Benztown Voice-Over Blog
What a great day to hear from our talented friend and voiceover artist, Harry Legg! It’s been a while since we last checked in with Harry on the Benztown Voiceover Blog and a lot of awesomeness has been happening with him both in and outside of the studio.
1) What have you been up to lately (new projects, life happenings, etc)?
On the radio imaging VO side, I voice the NBC Sports Radio Network. I have also been having a lot of fun with international clients like Cork’s 96 FM in Ireland, 89.7 Bay in Malta, Beat FM in Jordan and most recently I’ve landed on Radio 1 in the UAE, an English language CHR that covers the country out of both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It’s great to work again with Benztown’s Scott Phillips who is providing Radio 1’s production wizardry. It’s been another year of growth and learning. Besides being part of the Benztown team – I voice the Benztown CHR service, the Today in Rock History feature, I signed with Atlas Talent Agency last year and they have helped me expand into other areas. Nickelodeon and Travel Channel are a couple of the clients that have come my way. I’ve also been working on my video production skills. I use Final Cut Pro and created my most recent voiceover demo as a video. If you’re one of my Facebook friends, you’ll see plenty of martial arts training and teaching posts for my school, New Jersey Tai Chi. Most people don’t realize it’s a vicious martial art – they think it’s just an exercise for old folks…far from it! Tai Chi Chuan has equal parts martial and equal parts health and healing. In the next year, I’ll be making more and more online instructional videos.
Check out Harry’s Imaging VO demo:
2) You’ve had an outstanding career already. What are some goals you have professionally?
I want to continue evolving. As the business changes, I want to make sure I’m on the top of my game. I’ve been fortunate to work at some legendary calls, KIIS-FM, WKTU, and at a very special station where the passion was at an all-time high, Energy in Chicago. It’s not possible to recreate the magical days at any of those stations. Voicing for stations that are having fun, that are creative, that want to establish loyalty and emotional bonds with the listener is what turns me on from an imaging VO standpoint. Continued growth in the other voiceover categories is important as well – I enjoy sports promo VO and TV documentary narration.
3) Any new gear or upgrades?
Yes! I travel a lot, primarily for martial arts training and teaching, so mobile gear is always something I’m looking at so that I can provide the best quality VO from the road. I’m a bit of an audio freak and really pay attention to the acoustic environment as well as the transparency of the electronics I’m using for the mic preamp. I recently received the long-awaited CEntrance MixerFace R4. After hearing the quality of the company’s previous unit, the MicPort Pro, I was immediately excited to have their latest piece, which promised an even cleaner mic pre and connectivity to smartphones. They did not disappoint in the quality department – it sounds really clean and smooth. It will be my new travel interface along with a Sennhesier 416. The MicPort Pro will be my backup. I’ll bring my MacBook Pro, but it’s great to know that if that should die or if Pro Tools should decide to give me any BS, I can plug right into the iPhone. I use the Twisted Wave app and it works very well.
4) Is there any crossover between your voiceover career and your martial arts career?
Yes, I’ve found several ways. I combined my passions with an ad that I called “Vocal Kung Fu” –where I had headphones on while wielding a Chinese broadsword and speaking into the mic. Plus, we all know that you need to have thick skin in the media business. Martial training helps provide a very strong mindset – you know how hard you train and what you have learned to endure – that training directly translates to confidence and a focused mind when it comes to business decisions and difficult situations. While others may be freaking out about something, the martial artist typically has control. Then there’s the obvious, a healthier you means you feel better and thus, sound better. I recently saw a funny Tai Chi FB post, “Are you rich? Do you want to live long to enjoy your wealth? Practice Tai Chi.” There is also crossover in that I voice and produce promos for martial arts events. I am also beginning to spend more time in front of the camera lens as a teacher. Now, here comes the face for radio wisecracks!
5) What advice can you give to aspiring voiceover artists trying to get into the biz?
Get coaching! Spending hours everyday talking over Cardi B, Blake Shelton, Drake, Led Zeppelin, or presenting the news will affect your delivery. Radio has a different delivery style that almost always sounds a bit forced. Radio is a bad word in the voiceover industry. Seriously. That doesn’t mean we leave radio if you want to do agency level voiceover work. It means you invest in yourself and your business. Take acting/improv classes and/or get a professional voiceover coach to sledgehammer the radio out of you and teach you the various voiceover industry protocols. Next, network! Here’s my quick Benztown networking story: I was working as the Creative Director at WKTU in NYC and was listening online to overseas stations for inspiration. I heard an amazing promo on 2day FM in Sydney. I called the Creative Director, Kacey Baker. We struck up a friendship and he ended-up hiring me to be the American VO for the station as well as most of the CHR’s in the company across 12 markets in Australia! All because I reached out with that one phone call. Andreas Sannemann, CEO of Benztown in Stuttgart, Germany was listening online to 2day FM. He was just starting Benztown Branding with Dave “Chachi” Denes, who is the President of Benztown in Los Angeles. He played my voice for Chachi and asked if he knew who it was. We knew each other because Chachi worked at KBIG while I was working in the cluster at KIIS-FM. Chachi said, I know that guy! He called me in New York and I became the very first Benztown voiceover talent as well as one of the imaging producers that helped get Benztown up and running! You never know what twists and turns will happen in your career – stay in touch with people. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Network! I made a video several years ago about my transition from radio to voiceover and have included that link with the interview. Thank You Benztown for checking in with me!
Connect with Harry
Tasia Valenza is an Emmy-nominated actress for her work playing the role of Dottie Thornton on All My Chilren and has acted in numerous television shows and series throughout her illustrious career before finding her true passion off-camera as a voiceover actor. She’s had the good fortune of being one of the top female voiceover artists in the county over the last several years, having voiced thousands of national commercials, promos for major networks, narrations, etc. Known for her range and versatility, Tasia is best known for her Iconic strong female roles in video games and animated television shows such as Poison Ivy in Batman: Arkham Games, General Shaak Ti in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and SniperWolf in the Classic Video game Metal Gear Solid., to name a few. She’s also worked in radio imaging over the last twelve years in radio stations around the country!
What radio VO work have you done in the past (stations/markets)?
I started in radio imaging after a successful vo career in all the other mediums, when I was handpicked by Alan Burns for the the Movin format and have remained there since 2006 I worked for years at Chicago’s rewind 100.3 as well as other markets around the country.
What are you up to presently (freelance/on-staff at a station)?
I’ve been the female voice of the Marconi winning 101.1 More FM for the last eight years and counting.
What do you love about your job?
My motto is I love what I do and I do what I love and for me that’s exceeding my client’s expectations! I love collaborating with my clients and being able to translate their direction quickly, and easily and make it a fun and creative experience.
How did you get started as a VO actor?
They say, “Mother knows best” and for me that’s true! My mother helped me start my on camera acting career with a bang when I was just 15 being cast opposite Sean Penn in a Louie Malle film called Crackers and went on acting in movies, television shows, including being nominated for an Emmy for All My Children.
In my twenties my mother told me she’d met a girl doing voiceovers and insisted I attempt it. Being a good mother she nagged me until I tried it and found my true calling translating my love for acting into my love for voice acting.
What was your first gig? Any memorable ones since then?
My very first voiceover job was a radio spot for Blockbuster video.
I’ve been blessed with a long and fruitful career with some of the highlights being the voice of Soapnet for 10 years which combined my love of VO with my soap opera background so well.
I’ve also been lucky enough to do a lot of animation and video games and have played some iconic roles such as Poison Ivy in many games and then some as well as Shaak ti from Star Wars the Clone Wars and Sniper Wolf from Metal Gear Solid.
I’ve recently been the new computer for newest Star Trek Discovery series which super cool, and I created an affirmation meditation app called Haven which is a passion project that allows me to give back in a meaningful way. I also love to donate my voice to charities and was thrilled to be part of an Emmy winning video for the Wild life Sanctuary, playing a magnificent lioness named Morelia.
Who are your VO idols/mentors?
I was privileged to know and be mentored by the late Don Lafontaine for promo and trailers, which was pretty cool since he was the king of “In a world.”
If you weren’t doing voiceover, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career?
I’d be teaching “Giving Great Voice” which is the art of confident verbal communication, by thinking like a voice actor in your own life! (which I do:) )
What did it feel like the first time you heard your voice on the radio/television?
I loved it, because it was the first time I was freed from the physical limitations of what I looked like, which my on camera career was so much a part of.
How has new technology changed the way you work?
I was limited only by what my voice could do and it was and still is exhilarating! That’s also where my “hat logo branding came from, since it allows for a little mystery. (plus it’s an excuse to buy more hats ☺)
It’s also been liberating. The old saying for successful VO artists is that you have on golden handcuffs because you have to be in your studio or near it because the old technology was not portable. I missed out on my trip honeymoon, because I couldn’t transport my telos box and my isdn lines.
Now I have source connect and IDPTL and along with my equipment and a good closet, I can pretty much work anywhere.
Which production system do you use and why? Any favorite plugins?
I have had my trusty sennheiser 416 shotgun for over fifteen years and it’s never failed me in keeping noise room at a minimum and my voice at a maximum.
That, my headphones, my apogee one and my Macbook pro and I are good to go, “I call it VO on the GO.”
How do you schedule/prioritize your work? How much time do you spend auditioning for new work?
I’m a big believer in always continuing to grow and expand my talents and keep them sharp. I’ve had and still have vocal coaches, acting coaches and singing coaches. I love honing and refining my craft and keeping my main instrument, my voice at its best.
I’m lucky enough to work in many voiceover mediums so each day brings something new. I voice multiple stations so there’s usually something in my inbox for me to turn around by the next day. I also have several agents around the country so there are always auditions and jobs to turn around which I can all from the comfort of my own studio, unless it’s animation in which case I always head over to an outside studio.
I’m a social media convert. I used to be resistant to it, but since I’ve learned to embrace it, I’ve connected with all kinds of different clients from around the world and it’s been a great opportunity that would not have been possible when I first started. I particularly love Integra since it’s become more than just photos so I can share videos as well.
What is the best voice processing trick or voiceover technique everyone should know?
My favorite VO trick that everyone should know is the lovely “lead in” which I use in every medium from Radio imaging saying “OH Yeah!” to get my energy going before I say my first excited line to. Here’s the coolest thing before I say the word “introducing.” It helps to get “into a script” in a more organic and real way.
Do you have a different approach to reading radio imaging copy as opposed to TV/Radio commercial ads?
Every medium is different and even in each medium there are different reads. Sometimes when I’m reading Imaging copy it’s big and fun and over the top and then sometimes it’s man or in my case “woman on the street” Each is unique and I draw upon my acting skills to tap into the right read for each piece of copy.
Three tips for newbies would be to join a FB Voiceover group or on LinkedIn to learn from those that have gone before. Listen to the current trends in VO to stay current. And work on your craft. There is no substitute for that.
If you could go back in time and hang out in any decade which one would you go back to and why?
I would go back to the eighties since it seemed like such a fun, decadent and yet simple time and dance the night away!
Favorite 2 pizza toppings?
Favorite two topping pizza, eggplant and caramelized onion.
If you could invite one person to dinner, living or dead, who would it be?
If I could invite someone to dinner, it would be my mom who passed away five years ago, so I could ask what it’s really like on the other side and share with her my wonderful and blessed life.
Affirmation Meditation App: http://haven.am/
Dave Steele had many different career opportunities, like an electrical engineer. That is what he spent all of his tuition money on. Or, a firefighter, for 8 years, he did that too; dealing with structure fires to auto extrication, even a first responder and training on R.I.T. (Rapid Intervention Teams). The other option was scuba search and recovery; he also did that for a sheriff’s department for 2 years. All great experiences, but throughout, he still loved the radio and entertainment business, and he has been doing it since 1985. Dave started in radio at 15 and by the time he was 22 he was a Program Director. He has been on the air in every day part and position since. The Voice Overs bug caught him back in the late 90’s and in 2000 officially started Steele Imaging, Ltd. His company provides cost effective voice imaging for all projects across a variety of media platforms. Dave knows the media industry moves fast, which is why his clients enjoy same day turnaround time.
What radio VO work have you done in the past (stations/markets)? I am currently the imaging voice for over 50 radio stations across the US/Canada and one random station in Sweden.
What are you up to presently (freelance/on-staff at a station)? I still do radio imaging VO work but I have also done TV narration and commercial work for local, regional and national spots.
What do you love about your job? The freedom it gives me to be with my kids and family.
How did you get started as a VO actor? I would just eat up hours and hours in radio station production rooms when I first started as an on-air talent. I got better, then people asked me to voice their stations.
What was your first gig? Any memorable ones since then? I started out doing freelance VO/Production work for Paul Orr at WYNK-FM in New Orleans. He was the first guy to ever say, “Yeah. Ill give you a shot.”
Who are your VO idols/mentors? Charlie Van Dyke, of course. As a part time weekend talent at 98.9 Magic FM KKMG-FM in Colorado Springs, Charlie had delivered the most memorable Top Of Hour ID I have ever (still to this day) hear. It was simple. Big. Magnificent. Powerful. Since the station’s transmitter was on Cheyenne Mountain the ID said, “Serving the Magic Kingdom from the Top of the Rockies, KKMG Pueblo, Colorado Springs. Magic-FM” – And if you know Charlie’s pipes… you know how bad ass that sounded.
If you weren’t doing voiceover, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career? I went to school for Electrical Engineering. So… back up plan. Boring. But a back up plan.
What did it feel like the first time you heard your voice on the radio/television? The first time? I was scared shitless. I was on the air at 15 years old.
How has new technology changed the way you work? Reel to Reel and splicing tape. That is how I learned. DO a VO, drop it in the mail. Buy more supplies, get more stamps, drop it in the mail. Now, digital, upload. Done. Much easier. The problem is, everyone with a 20 microphone, any sound card with a 3.5 mm jack and some recording software thinks that they can do this kind of work… problem is, many times, with better tech and lower price points, people will still go ultra cheap and dummy down the entire industry.
What gear do you use on the road? In your studio? I don’t do road gear. I am not pushing records or pharmaceuticals, selling shower curtain rings or traveling with the circus. This is my job, in my office. Not a closet. Not a bathroom with towels and dirty clothes to dampen the acoustics. I keep regular hours. As for my equipment, I will only say Neumann Microphone, great audio card (because if you skimp on the quality of either… it’s crap in. crap out.). I use various software for recording, depending on the project and complexity.
Which production system do you use and why? Any favorite plugins? I don’t record music, play the guitar or try to lay down drum tracks. So, multi-track systems, while I do know how to use them, over complicate my process. I grew up learning DAW systems when they first came out. Windows was the most prevalent platform. As systems and software came and went, I have settled into the Sound Forge product line. Although I have Vegas, Pro-Tools, Audacity, Audition, Cubase, etc. The Sound Forge system does and have everything I need for VO.
How do you schedule/prioritize your work? How much time do you spend auditioning for new work? I don’t treat this like a hobby. A client sends me something, I cut it. I have studio hours and will be working like it’s a real job during those hours.
What is the best voice processing trick or voice-over technique everyone should know? Why would I share that? LOL. Why would any established VO talent share this kind of proprietary info that made him or her successful? It’s an over-saturated business, people are trying to break in all the time. Not to sound mean or insensitive, but processing chains, gear settings, etc. This kind of stuff is what give people their signature sound.
Do you have a different approach to reading radio imaging copy as opposed to TV/Radio commercial ads? Yes. All copy, radio, TV, narration, etc. sent to a VO talent has been written by someone who has a specific sound or vision in mind. The way you (the talent) interpret that may not be correct. Never assume you are awesome and your reads are above reproach. If needed, get input from the writer/producer/director to find out what they were envisioning when they wrote it.
If you could go back in time and hang out in any decade which one would you go back to and why? I had fun all throughout my life. Enjoyed my experiences and failures. I don’t look back. I am excited to see what happens next.
Favorite 2 pizza toppings? Anything. Everything.
If you could invite one person to dinner, living or dead, who would it be? Mike Rowe.
Website (Steele Imaging): http://www.steeleimaging.com/
Thanks for the interview, Dave!
Paula Tiso originally trained in the theater and brings an acting sensibility — and sometimes a little snark — to her work. You may have heard Paula on campaigns for McDonalds, Fedex, American Greetings, Domino’s Pizza, CBS, HGTV, The Jewelry Channel, The Weather Channel, UPTV and can be heard on TV affiliate stations across the country. Paula’s long form narration can be heard on shows for Lifetime, The Smithsonian Channel, and Investigation Discovery. For fun, Paula created and produces the Instagram series, My Take, a voiceover studio travelogue. Pop over to Instagram and check it out!
What radio VO work have you done in the past (stations/markets)? I have been voicing radio stations for close to 10 years mainly in the Midwest, markets around New England and Maine, and even a station in Canada.
What are you up to presently (freelance/on-staff at a station)? Currently I am enjoying freelancing! I work in all areas of voiceover. Radio Imaging and Tv Affiliate work are two of my passions.
What do you love about your job? I could say that I love voiceover because every day is different and that’s true, but what I really want to say is I love this job because every day presents a new set of challenges and I love a new challenge. I like to do the best job possible, and give alternate takes to cover all the bases.
I’m not satisfied until my client is satisfied which makes for happy working relationships.
How did you get started as a VO actor? I was working as a booth director at a talent agency at the same time writing and performing sketch comedy around town. I was spotted by a producer from CBS who happened to be having lunch the very next day with my boss, the head agent. I was called into her office. She was kind of surprised hearing about me from this producer but graciously signed me. It was a case of right place, right time and I was prepared to jump right in.
What was your first gig? Any memorable ones since then? My first vo gig was a commercial for Purina Kitten Chow followed by a Wells Fargo campaign that same week. I have been a voiceover talent for two decades, and have worked on some amazing projects in all areas of VO. Most recently I worked on The Incredibles 2, voicing incidental characters. I am also currently finishing up a new long form narration series for Investigation Discovery.
Who are your VO idols/mentors? I admire so many folks who work in the VO industry. The voiceover world is filled with a spectacular array of very talented and supportive people. While I do not have any specific idols I am inspired by my peers every day to be the best that I can be.
If you weren’t doing voiceover, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career? I think I would like to be a talk show host. I love to visit with people I know and to meet new people. It’s fun to take the time and discover unexpected things about people, step outside of my life, and then share that information and experience with others. Not coincidentally, I do this weekly on my new Instagram series, My Take, a voiceover studio travelogue. It has been a lot of work and a lot of fun.
What did it feel like the first time you heard your voice on the radio/television? I have to admit I got a little teary eyed! That’s a thrill that never goes away for me. It is amazing to be the pick for a job from one of my auditions and it’s even better when work comes from a demo! This is something I never take for granted. It is super fun to hear the radio imaging work that I have done produced and on the air. The high energy and edgy stuff that I have done for radio imaging is one of my favorite kinds of work!
How has new technology changed the way you work? I have been doing voiceover for a while and I don’t even remember how we got stuff done before the current technology. LOL. Today, everything is so immediate and I have to say I LOVE that. I like to get the work done and sent out. If any changes have to be made, I can just run out to my studio, make the change and send that out to my producer. It’s the best! One of my jobs last week was a source-connect session to London from my studio. What a thrill and easy to do!
What gear do you use?
- MAC Pro 12 Core Dual 3.46mhz
- ProTools 12
- Mbox 3 Pro
- Adobe CC
- Avalon M5 High Voltage Pre Amp
- Sennheiser 416
- Neumann U87
- ISDN Telos Zephyr Digital Network Audio Transceiver
- JK Audio Innkeeper 1R Digital Hybrid
- Source Connect
On the road:
- Twisted wave
- Apogee 96k,
- Sennheiser 416 with the mic port pro.
- I love using isotope rx6 to clean up any unexpected bar sounds in the background
Which production system do you use and why? Any favorite plugins? I use Protools 12.7. It’s the most comprehensive post production standard. I share a studio with my husband as he does a lot of post production work. A favorite plugin would be the channel strip in Pro Tools ’cause it sounds great!
Have you ever had a voice coach? Would you recommend it? Yep! I have had voice coaches and yep I would recommend it. We all can use some ‘reconfiguring’ and a VO professional can be so helpful with that process. Gets us out of our own heads. That said, I think it is super helpful to set goals and do your own practicing and studying as a way to reach goals as well. This is how I got into long form narration. It was a self study course lead by me.
How do you schedule/prioritize your work? How much time do you spend auditioning for new work? I take each script as they come in and knock ’em out. If I get an emergency session that is needed ASAP, I will move that up in the queue and get that one out first. I spend a lot of time auditioning for new work. Each morning I set aside time for my auditions. Many days I will record auditions the night before they are due, and in the morning listen and finesse the audition a bit. I try to never overwork an audition. Two takes at most and then move on.
How do you market your services to potential clients? I have a VO website. I keep all my demos updated and current. I have a presence on most of the social media platforms. I also attend conventions geared towards the work I want to see more of in my studio. LinkedIn is a helpful tool as well as email blasts.
When it comes to VO work, studio & gear, what are your most ingenious methods/discoveries for saving time and cash? I sure like to save time and that takes quality studio equipment which answers the second part of this question. I have always felt that it is necessary to invest in my studio and make sure it has all the equipment and maintenance required. Sometimes, you have to spend money to make money.
What is the best voice processing trick or voice-over technique everyone should know? I think staying hydrated is the best voiceover trick we should all know… by now.
Do you have a different approach to reading radio imaging copy as opposed to TV/Radio commercial ads? Absolutely! Radio imaging copy is so fun and there is so much room for creativity, and some improv from the VO Talent. There is also a higher energy which I LOVE and do not usually get to use for TV/radio commercial ads. I do get to do some characters for imaging as well as commercial radio and that’s a lot of fun
Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry?
- Get involved in a VO class with a VO coach and also in a VO workout group. Other people can really help ignite your creative thought process.
- Take an improv class. Loosen up, play, have fun build your confidence.
- Join different VO groups on Facebook or other social media platforms, it really is all about connection.
- Do not rush into making a demo. Make sure you are ready, and if you are in a class/ workout group or have a coach they will be able to advise you.
If you could go back in time and hang out in any decade which one would you go back to and why? I love the 1930’s.Times were tough, but radio was free and just about everyone had one. Aside from the Great Depression, and I am not overlooking that, a lot of good things happened in the 1930’s. Jazz and fashion were fantastic, Hollywood was going strong, we got the Wizard of Oz movie! The Empire State building was built, there was the debut of the first Intercontinental airline flight, and let’s not forget the first chocolate chip cookie!
Favorite 2 pizza toppings? Salad.
If you could invite one person to dinner, living or dead, who would it be? This is a tough one. There are so many people I would love to invite but I would have to say my top pick today (because remember, every day is different) would be Stephen King. There would be no lack of conversation, he’s an amazing storyteller with an incredible imagination and that would make for an interesting dinner. However, I don’t think I would serve anything with bones in it.
P.S. Here’s a picture of Journey, Paula’s studio dog. Journey is actually not an ideal studio dog as she is a loud snorer but she’s allowed in when Paula is editing.
Ben Blankenship is a versatile voice talent specializing in Radio Station Imaging & Affiliate TV Promo Voiceover as well as commercial voiceover. He is represented by Nate Zeitz at CESD Talent, NY.
What are you up to presently? These days I’m providing imaging VO for several stations across the US. I’ve found a home in News Talk, Country, Classic Country, and Rock. I’m also constantly auditioning for commercial and promo VO work.
What do you love about your job? My favorite part of this job is getting to be a part of so many teams. By that I mean that Radio and TV Imaging VO puts you right at the heart of a station’s sound and allows you to be a part of that station’s success. Getting to work closely with so many program directors and brand managers is fun and rewarding. Many of the stations I work for have been with me for longer than 6 years and I take a personal interest in the lives of those station employees and their families. Those relationships are the best part of the gig.
How did you get started as a VO actor? What was your first gig? I was mainly a production director in radio here in Arkansas for 28 years. The last 19 years I worked for the Jonesboro Radio Group in northeast Arkansas. I remember the day my station manager came into the production room and said, “Hey, a lot of production directors can make good money on the side voicing projects for outside clients.” He was open to me exploring that and that was all I needed to hit the “go” button. I soon began asking the ad agencies we worked with how they chose their voices and soon was voicing commercials for agencies 1000’s of mile away. Not long after that I secured a couple of small market stations for imaging VO work and the rest is history. That was back in 1998 when it all got started. I stayed with that production director gig at the Jonesboro Radio Group for a total of 19 years before I wanted to go out on my own in 2015. They were very good to me and allowed me the time I needed to work on my VO projects so I had no trouble staying as long as I did. So a big thank you to Bill Pressly, Trey Stafford and Kevin Neathery for putting up with me for so long at JRG and for fostering a love of VO too.
What is your dream gig? I was one of the two promo voices for Fox News Channel for four years and that was challenging and fun. The truth is I love every gig. The small gigs are just as fun as the big ones. Anyone who hires me sees their own project as a big deal, no matter the market size, so I try to embrace that opportunity with the same passion they feel about it.
Who are your VO idols/mentors? That’s a long list! For “idols,” in the early days it would’ve been Ernie Anderson & Chris Corley on the deeper side and Keith Eubanks on the higher pitch side. As far as mentors, Mike Carta gave me the most advice and personal time helping me understand the industry and even sold me his back up gear for my first home studio. Having a mentor is very important. I think the most important things you can learn from a good mentor have to do with running the business of your voice over career. That’s an area I could still use help in these days. It takes a lot of discipline, which is sometimes hard to come by for creatives like me.
If you weren’t doing voiceover, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career? I’d be a production director in radio again. I always loved the production room. I had no interest in the On-Air side of things. Being let loose in the production room to create audio pieces was my first love.
What did it feel like the first time you heard your voice on the radio/television? It felt surreal. I think the first time that feeling really hit was when a friend told me they’d heard my voice in the market in which they lived. Watching/listening to the promos on Fox News during the time leading up to the most recent presidential election felt the most surreal to me especially during those debates that were so heavily watched by so many viewers.
Which production system do you use and why? New tech in the home studio has taken me a while to embrace. I had always been one to rely on my analog board as the central hub for my studio. Releasing that analog equipment for more up to date digital equipment, like my UA Apollo Twin Duo, sometimes leaves me feeling vulnerable but it’s definitely more efficient and faster.
What gear do you use on the road? When I need the studio onthe road I use a Mac Book Pro with Pro Tools and the Apollo Twin Duo or at least the Mic Port Pro from Centrance, as well as my Sennheiser 416 microphone.
What gear do you use in your studio? My Main set-up is the Universal Audio Apollo Twin Duo, Sennheiser 416 & Neumann U87 microphones, Mac Mini, and Audio Technica headphones. For the software I use the Console of the Apollo to route it all through Pro Tools. Many say Pro Tools is overkill but I’ve been using it for so long in radio that it just feels like home to me. For microphone pre-amps I use the Universal Audio versions of the Neve 88RS channel strip for the Sennheiser 416 and the Manley Voxbox software version for the Neumann U87. I use just a little EQ and very little compression going in and level out the sound in Pro Tools with light Limiting.
Have you ever had a voice coach? Would you recommend it? Coaches for Voice over are very important. I don’t live in LA and can’t attend workshops in person, so I’ve relied on a coach to help me think outside the box and continue to grow in VO.
I’ve most recently worked with Jeff Howell for Promo VO coaching, which I feel has benefits for commercial work and for Imaging work as well.
How do you schedule/prioritize your work? How much time do you spend auditioning for new work? I prioritize work by when it arrives with the exception of booked/scheduled sessions. I try to get the work done within an hour or less or when it comes in. I find the client appreciates speedy work and attention to detail. As far as auditioning I do that whenever I have access to an audition. You should always strive to get your auditions done well before the deadline. It’s our job to audition whether that comes from your agents or from pay-to-play sites. Audition, Audition, Audition.
How do you market your services to potential clients? You can advertise anywhere and everywhere you can or want but the secret to marketing is building relationships with decision makers every chance you get and finding a good source for auditions.
When it comes to VO work, studio & gear, what are your most ingenious methods/discoveries for saving time and cash? I’m not so much of a time saver as some. I’m thorough in making sure I keep all emails and scripts for future reference and safety.
Best voice over technique you’ve ever received? Don’t over compress! Use just enough to level things out and leave final processing up to the producer, unless you are able to hear the final product and notice that a specific producer doesn’t have a handle on things and you’re required to process more to make sure you protect the sound quality of your audio.
Do you have a different approach to reading radio imaging copy as opposed to TV/Radio commercial ads? Radio station imaging styles will vary for each format. TV News Promo VO will vary more based on the emotion of the script. Whereas the Radio Imaging VO will require different emphasis based on the feel of the station and the specific format.
Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry? My first tip for newbies in voiceover is to get a coach as early as you can! Second tip, learn how to run a business!! Find books about going into business for yourself. I didn’t do that early enough and wish I had. My third tip is to not quit your full time job until you simply can’t do both. It’s a big jump to go out on your own. Take all the time you need to make sure it’s the right move for you. Things like saving for retirement and paying for medical insurance are very important.
If you could go back to any decade and hang out which one would you go back to and why? I would go back to the early 80’s and strive to be a radio station imaging voice again. It seems like imaging voices of that era held the most wonder and awe in them and that kept up through the 90’s.
What’s your guilty pleasure? I like mushrooms and spinach!
Ashley Cavaliere is a Connecticut based voice over artist who can be heard on radio stations all across the country. As an imaging voice she can be heard in St. Louis, San Antonio, New Hampshire, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Virginia and more. She’s currently on air mid-days as well as a kicking-butt as a production & creative services director.
What do you love about your job? There are many things I love about my job! As far as being on air, I love to connect with people and use the radio as an outlet to spread positivity and bring attention to great causes. I do a lot with animal rescue. When it comes to the production/imaging and voice over part of my job, I love to create. I love to create and know what I put out on air will be heard by many and hopefully make them smile, or get a message across in a way that I heard and visualized in my head. Being an imaging voice over is my favorite part of my job. I love to read fun copy with different inflections that could bring out an emotion of the listener.
How did you get started as a VO actor? What was your first gig? I started as a radio intern in 2007. I’ve been with the same place ever since, and started helping out with production and imaging reads right away. As far as my first ‘official imaging vo’ gig, that was on KISS983 in Winchester VA.
Have you ever had a voice coach? Would you recommend it? I have never actually had a VO voice coach. I had many mentors and people who gave me incredible advice throughout the years but nothing formal. I used to have a singing coach if that counts? Haha unfortunately my aspiration to be the next Britney Spears did not pan out! I would definitely recommend a coach! It’s something I would love to look into myself. I think wherever there is an opportunity to learn more…take it!
Who are your VO idols/mentors? Who influenced your work as a VO artist? As for mentors and idols in the biz, first and foremost is Kelly Doherty (Kelly Kelly Kelly). She gave me the confidence and encouragement that helped me further peruse what I love . She is a huge inspiration to me on a daily basis especially being a woman. Others who have given me advice and are just truly incredibly talented people that I look up to are Rachel McGrath, Chad Erikson, Diego, Drew Hall, Jeff Berlin … so many!
What is your dream gig? My dream gig is to be a cartoon character voice over!
Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry? I can! A few things I would say are:
- SMILE! That was the first thing I learned as soon as I turned that mic on for the first time. You can really actually hear the smile through the delivery and I feel that it makes you more relatable, and more like a friend to the person listening.
- Network and make as many connections and friends as you can in the industry. You never know when someone will need something or vice versa. Also with this comes ‘be kind to all’!
- Practice inflections. Grab a bunch of random scripts, turn on the mic and just read! Read the sentences in as many different ways as you can. You’ll be surprised as to how one sentence can be interpreted in so many ways. It will also help you ‘find your voice’. Your voice is going to change so much the more you read and work. Listening back to when I first started, I think I sounded like a little mouse! So THANK YOU to that one person who thought I sounded decent enough to broadcast all over the state!
If you weren’t doing voiceover, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career?
I think I would probably be a special education teacher for young kids, or something having to do with animals.
What’s it like being a part of the voiceover community (competitive, supportive, etc)?
I have found nothing but positive vibes in the voice over community. You would think there would be a lot of competition, but in my experience I have so much support and encouragement to others. It’s also such a FUN community to be a part of so I think we’re all just glad to be able to get to do what we love! We’re also all super quirky! haha
How do you schedule/prioritize your work? Personally I like to do things as they come. I am not the best at putting things to the side because it’s possible I could get sidetracked! I will make sure to always get the requested VO back that same day. If there is something that is more sensitive (breaking news etc.), I will stop what I’m doing to make sure they back asap so the stations listeners could be best informed and of course make the station sound relevant. I am an imaging director as well and I know how time sensitive things could be!
How much time do you spend auditioning for new work? I don’t have an exact answer to this one. I often search for gigs, network, and try to create the best demo I can on a daily basis.
How do you market your services to potential clients? I have found that making a website is super beneficial so I can direct the client to the website to hear my work instead of sending huge audio files via email. I also enjoy creating station demo reads. Give the client a little taste of what I’d sound like on their station! I also love to use Instagram @ashleyonair.
Which production system do you use and why? Well, when I was in school I used Adobe Audition 1.5. Then when I started working, the Production Director at the time used Sony Vegas. I used Vegas for a while and really liked it because I feel like the set up is very clean, user friendly and I loved to make videos. Plus, there was a filter on there that I loved to put on my voice. Long story short, our IT guy had to switch out my computer with a new one and it no longer had Vegas!!!! SO, I am now (as of 2012) an avid Adobe Audition Creative Cloud 2015 edition user! I love all the updates and plugins! Oh, and yes, I still believe it or not love using version 1.5 for certain things …
What are your favorite plugins (screenshots, if available)? I use graphic equalizer and dynamics processing. I also love to use the echo effect “pink”. (yes I admit I tried it first because of the name, but it actually did sound cool for promos etc!) Here are some photos … which are screenshots from an older Adobe Audition version.
What gear do you use (microphone, pre-amp, booth, etc)? For my office studio, I use a Shure mic, Ramsa audio mixer, HP computer with Adobe Audition CC. I also have a dual computer screen which is really helpful!
Home studio I use a Rode NT1 microphone, Scarlett 2i audio interface, Sterling MX5 speaker and my mac book pro with Adobe Audition CC. I also use the Apogee One for travel or voicing any time I am away from a studio.
How has new technology changed the way you work? The software updates are always helping me learn new things about filters and processing, giving me new ideas to use in promos, imaging, production etc. It is also AWESOME that I can literally do VO anywhere. If I need to take a trip out-of-state for some reason, I could just bring my Apogee One and laptop and get requested VO back to the client anytime anywhere! I think that’s coolest. There’s even so much you can do on an iPhone or iPad! When I went to broadcasting school, they taught us about reel-to-reel and shortcut. Both I am spoiled in saying I have to had to use for daily work haha! Playing is fun, but props to those who used reel-to-reel everyday … that is talent … and patience!!
What is the best voice processing trick or voice-over technique everyone should know? For VO technique – I know I already mentioned it, but smiling! You can hear SUCH a difference when you do vs when you don’t. Now don’t get me wrong, there are absolutely instances when you don’t want to smile. If a client is more of a serious/attitude driven station or possibly an am station or sports station, it’s not the best route to go, but in CHR, HAC and CTY I have found it to be super useful! Even when I have interns coming in to shadow me and want to try out voicing a commercial, I will have them try reading with and without a smile. 99% of the time (if it’s a spot that calls for sound) the ‘smiley’ once sounds way better. It’s wild how you can actually hear a smile. You don’t want to sound annoying happy … but just enough that you sound approachable and relatable.
For processing trick … dynamics processing is always my favorite!
When it comes to VO work, studio & gear, what are your most ingenious methods/discoveries for saving time and cash? When I get station copy, I don’t try and make one take sound the absolute best that it can…I give them a bunch of reads with different inflections so they can choose. It would take forever to get every line the exact perfect way you want (especially when it’s possible the client is looking for something other than what you have in your head.) When it comes to production and VO, I often times have to voice produce dozens of spots at a time. I turn on the mic and just let it roll. I’ll go through all my scripts at once and then go back to edit. Then I will send out what needs to go out dry. For the VO that need music, I will open up my already set up session of Audition (which will have a bunch of music beds set up by length) and go from there! It saves time searching for a bed online, downloading and cutting it to length. Plus, by keeping the mic on the whole time and letting it roll through all the vo, saves a lot of time too.
Do you have a different approach to reading radio imaging copy as opposed to TV/Radio commercial ads? I think the biggest difference to me in voicing commercial ads vs imaging is the inflection. When I read a commercial, it’s going to sound a little more “commercial-ey” (unless of course it’s a conversational spot or otherwise directed.)
When I read imaging copy, I want to sound like I’m talking to my best friend… more like a “normal person”, giving the listener that relatable sound and feeling.
What did it feel like the first time you heard your voice on the radio/television? It was so exciting! It’s definitely at first a surreal experience! It’s weird when you go into a store that has the radio on and need to the cashier …then you realize you’re actually talking over yourself! My parents are still in the ‘yeah, that’s my daughter’ phase lol!
You’ve mentioned that you grew up on a farm which is so awesome. Not many people can say that. What was the best part about being raised on a farm and did you have animals (if so what kind)? The best part of growing up on a farm of course was the animals! It’s definitely what sparked my love and admiration for caring for animals. I am like a kid in a candy store anytime I see a goat or a cow or even a chicken! In addition to being a foster mom for animals, I am in the process of becoming a wildlife rehabilitator which I’m super excited about!)
My grandparents built a house on trust land property so we had 50+ acres to play on! My Dad grew up there – and then eventually my family built our house on the property when I was 10. (We first lived on the beach which was also incredible but unfortunately left no room for horseback riding.) My Dad is a Real Estate broker, while my grandpa would run the farm. My Mom & Grandma were both stay at home moms, so It was a really nice balance of learning responsibilities and having experiences in both the business world and farm world at the same time.
How do you think the radio industry has it changed since you first started? I think the biggest way radio has changed since I first started is how digital it has become. There are so many new ways to listen to the radio other than in your car or on your stereo. I love that. Listeners have easier access to their favorite artists, pod casters, speakers etc. It also gives us as radio people an opportunity to reach all corners of the world. Someone in Japan could be listening on a Connecticut radio station. It’s pretty wild to think about!
If you could go back to any decade and hang out which one would you go back to and why? Hmm…I’ve never really thought about it – but I do love the 80’s! I was born in ’87 so I didn’t truly get to experience the decade. I’d totally rock neon jumpsuits, teased hair and would love to see Michael Jackson in his own era! BUT on the other hand, reel to reel sounds exhausting! haha.
If you could invite one person to dinner, living or dead, who would it be (non-family)? Only one?! Maaaan! I would have to go with Seth MacFarlane. He is a genius and I am a huge fan of all his work. Just the fact that he can do over 30 voices and refer back to each in split seconds is incredible! (okay but others? Eminem, Walt Disney, Michael Jackson & Elvis!)
What’s your guilty pleasure? Literally anything with peanut butter.
If you could travel anywhere in the world right now where would you go and why? Why are these questions more difficult that the earlier ones?! haha! Well, my favorite place to go is Amalfi Italy where we visit our relatives , eat lots of pizza and just stare at the gorgeous coast. BUT somewhere I have never been that has always been on my list is Australia.
Yes the koalas and kangaroos are the main selling points for me, but overall it just looks like such a fun experience!
Ashley’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/ashleyonair
Ashley’s Instagram: https://twitter.com/ashleyonairhttps://www.instagram.com/ashleyonair/
By Rich Van Slyke
Every day I receive your copy, along with a set of carefully thought out very detailed instructions about voicing your station imaging. Like this:
“Rich – script attached – do your thing”
And I love it. Because Program Directors and Brand Managers are too busy to give me a lot of instructions, and you depend on me to interpret and deliver your copy the right way. It’s my job to make your copy COME ALIVE!
So here’s how I do it. When I get your copy, I quickly apply 7 ways to make it rock.
1. The Message. The first thing I ask is, “what is the main idea you are trying to deliver?” If you want me to remember one thing, and only one thing, after hearing this promo, what is it? Everything I do as a voice talent, from the type of read, to the ad libs, must communicate the main message. So, as I read through the copy, I’m asking myself – how does this line help to re-enforce the message.
2. Your Branding. Whether it’s a country station targeted to females 18-34, or a sports station targeting Men 18-44, or a classic rock station targeting Adults 25-54, a voice talent must always keep in mind the brand. What does this station stand for? What is the overall image? Why do people listen? And then I must ask, “Is the way I’m delivering the copy appropriate for the brand?” Too hard? Too soft? Too friendly? Too badass? I have to keep in mind that when I voice for you, my personality must be the same as the personality of your radio station. I represent the brand and I must deliver the copy accordingly. Every line must be cohesive with your brand.
3. The Emotion. This is the fun part for me. A very smart creative director once told me, it’s not what you say, it’s how you feel when you say it. When we hear the feeling in your voice, it gives us permission to feel the same feeling. It doesn’t matter which emotion you choose to feel, as long as you choose one! It’s my job to find the emotion in your copy and deliver it in a way that makes you FEEL IT! As I read your copy, I make little notes on the page. This part is exciting, this part is funny, this part is unimportant, this part is urgent. I select a feeling for each one. But I also make sure that those feelings align with the Message and the Branding. Very Important. After recording the first take, I go back and listen to the lines that are marked with emotion. Did I evoke the feeling, or was it just plain old boring announcer, like reading a shopping list? If it don’t hear the emotion, I recut the copy. Sometimes, it’s not obvious which emotion should be used, so my default emotion is always confidence. Why? Because confidence makes station imaging sound good. Not fake, but rock-solid impressive. When your voice guy speaks confidently, the station sounds like a winner. Speaking with confidence can get you higher ratings. It can even get you elected president!
4. The Grammar. Part of my job is to correct bad grammar. And to remember that you are busy as hell and you don’t always have time to check for grammar. So I’ll read it as written, but I’ll also give you another take with correct grammar. And maybe even another take with bad grammar on purpose. Why? Because it evokes more emotion.
5. The Ad Libs. Everybody loves ad libs. Because they make you laugh, or chuckle, or feel surprised, or delighted, or make you nod your head in agreement, all of these are emotional responses. So I try to throw in great ad libs. How? By focusing on the emotion of the copy. If the promo is all about winning a trip to the beach in Mexico, I’ll focus on that emotion. What does it feel like to win a trip to Mexico? It feels like – (ad lib). What does it feel like to sit on the beach in Mexico? It feels like (ad lib). Focus on the feeling and the ad libs will come. If it makes me feel something, you will feel it too.
6. The Recording. As a voice guy, it’s my job to record my voice according [to] the above factors. And the way it’s recorded makes a big difference. Once again, I look to the emotion. IF the copy calls for something soft and intimate, I have to get close to the mic. And if it’s loud, I have to back off. Sometimes I’ll add reverb or a filter.
7. Your Feedback. After careful considering the message, the branding, the emotion, the grammar, the ad-libs, and the recording, I filter everything through feedback I’ve receive from you. If you’ve told me not to voice stuff that sounds to “announcery,” then I will change all of the above slightly to reflect your wishes and voice it more naturally. If the last promo I voiced for you resulted in an email that says, “love the edge,” I’ll remember that too. When you incorporate all of these elements into a read, you get great results. And it rocks!
Rich Van Slyke does VO for KUFX San Francisco, WWSK Long Island, KSEG Sacramento, KXTG Portland, KZDC San Antonio, KCFX Kansas City, Production Vault Classic Rock, WONE Akron, WXMX Memphis, WGRD Grand Rapids, KKFM Colorado Springs, WZEW Mobile, WKQZ Saginaw, WKZQ Myrtle Beach, WTMM Albany, KZOZ San Luis Obispo, KOZZ Reno, KTUX Shreveport, WXKE Fort Wayne, WIXO Peoria, WRMR Wilmington, XFM Nairobi, The Minnesota Timberwolves Radio Network, and more. www.richvanslyke.com 770.962.4788 email@example.com