I was born in Minnesota.
At age 12, I moved to New Jersey, just outside of Philadelphia.
I attended college in Denver.
I’ve lived in Portland for 21 years.
Think about this geography for a second.
The first twelve years of my life were spent with long Os. Saying “yeah” was common.
At twelve, I moved to a place that has the most, er, unique accent.
These were formative years.
Colorado? No discernable accent.
Oregon? Same deal.
So the last two kind of cancel each other out in this scenario. Which leaves the first two firmly in play.
When I first started in voice work, I didn’t think that I had an accent. In fact, I worked really hard to keep the Minnesota/Philly thing under wraps. As a general rule, I don’t think I have an accent. Sure, I can turn it on when needed (which is incredibly rare), but I’m pretty much not considered “the guy with the funny accent.”
There are times, however, when certain words get either the Philadelphia or Minneapolis treatment. In a few cases, New York peeks out to say hello since most of my work outside of voice work is there.
“Car” is one of those words.
I recall a radio spot that I voiced for a dealer in Portland where they got the buffet treatment. At the front of the read, I said “car” like central casting of “Fargo.” At the end, I was squarely in the Delaware Valley with “cawh.”
I sent over three versions. And the client picked the one (you guessed it) with the obvious homages to my first two geographic stops in life. I asked him twice if he was sure. He wouldn’t budge. Fortunately, the spot worked really well for him.
What I’ve realized is, we all have certain “things” in our voices that truly do make us unique. It goes deeper than just gravitas or delivery. It’s the things that we naturally have. It’s the quirks. The oddities.
I still work hard on precision in delivery. But I also know that part of the reason they hired me was that I brought something to the table that they liked — and that can serve the client and/or brand well. What makes that nice is that it allows me to be free in the read. I don’t tense up. I just let it rip.
Ultimately, these little things were what I was given with this voice of mine.
You have something (or things) that make you super-unique, too.
And that’s pretty cool if you think about it.