Welcome to The Imaging House’s Inspire Me Interview Series.
Our first guest: Steve Taylor
In this series, we talk to the best of the Voiceover and Imaging/Producer community and find out how they got from point A to point B. And it isn’t all about audio. It’s also about spirit.
The purpose of these in-depth interviews is to show you possibility.
“I was outside in the parking lot yelling and telling the world I was now, as of that moment, an accent voice on KIIS-FM in Los Fucking Angeles.”
To show you that what you think might be impossible… isn’t. And to inspire you to be what’s already in you. It takes hard work, imagination… and not becoming your own obstacle. Stop limiting yourself and keep going. You can be better, more creative, you can be whatever you want– But you have to believe it first. Don’t let bad days define you. Don’t let bad moments become monuments. At one or more times in their career, every person in these interviews has doubted their ability, thought they weren’t good enough, got knocked down, frustrated, depressed and so on. Just like the rest of us.
Learn about their ups and downs, their triumphs and failures and find inspiration to become your own hero.
K3: So. Who’s Steve Taylor on the inside?
I am true to type, LOL! I’m an INTJ-A.
Inside and outside are different sometimes. I may appear to be patient on the outside, but I can promise you that, internally, I’ve got a whole different timeline going on. It’s not that I’m impatient, but I always have something else to do.
As much as I am about voiceover and radio and production and all that, I was a musician long before I was a voice guy. The group I work for allows me to indulge that, too, as I have all my basses and guitars here at work and wile away the day when there’s nothing else to do.
I have to be occupied. So, I read a lot. Of everything. If I’m not “radioing”, producing, voicing or playing the guitar, then I must be either tending to my family or sleeping, LOL!
I’ve learned over the years … ESPECIALLY because of radio and television … that it takes ALL types of people. That’s the singular thing that the industry has taught me. And I am GRATEFUL for it. Because of my experience in radio and TV, theater and theater production, live music performance, and so on, I have to acknowledge that were it not for the exposure I’ve had to so many types of people, I’d be a lesser man.
I’m an observer. I watch people all day. I listen all day. Then I go home.
And that’s something else, too- After going home at the end of the day, I’ve still got to be able to just BE THERE. I love going home because it signifies the cessation of hostilities from the workday and the beginning of personal reclamation. The older I’ve become, the more I’ve noticed the need to recover is constant. Oh, I’m still as energetic about what I do as I’ve ever been, but age has caused me to respect doing nothing at the end of the day.
I know that, technically, we’re “open all day” … but I started reclaiming my evening time. I can’t finish my day if I’ve not spent time with each of my kids and, certainly, my wife, Susan. Otherwise, I’m an empty man. And I respect my Home Life enough to NOT let anything interfere with it, even as important as what I do is.
K3: When did you FIRST start voicing radio stations?
The first one I did as an image voice was actually a television station, WKDH-TV in Tupelo. I didn’t get my FIRST ‘station voice’ gig until I became the voice of KLXQ-FM (Classic Rock) about a decade ago. It then took about five more years before it started to come together.
K3: Did you think you could make a career out of it?
Strangely, I had about four or five years of really studying what the ‘excellent’ voiceover people do (delivery, emphasis, drama, etc) and had an EXCELLENT advisor in Gene Wooten, who at the time was the Creative Services guy at WPLJ-FM. Gene gave me hours of DAT tape filled with John Pleisse, Dick Ervasti and several others. I got to hear all of the amazing work, but I also got to hear their mistakes, bad reads, and simply marginal work.
Hearing all those amazing voices being HUMAN made it accessible for ME to attempt doing it. Hell, I figured since mistakes actually DID happen, I might stand a chance.
Combine that with cutting up Chris Corley’s voice in Monroe and later in Knoxville, I learned how it was supposed to sound, how bad copy can be made amazing with an amazing voiceover and how to interpret.
Also, when I was in Knoxville, I spent a lot of time with Mike Carta. Mike was gracious in allowing me to just be there and soak it in, to learn from him, and to experiment. We also ate many great sandwiches together, which gave Mike an opportunity to just talk and tell stories of his excellent career.
And, I can now say this: when some old bastard wants to “talk Radio with ya”- you should really just let him take off and talk. You will learn something.
K3: When you look back on that time- how did you feel about your career?
I was given great opportunity around that time to be heard by excellent programmers. I got explicit and concise feedback.
It was at the time I mentioned Mike Carta above that I first auditioned for an Agency. It was for Don Buchwald and Associates, I forget the agent.
In then, 1997, I was told that I ‘didn’t have the potential to make it in voiceover, whether commercial, promo, imaging, or industrial’. And, considering the immaturity of my voice then, they were exactly right.
That only spurred me to further educate myself and become one with ‘potential’.
K3: How did you become a voice of KIIS FM?
Back in 2014, when I was with Clear Channel, I used to do VO for any station that had an ‘open call’ through their internal Talent Share program. Not long after, you sent an ‘all-call’ audition that ended up in front of me for a ‘promo voice’ for something on KIIS-FM. Oh, I just HAD to do that, and it was successful AND it’s how you and I first came to know one another.
Fast forward a few months, and I’m having a conversation with you, John Ivey, and Miles. The rest is history.
“I have to acknowledge that were it not for the exposure I’ve had to so many types of people, I’d be a lesser man.”
K3: Tell me an inspiring moment of your VO career. Maybe a moment you reached a giant goal? Or a moment where VO jobs affected your life/family? Inspire me.
The one time that I really felt like I had it ‘by the balls’ was not long before your Imaging Conference in LA. I had been bugging Hoss, who was still with Atlas Talent at the time. After I had done some VO for YOU for Jingle Ball 2014, I was able to kinda get moving again trying to get representation. It was also at this time that Miles Hlivko was making his move from Cleveland to L.A. to take over imaging at KIIS-FM from Forrest Martin. Forrest, of course, had produced some amazing items I could use on a demo, but I didn’t have ANY other material.
“I was told that I ‘didn’t have the potential to make it in voiceover.”
Literally a day later, John Ivey, you and I had a conversation that I am still stunned over TO THIS DAY. It didn’t land on me at the time, but about five seconds afterwards, I was outside in the parking lot yelling and telling the world I was now, as of that moment, an accent voice on KIIS-FM in Los Fucking Angeles.
Enter Miles. He was in the MIDDLE of getting a move to L.A. underway and I hit him up and asked if he had any templates he could drop my voiceover into to make some demo pieces. He did and sent me copy and knocked me out a fantastic demo in NO TIME.
After a month of badgering Hoss to sign me and sending him some good stuff, I was able to walk in one morning, type an email to Hoss letting him know that I was now officially on KIIS-FM and sent that amazing demo that Miles put together.
42 minutes later, I received his acknowledgement and an offer of representation.
K3: You’re a national voice for iHeartMedia. How did you feel when the contract was a done deal?
I have to point out: in MY world, I STILL have trouble believing that I am able to do what I do. Okay? Seriously. Oh, I’m not an idiot – I know full well the scope of what I do and its importance to whom I serve. But, in MY mind, I still clearly recall the time BEFORE I’d have been a part of any conversation like that.
Lisa Marber-Rich at Atlas made a hard push for me. YOU made a hard push for me. When two powerful forces come together on another’s behalf, that’s truly special! It still stuns me that it happened. And the work is just top-notch, too. Jon Manuel is one guy I get to do a lot with and he’s exceptional.
K3: VO inspirations?
So MANY! I guess, from the first to recent, it’d look like this:
Lowell Thomas (newsreels), Vincent Price, Orson Welles, Ernie Anderson, and Jack Webb. All those classic television and movie voices!
John Young, Randy Michaels, Mitch Craig, John Frost, and Leslie Fram were prominent in my ears for many years.
John Pleisse and Chris Corley have had the greatest influence on my VO style than anyone else. I got to hear hours of each and really listen to them. What they were doing and how they were doing it. To this day the way I finish words is directly tied to John’s style. Corley made me hear what the ‘sweet spot’ is in a deep voice. Chris can be deep or not, ballsy or not, but still be heard and believed every time you hear him.
These days, I get to hear a lot of Jeff Berlin, Steve Stone, and Joe Cipriano and love how each continues to do well and perform even better as time goes on. They are my current favs from the guy side.
You, ma’am, along with Blaze Berdahl, Alyson Steele and Amanda Madi have my ears on the female side.
“You might fail, but it’s important to understand why and to then MOVE ON. It doesn’t alter one’s sensitivities to move on from failure. Not that I’m embracing of it, but failure is the best teacher ever.”
K3: You are one of the most heard VO talents in the country. How did you get there in such a short amount of time? Or was it a short amount of time?
In MY mind, it’s taken the Long Road. And, in reality, it took 17 years from the FIRST time I believe I gave it a good effort to when I got signed. It’s not that signing made the difference, necessarily, but in MY mind, it did. It was my bona fides.
Also, in reality, it’s taken no time at all. When it happened for me, it HAPPENED.
No matter the case, I have truly WORKED to get to this point. I am self-taught with a LOT of hand-holding and good advice from the best people on the planet, like you and so many more that believed that I COULD do this.
K3: Tell me about your agent/agency.
I have the best Agency on the planet. Lisa Marber-Rich is one of finest people I know and have known. She works in the talent’s best interest. We talk often and it’s always a Mutual Admiration Society meeting with us. I love her and what she does for me. I get to audition for things I still have trouble believing that I’m actually getting to do. Ricky Meyer is AMAZING. He’s got to have four legs. Jonn Wasser couldn’t be more wonderful. His word and advice are gold. Everyone at Atlas has been nice to me and supportive of my efforts. Like I said, “the best Agency on the planet.”