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Chapter 2: What’s the best advice you’ve received as a VO talent?

AARON LEHMAN: In the early 2000’s I was producing the late Keith Eubanks @ 96-1 KISS in Pittsburgh.  I was just starting to dip my foot into the VO pool.  I remember sending him a demo to critique.  He called me back 10 minutes later and said:  “Man that’s some hot s#!t!  You need to send that to every station in the country…”

JAY SAWYER: Never work for free.


AARON LANDON: The audition is the job.

ADAM KECSKEMETI: Don’t hold yourself back.

ADAM SCHNEIDER: Stop trying so hard, you’ll sound more natural

ADRIENNE GRECHMAN: Bob Bergen told me to treat each audition like it’s a party about me. I get to play and show the listener how awesome I am!

ALYSON STEEL: Study with the best…ooh wait – that’s the advice I give. Be in the present moment with your reads. If you believe it, I will believe it.

AMANDA MADI: Be you, be real and don’t try to sound like someone else.

ANDREA ROOZ: Get rid of the punctuation. Not ALL punctuation but most.

ANDY SAFNAUER: My coach Marice Tobias got me to find where my ‘true voice’ was, and that changed everything for me.

ANNA CROWE: ‘Be you”.

ANN DEWIG: Everyone has ideas about what you should do. Screw that. Trust your instincts, follow your own internal compass and do what inspires you.

ANNE VYDRA: “Send it and forget it.”

ASHLEY CAVALIERE: The first advice I got was to smile. It was a great starting point, and now I can turn that smile on or off based on the type of read the client is looking for. Also – to do things for free…at least when you’re starting off. You will meet so many people in the industry, you will BE HEARD – and one day, those people you helped out and even new people – will come around with a way to pay you for your talent

BETH STEWART: “Don’t be afraid to fall on your butt. Have fun. “ (Stevie Vallance)

BETH CAMERON: Always try to improve but don’t listen to self-doubt.

BEV STANDING: Learn what works for you.

BOB GLAVIN: It’s your voice so do You. Be authentic.

BOB SCHMIDT: Find your voice.  Initially I would try to mimic the guys I heard or produced, but over time, someone said, “Just deliver it the way you would.  That’s what we want it to sound like.”

BOBBI MAXWELL: To get coaching.

BOB WOOD: Audition then forget it.  Insecurity is a big enemy.

BRADY HALES: The kind that hurts and is brutally honest- whether about my marketing or my performance- I love criticism.  Keeps me focused on where to improve.

BRIAN WALSH: Never give up

BRIAN WEST: Be yourself.  Don’t try to be someone else or something you’re not.

BRIGID REALE: 3 things:

*Ask yourself, if I was employing me, would I be happy paying me for the work I’ve done today?

*This is a customer service business. It’s about what you can do for your client, not the other way around.

*These days, everything talks to you! There is room for all of us!

CAM CORNELIUS: Be yourself. So many people try to leave themselves out of the equation and try to be someone else wen they start out doing VO. When you leave yourself out, the humanity in your read leaves as well. No one has your voice…. and even in those times you are doing a character voice or impersonation…it’s yourself and your emotion, that drives the emotion.

CAT LOOKABAUGH: Relax, focus on who you’re talking to, and just tell them. Stay present.

CHAD ERICKSON: Don’t burn a bridge, ever! Accept rejection.  And, expect a rollercoaster when it comes to making money from it.  Remember, all of your clients are like books you borrow from a library…You’ll have to return those books/clients at some point.

CHRIS MCCLOY: Nobody else has your voice. It’s 100% unique.

CHRIS ROLLINS: Get out of the house.  “My wife kicked me out of the house yesterday because I hadn’t left in a week.  She sent me to 7-Eleven to pick up milk, and we didn’t even need it!”  -John Pleisse

CHUCK DAVIS: “That Affiliate Promo Demo?  Don’t use that”  (from a trusted promo pal)

DANE REID: Wake up early every morning and get dressed like you’re going to a normal job. (Joe Loesch)

DAVE FOXX: Be myself. Don’t be “Mr. Announcer.”

DAVID CHRISTIAN: “Instead of PUSHING words, nurture them.”

DRAKE DONOVAN: Your audition should be the best ‘you’ it can be.  Don’t try to be someone else, even if they’re asking for a “Jon Hamm-Type” or a “Blythe Danner-Esque delivery” in the casting notes.  Read the copy as you would read it, as you would LIVE it and let the chips fall where they may.

DREWSEAN WILLIAMS: Think of Brevity when you announce. Don’t use “scrotum” ALL the Time, Just Speak and let your cadence work for you

JOHN FROST: Try to be as good as Steve Stone or Diego.


GALE VAN COTT: Talk to a real person about a real thing.

HARRY LEGG: Get coaching.

HEATHER FOSTER: Have fun and let yourself go!

IRMA BLANCO: Don’t take rejection personal.  (Joe Cipriano at the NAB)

ISSA LOPEZ: Take your headphones off on natural auditions

JACK DANIEL: Don’t do too much in the booth—don’t let them hear the gears grinding.

JAKE KAPLAN: To use my natural voice and how to interpret copy and act.  It’s not about your mic or equipment, it’s about the way you read the copy.

JAMES HALL: Don’t drink or eat dairy before a voice over. Kinda hard when you love chocolate as much as me.

JAMES MACPHEE: Do the audition and then forget about it.

JAMEY LEWIS: The most consistent advice given is to never stop learning. We all have brains, capable of absorbing new material, a new way of delivery, or self-engineering.

JANET AULT: The best advice I ever got was “you are enough.”

JARON COHEN: Great writing will always be more effective than the newest plug-in or an overpriced microphone.

JEFF AUGUSTINE: Get comfortable with the word “no” or being rejected

JEFF BERLIN: Read the copy like you just found out your parents were killed in a car crash.    Then read it again like you just found out you won the lottery.        Then read it normal.     It’ll be better read every time.

JEN SWEENEY: Record yourself talking on the phone in your normal voice.

JENIFER KAPLAN: Do not try to be someone else, be the best you and what you have to offer is distinctly different than anyone else. Decide where you want to focus your voice-over work. Is it Sound-A-Like? Character? Promo? Use your resources by discovering new material and things you can pull from and perfect. Be present to the opportunity, do your best work, listen to the coaching, take a minute to let it sink in and then do your best. Always be humble and in integrity. ALWAYS send a personalized thank you card- it goes a long way.

JENNIFER KNIGHT: Relax.  This applies in many different ways for me.  J  Or, as Gabrielle Nistico says “Open a can of F$%*& it.”  Relax, ease the read, and don’t care so much.

J. MICHAEL COLLINS: Diversify your VO income streams

JOANNA STADWISER: Never get too comfortable and say YES!

JODI ADLER: Don’t be afraid of your talent…don’t let others put you in a box.

JOE ALAN: Don’t try to emulate someone else.  Be yourself!

JOE EARL WILLIAMS: Get rid of your radio “announcer” style

JOHN MALONE: Keep working. Get better. Don’t give up.

JONNY JAZZNO: Make every station important, there are no throw away lines

JOSH GOODMAN: Your job as an actor is to illuminate the writers intent. – from David Lyerly (old voice coach) who paraphrased it from Tom Hanks. If you can remember that the WRITER is the star (NOT YOU) then you’re halfway there.

KATE WEST: speak with confidence and tell the story

KRYSTA WALLRAUCH: Don’t let your thoughts limit your determination.

LAURA SCHREIBER: I learned this at WoVo Con last year from Jack DeGolia and it has helped me so many times: If you fan goes on during a guided session, put ice packs under your computer! It will stop the noise!

LISA KEYS: Make sure you’re giving multiple takes that are different so producers have options.

MARC O’NEILL: Not everyone likes the colour purple, you can’t be everything to everyone so don’t be offended if someone just doesn’t like your voice.

MARIA PENDOLINO: Don’t type yourself out. If you’re at least in the realm of the specs, give it a shot – audition. There’s plenty of people who will weed you out – don’t weed yourself out.

MARK RIDER: One of my first coaches Marice Tobias told me that casting directors can hear the level of stress in your reads and that the best thing to do to become a better voice actor was to work on removing the stresses first.

MATT HOWELL: It’s not rejection, it’s just selection.

MATT K BAKER: Part of the game is being around long enough that they recognize your name.

MATT FOGARTY: It was Dave Pettitt who pushed me to get into voiceover. He said I had some natural talent and then poked me with a sharp stick until I got myself in gear!

MATT GILCHECK: Your voice is only as good as the emotion it conveys.

MELISSA THOM: Know your strengths and what your own proposition is. Don’t try and be all things to all people.

MELISSA THOMAS: That this is the hardest, but most rewarding career path if you push yourself to do well in it.

MELODY SHARP: Always be professional, gracious and kind – even if you don’t book the VO job. It will be remembered and they will keep you in mind for other opportunities.

MIKE MCKAY: I don’t know about advice relating to voice work specifically, but I’ve gotten an awful lot of help with just coping in the solitary world of a vo person….dealing with clients, being your own IT guy, finding the right mic, etc, etc, etc, etc….If not for a decades-long friendship with a great talent, Sean Caldwell, I’d probably be spending my days in a different kind of padded room.

MITCH JOHNSON: I don’t think anyone’s ever given me advice, but I trained as a sound engineer in London and you could always tell the good voices, they gave what was asked for ( even if it was not )  and never ever argued with the client.

NICK DALEY: That my voice, my delivery, doesn’t have to be the biggest thing in the spot/promo. Especially for narration – there will be an image on the screen that’s the main focus and the narrator is just there clearing up some details about what they’re seeing… so it doesn’t need to be loud or overly excited and I don’t need to punch every word.  As an exercise, record yourself reading a paragraph from a magazine and punch every word… check out how annoying it is to listen to when you play it back.  Then go listen to someone like Mike Rowe and pay attention to how he emphasizes and throws away things to paint the right picture.

NICOLE BRITTON: Be yourself. Do the work.  Treat every audition, every job, with respect and take the time to be specific about your delivery.

PAT GARRETT: Don’t use headphones

PAUL STEFANO: Send it and forget it!

PAULA TISO: Don’t expect instant results, know your strengths, know how to break down and execute a piece of copy, and it’s really important to know how to take direction.

MACHA GRUBER: Figure out what the copywriter is trying to say, what story they want to tell, before you even turn on the mic.

RACHEL MCGRATH: To only ACCEPT advice from someone if they, themselves, were extremely successful in their careers.

RENA-MARIE VILLANO: Catch the Frisbee. Marice Tobias said that.

RICH VAN SLYKE: “When I hear you read, I should feel the proper emotion for this copy in your voice.”

ROB WREFORD: You should create a demo showcasing your radio imaging talents!  Back in the day, I literally mailed out hundreds of cassette tapes to prospective radio stations.  Marketing is key!  It is also a very important part of the puzzle in the VO business.

ROBIN SIEGERMAN: You don’t know what you don’t know. Get coaching, and hire professionals to do your demos.

RANDY THOMAS: You came out of radio and will probably have trouble being successful in voice over. That advice from a well-meaning friend was all I needed to hear. It made me want it more.

RUSSEL JAMES: “Be yourself.. unless you are vanilla, then try to be chocolate… Vanilla is the asshole of flavors.. don’t be an asshole”

RYAN DREAN: Be the best YOU you can be!  Don’t try to do what someone else is doing, or be like some other successful talent.  They already have that person!

SCOTT MATTHEWS: Focus on finding your own voice and not forcing your delivery or get caught up in trying to emulate others whose range or timbre is vastly different from your own.

STEVE TAYLOR: Don’t be a dick – serve every client / relationship with reverence.

STEVE FOSTER: be available and directable, and be willing to widen the range of your voice to meet client needs

STUART ROBERTS: Once I was recording an audition for a big commercial radio station and the producer said they wanted a very laid back sound and that I should read the script as if I’d just woken up and smoked a lot of weed. I didn’t get the gig, but I had fun recording the audition!

SUSAN MAZEL: You’re enough, relax and be yourself.  And for god sakes, SLOW DOWN! Haha!

SYLVIA VILLAGRAN: Don’t be an asshole.

TASIA VALENZA: That it’s a business and a craft so you need to work on both.

THOMAS MACHIN: “Take your time with it.”  It has taken me from running through scripts without figuring out who is speaking to who and why, to delivering realistic performances to when auditions and client approval quickly.

TIFFANY JOYELLE PAGE: 1. never compare yourself to others. 2. Have fun!

TRE MOSLEY: Pay it forward.

WENDY K GRAY: Cynthia Songe’ told our class, “don’t think about creating a voice, think about creating a character, then the voice will follow.” I was also told to categorize my voices into something that made sense to me.  That way when a director tells me to “sound like a paper bag floating through the wind” I can come up with something to do instead of standing there being totally confused.

WILL MORGAN: Actually i got thrown into the imaging department for a group of stations. We had no money in the budget for a vo guy so they said, “will, you’re the voice of several stations. I had no idea what I was doing at the time, so I just started paying more close attention to other voice over artists and commercial/tv spots, and then it suddenly clicked. I also took acting classes which helped out a lot. Reading copy is no different than acting. The only difference is instead of a camera on you, you are in front of the mic.

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