a booth bomb proof. All my “gear” is outside the booth and anything inside runs completely silently. I close this door….and I’m in an amazingly silent little cocoon where the only thing I have to worry about and focus on is my performance. I love it.
4) How has new technology changed the way you work?
If this were maybe just 15 years ago, I don’t even think I’d be able to be in this business. The text to speech technology I use to “read” copy has literally given me the ability to work in my dream job. without little robot voices reading copy into my ear buds, I’d never be able to “read” copy and would just have to get a WHOLE LOT better at surfing so I could get sponsored and do that professionally.
5) What advice can you give to aspiring voiceover artists trying to get into the biz?
Two things. First is – be patient. Second is – use your own voice. Starting a VO career takes just a second. Buy a mic. Buy a computer. Boom….your career has begun. Getting people to pay you to speak into that mic and send it to them via that computer could take years. Honestly, I started trying to get into VO’s when I was just 18 years old. It was a decade later before I was making any sort of money doing it and another five years after that before I was able to actually begin supporting myself with VO work. It takes time…and patience. As for using your own voice, that’s another one that took me a LONG time to learn. While it can help to listen to some of the more popular voices out there, what you don’t want to do it try to copy them. think about it, if someone wanted a voice that sounded like them….they’d just hire them…not you doing a copy of them. have confidence in your own unique sound. Don’t’ force anything. Do what comes naturally to you. Be super confident about it and focus on your read. read that last sentence very carefully. FOCUS ON YOUR READ. do not focus on the timber of your voice or the pitch and tone of it. just let your voice do its own natural thing and you…..you focus on reading that copy and trying to convey the message the writer wants you to convey.
Contact & Social Links:
Pete’s Website: http://petegustin.com/
Howard Cogan…yeah, that guy. It’s been awhile since we’ve interviewed our talented voiceover friend so…yeah, here it is.
What have you been up to lately? I have actually been exploring more video content, there’s so much that can be done and right now it’s still the wild west. It’s like a radio station with no bosses! Well maybe, except for Mark Zuckerberg and the Google guy.
You’ve had an outstanding career already. What are some goals you have professionally? My goals are to keep evolving. I got lucky once, the next bolt of lightning may strike somewhere completely different or just hit me right in the ass, who knows?
Any new gear or upgrades? Gotta really get rid of the Mac Mini one day but it still works. Love my Universal Apollo. I am really a gear minimalist. Hardware breaks, plugins just crash.
Nowadays it seems necessary to have your hands in multiple aspects of the industry, not just one. How do you feel about that? Unfortunately all I do is voiceover but I honestly don’t see that as a full time thing much longer for most of us. As the talent pool dilutes, so does the value of the individual as well as the available equity. It’s posing an interesting problem for many of us who have done this for a while as to what the skill of voiceover artist can leverage itself to next. My hunch is probably a massive pivot or a government program.
Looking back, what do you think about? Wins and losses but never the ties.
Looking forward what are you excited about? HOCO NEWS.
Valerie, we’re so glad we could catch up with you. Remind us how you got started in the biz, what VO work you’ve done in the past and what you are up to currently? I was a kid when I got started! I was working at my college station WFUV-NY, and there was a card on the bulletin board in the hallway asking for voices for a project. I applied, and got the job. I was paid $25 and I was thrilled. I realized if I could get one job, then I could get two, and three and more. And so I embarked upon my VO journey. I have had the pleasure of being at the same radio station for 24 years in the best market in the country! I hosted mid-days on powerhouse music station 106.7 Lite-FM, New York City. I’ve also hosted and produced several syndicated radio shows heard nationally and worked at talk station WOR, also in NY. I’m currently imaging news station 1010 WINS in NYC, CHUP in Calgary, Canada and WBEI in Tuscaloosa, among others. I also just picked up KVSF-FM in Santa Fe. What I love is that every day is different. From narrating audio books, to doing live VOG work, to commercials to radio imaging…you never know what to expect!
From your experience, have you ever had a voice coach? What helpful tips can you offer up and coming VO artists who are trying to make it in the industry? I have never had a voice coach. And when I think of it, I have never been coached in any areas of performance from acting to radio to voiceover, I just learned on the job. However, I do recommend it these days because the opportunities are plentiful and so many people have jumped into the pool. If you are someone interested in getting into voiceover, I highly recommend doing your research; articles, books, websites, all the information you can consume. Prepare and know that you have to: 1) Work on your craft/practice, listen back, and develop that “discerning ear.” You must learn to self-direct. 2) Become proficient in technology. You have to be able to record, edit and send, at the very minimum. 3) Understand that you must market yourself. You are your own brand so you have to find the avenues to where the work is and the decision makers are. Google is your very best friend!
What gear do you use and how has technology changed the way you work? Any production tricks you’d like to share? I use Pro Tools because it is what I was introduced to. I also use a RE-20 microphone, Apogee, and Apogee Maestro. Technology has quite simply and literally provided a world of opportunities. You can work all over the globe from the comfort of your own home. Priceless! Here’s one trick I use when auditioning for a casting director and there are no headphones. I really like headphones and feel a bit uncomfortable without them. It is an old school trick that was taught to me. To be able to replicate the sound of headphones, put your hand around one ear and push it forward. You can use that technique and hear yourself so much better!
What is one of your VO goals? Being the announcer for an episodic television show, or a daily talk show, and the VOG for a national awards show.
Looking back, what do you think about? I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to either introduce on stage or interview giants in the music industry on so many occasions. Those experiences absolutely stand out in my mind.
Looking forward, what are you excited about? I continue to use my voice every day, teach privately, conduct workshops, consult with brands, and develop content. Every day is different for me, and every day I have this gorgeous mosaic of responsibility to tackle. It is fun and daunting at the same time!
We hear you’ve got the golden gloves and taken up boxing, do you ever have anyone specific in mind when you’re hitting the bag ;)? You know, I am concentrating so hard on the choreography and strategy of boxing that that that doesn’t even occur to me. There is so much to keep in mind when boxing, so it’s all about the technique for me, not so much the power or even the hitting.
We are animal lovers over here and you’ve got 2 furry friends. What pets do you have and what are their names? I have two little girl guinea pigs, Nocciolina and Nebbiola. They are absolutely adorable and make me laugh every day. Will send photos! I am going to be acquiring my mother’s cat soon. His name is Bailey and he is black and white and beautiful.
Lucas, we know you’ve got a lot going on so lets get started! So how have you been??
CRAZY! And I mean crazy GOOD! 2016 was such a supernova year, I had no idea how 2017 was gonna top it… but it did! And not only professionally, my wife and I adopted two baby brothers. Our two guys, we just love them to death. So now I’m living the #dadlife. When they start school I’m assuming they’ll be the only ones with a recording studio in their basement.
Professionally I’m hitting places I only dreamed about years ago. And that’s all thanks to my rep team. My agent Nate at CESD and my manager Marc at ACM. Wow. Where to start with them. Having solid representation is key. It’s access to work, access to coaches, access to their knowledge and experience. And they just know what to do with every deal and every challenge that comes up. You get to working as such a team. I hold so much love and admiration for them. And trust. That’s the key. Your team will fight for you, support you, and I know I can bring anything to them and it’s gonna get handled.
And not to mention of course the amazing Benztown people. Some of the most professional people on the planet here. It’s crazy. Do any of you have bad days? I have no idea cause every time I pick up the phone you guys sound on top of the world.
You are becoming the new sound of Urban radio. Was that a goal of yours?
We initially fired things up with my imaging in spring of 2015, and my first get out of the gate was Big Boy. Which I know is ridiculous. But there’s the “ten year overnight success” thing. You make friends, and contacts, and you practice, and you’re just there and present and available. There’s a dear dear friend and mentor of mine that is almost solely responsible for my entire career. He’s kinda on the inside so I’m not sure if he wants me to mention him or not. But there’s people like that you just end up being close with. And when they say ok we need this or that, hey Lucas is ready, let’s give him a shot. And hopefully you hit it out of the park when you get that shot.
The Urban thing is definitely one of my areas that I wanted to jump on. Urban radio is one of the most fun formats to listen to. It’s so unapologetic. It’s intense and sometimes over the top and funny and serious and a nonstop party, and just everything. It’s in this big growth mode right now and is everywhere. And it’s so great to read. You can be silly and fun, but then menacing and dangerous all in the same ID. I give it this driving modern sort of sound. Seems to work well!
Any new gear or upgrades?
Yes! Can I talk about this for hours?? My wife is bored to tears hearing about it, hopefully you’re a tad more interested. I’ve upgraded a few things, I added the Audient ID22 to my chain. What a beast. It’s got some serious preamps. I had been using this old gear that wasn’t doing what I needed it to. But this thing picks up stuff on mic I hadn’t heard before. It’s funny I actually had to improve my mic technique. And for some reason I waited until this year to investigate these “plugins” that everyone talks about. I now roll a 1073 EQ on my VO then feed it into an LA-3A plugin.
You don’t just do imaging, you branch out into other VO areas. How’s that going?
It’s challenging but going well. I’m currently in the midst of some in-depth trailer and promo coaching. Every aspect of this is so competitive, you need to be on the absolute top of your game at all times.
For this aspect, the job is auditioning. Competing in it is like being signed to the Red Sox. You’re a draft pick in the majors. Every audition is a pitch. First you need to learn how to hit the ball (return a good audition), then you need to learn how to hit a homerun (nail it). And then once you can hit a homerun, you get compared to all the other homeruns that were hit, and hope they like your homerun the best. It’s here that your demos don’t matter. Your resume doesn’t matter, the sound of your name doesn’t matter. All that matters, is how good that particular read is.
Also, you gotta be available. If they go to you once and you’re difficult “oh sorry I’m out shopping” you can bet they won’t be back. You need to be really flexible. Tuesday at 2? Thursday at 9pm? You got it. Everyone’s got a story about having to leave dinners out with your wife, family vacations etc.
You’ve also gotta step off one type of read and step up to another. I could be cutting liners for my kickin’ San Diego station Jam’n 95.7 SHOUT OUT WHATUP ROB AND FRANKIE AND PABLO AND MELISSA, LOVE YOU GUYS and then an audition comes in. National TV insurance commercial. Or a trailer for an animated movie. Changing gears is something you don’t think about until it hits you and you’re frustrated and straining “why isn’t this sounding good”. Oh right I’m still in that imaging mindset.
Looking back, what do you think about?
I think about how I’m glad I worked at it as much as I did. I have no idea if I’ve hit my 10,000 hours yet (probably not), but the fierce intensity and laser focus of this is something I am truly thankful of my past self. We were talking about this last time. Like how I used to do morning radio, work at it during my shift, go home and sleep, then go back to the studio after dinner and train more, etc. I also think about what everyone looking back thinks about: what was I so worried about. It would keep me up at nights. I gotta do this, gotta do that. What if, what if. But of course that is what drives you. If I got into coding I’d be up all night practicing until I could make an app as good as Angry Birds.
Looking forward what are you excited about?
Honestly I get excited about all of it. Every aspect of this has something that gets me pumped. I gotta say there’s something magical about finding a passion where I actually get a little bummed out when the weekend comes!
Nate Zeitz, CESD: email@example.com or 212-477-1666