Blog

VocalID: give your voice to the voiceless

If you’re in the VO game, and want to really put your talent to good use, consider helping out via VocalID. You can donate your voice and help those who cannot speak and rely on technology to communicate. Here is an overview that I wrote for my day job at The Drum. And here’s how you can get started... read more

Rashida Jones: The Perfect Voice For Southwest

This is part of the brand refresh for the airline that took launched in 2014. I’d be curious to know else was auditioning for this brand voice — but it’s safe to say that Southwest and the agency, GSD&M, hit an absolute home run with this casting.

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My Favorite Bowie Moment

In 1985, in a huge stadium in Philadelphia, my world stood still as David Bowie came on stage (via video uplink — I think that’s what it was called back then) in London to sing “Heroes.” I remember it like it was yesterday and it will still have the same impact on me forever: chills.

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Harry Shearer And The Simpsons: Recasting A Voiceover Legend

Twitter is all aflutter today over the news that Harry Shearer, the voice of Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, Waylon Smithers and Principal Skinner (among many other) has decided to part ways with The Simpsons after what can only be called one of the more glorious runs of voiceover and voice acting in history (with the possible exception of his The Simpsons contemporaries).

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So You Want To Do VO?

Here’s one I stumbled upon from a report in LA in 2008. Some of the tops in the biz. Note the wrap-up, specifically the “luck” part. Yeah, that’s part of it.

May have been a slow news day, but inspiring to see for those of us in the trenches.

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Getty Images Wins 2015 (So Far)

Twitter was aflutter with Vince Vaughn today. When seeing a celeb trend, there are two thoughts that generally come to mind: “uh-oh,” or “what did he do now?”

All Vince Vaughn did, in this case, was take part in one of the greatest things in the history of our industry — and though I’m prone to hyperbole, I may be right this time.

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Now A Family (VO) Affair

A couple of years ago, my son (soon to be 6 years old) asked me about voice work. He had always seen the microphone in the office and fiddled around as I was rolling on few projects. It usually was a bit of yelling in the background, but he was having fun — and that’s all that really matters at this point.

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Real Storytelling: Wind With The Waterworks

Putting my “I’m in advertising” hat on here for a moment. I was bouncing around the ad world and came upon this amazing spot for Wind, a telecom in Italy. The work was created by Ogilvy Milan and is a 4-minute film that features the song “To Build A Home” by The Cinematic Orchestra. Simply put, this is incredible work. I suppose one thing I could say is that, since I’m a father myself, it hit the right chord in so many ways. You’ll see why when you watch. There’s been a great deal in the biz about storytelling and #sadvertising. They seem to be two terms that get thrown about without much thought. In this case, it could be considered kind of sad. But, to me, it’s incredibly human and speaks to our common need to actually be human, especially as it relates to the father/son dynamic. Is it good storytelling? Absolutely. It’s real storytelling. Some may say that it takes liberally from a legendary Saatchi & Saatchi spot from New Zealand that was created for Telecom New Zealand. I could see that argument to some degree. But this still feels, well, different to me. Powerful stuff. Great work. And I’m sure we’ll see this one take home plenty of (well-deserved)... read more

Here’s To The Dons

The voiceover community is interesting — and it has layers. If you’re looking at it from a Hollywood perspective, you could likely break it down into the following: constantly working actors, extras, characters and, of course, the A-list. A “constantly acting” voice talent would be someone like Bruce Davison who was in the highly entertaining “That Guy…Who Was In That Thing.” An extra would be just that. An extra, who shows up every so often. The characters? Probably someone like Steve Buscemi — who I think of as an A-lister, but you get my point. The A-list? Pretty easy. Your Streeps, Roberts’, Cruises, Nicholsons and the like. Then, there is beyond the A-list in voice work. That spot is reserved for a very select few including The Dons: Don Pardo and Don LaFontaine. Pardo passed away this week at age 96. A hell of a run and best known as the voice of Saturday Night Live. LaFontaine, sadly, died a bit earlier in his life back in 2008 at the age of 68 and had “The Movie Trailer Guy” as a moniker for ages. For most male voice artists or actors, we all aspired (and aspire) to be at that level. That “one take wonder” who could literally transform something seemingly mundane into work that was epic and powerful. And the impact each of these men had was incalculable. But Pardo’s legacy came with something even bigger for the stars who graced Studio 8H in NYC. RIP Don Pardo. A voice that meant so much. http://t.co/X4q9TeHVbO — Seth Meyers (@sethmeyers) August 19, 2014 On Sept 13th 2008 I heard... read more

Fancy New Project: Pollen

This was a pleasant surprise. Got an inquiry out of the blue to voice a video for a new startup called Pollen based in Silicon Valley and London. Here’s what it looked/sounds like. Always enjoy narrating technology stuff. Not just a nice gig, but I can learn a few things along the way. Introducing Pollen – Velocity Capital from Pollen on... read more

Wade Goodwyn Of NPR: A Great Storyteller

By law, we must listen to NPR here in Oregon. OK, I’m kidding. But we do like NPR up this way. But it’s pretty clear that a good number of the reporters and correspondents, especially from the NPR mothership, are pretty good storytellers. From what I understood, during my time in radio, there is a great deal of coaching of this talent. It’s not just about the words being read, it’s about that unique signature that can make NPR (especially news) have a more cohesive, human feel. Having good training helps. But there are some people who are just born with the natural gift of telling stories well. In our industry, we just love throwing around the “s” word. It’s incredibly prevalent, but rings hollow when we mistake actual storytelling for selling in another kind of wrapper. Don’t get me wrong, there are some pretty damn fine storytellers that grace the halls of our hallowed institution, but there are some who just suck you in like a magnet because they are just that good. A little context. I’ve been doing voice work since the mid-90s. I am also an audio producer. I’ve been on both sides of the glass — a unique place to be to see, and hear, the entire spectrum of audio both intended to sell and tell a story. So I am a little more in tune with not just the basics, like the delivery, but the nuance that makes the difference between just reading something into a microphone and actually making a vocal impact. Back to NPR. Those of a certain age, meaning my 40-something set and up, have our NPR favorites. There’s the... read more

Sometimes, You’re Just Not The Right Person For The Gig (And That’s OK)

A few months ago, I was approached for what looked to be a nifty little gig for people to learn English. The client and I discussed the project, went through the process of determining timeline, expectations, etc. We were then ready to get going on the project. This was a quick turn, which is perfectly fine and part of the gig in voiceover. That’s the beauty of all of this at times, the ability to knock it out quickly. We did the first pass via phone patch — and I was being coached the entire way. I felt good about it and it seemed that the client was pleased as well. I sent over the first pass, expecting to get a little more coaching to get the rest of it done. But there was a problem. This voiceover was really specific and, though I was being coached on the phone, and told it sounded great, it wasn’t what they were looking for after we had gone through the process. I felt a little deflated. I was being coached and thought everything was OK. I felt great about the reads. The client felt the same way. We had done all of this work, only to be told “no” by the next level up. Times like this are rare, but they do happen. The natural inclination is to try to save the gig. And, if we had some more time, we probably could have gone that route. But we just didn’t have that luxury. Despite the pain, it was a good reminder about the pre-process in voiceover — the moments to ensure... read more

A Nifty Use Of Sound: Getting Some Zzzs

Quick note: Yeah, I know. It’s been awhile. But, WOW, did I have a great time at Advertising Week Europe. And it’s been really good spending gobs of time with the family after being back. We’ve had a little cold run through the house of late. Which ain’t exactly the greatest thing for someone who does voicework, right? So I found myself at Walgreen’s looking for kid’s Tylenol and DayQuil (my goodness, how many brands can I get into one sentence?). As I was walking down the cold medicine aisle, I heard snoring and paused to look around at where it came from. ZzzQuil display with motion detector that triggered the sound. Brilliant. But it wasn’t just because of the way it was set up and merchandised. It was how subtle the snore was — not too loud, but just loud enough that it caught my attention. Sure, this isn’t really about voiceover. But VO is about sound and when any sound is done well, snores included, it can enhance and transform. And make you stop and pay attention. I’d love to see a brand somehow work a little voiceover in to something like this (or learn about a brand that’s doing it now). I think if it’s done right, it could be very interesting and effective. And I hope I get that audition.... read more

Yeah, I Know

Been working on Advertising Week Europe and haven’t had much time to write of late. Really excited about being over in London again. Love it there. And this has been a great project. The people we’re working with are just fabulous. But I do have a prodigious list of voiceover topics to cover once I come up for air. In the meantime, here’s me and my kids dancing to Foster The... read more

What Voice Talent Looks Like

Ever wonder what your favorite on-air personalities look like? BuzzFeed did something pretty funny on it — related to NPR reporters, based on the sound of their voices. The Ira Glass one is classic. It is interesting, though. We’re voice people. There isn’t much thought into what we really look like. Though I have been told I have a face for radio. What’s funny about this are my own experiences that I have mentioned before. I’m 43. With lots of gray hair. I usually get cast as a mid-20s/early 30s guy. Unless, of course, it’s the good-natured dad. I still get a kick out of walking into a studio with people I’m working with for the first time. In just about every instance, there is an awkward (funny to me) pause when they see the gray mane. Breaking the ice is pretty easy. “Not what you expected, is it?” After the obvious sigh of relief from the client, we get to it. Ever had this happen to you? Do you think you “look” the way you... read more

Your Role As Voice Talent: Be Responsive

Think about the last time a company or person was responsive to you. It felt pretty nice that they stayed on top of whatever the issue was, right? There is a fine line between good service and being responsive. Good service can be responsive. But being responsive, at times, may be more important, especially when something needs immediate attention. So where does a voice talent fit in to all of this? I think it’s safe to say that most voice talent prides themselves on good service. Rare is the instance when I’ve heard that voice talent has been boorish or tough to work with. But, in one case, I actually benefitted from a talent who wasn’t responsive. It was a frantic call. The voice talent they hired just seemed to up and disappear. No responses to email. No returned phone calls. They needed some changes and they couldn’t find him. Turns out the voice talent was on holiday and didn’t indicate that in email or voicemail. Nor did the voice talent tell the client that they were heading out of town. I was on the short list, and the client was in a real pickle. And stressed. We all have boundaries when it comes to work. But in this line of work, you never know when the next opportunity can pop up. In this instance, we had to literally start over, since it obviously made no sense to try to infill my voice. And did I mention that they were stressed? We got the lines voiced. And, just as we were hanging up, I said, “I will be here in... read more