We’ve started a new series to introduce you to our talents by going even more in-depth than their profile listings. So, welcome to Meet The Blue Wave Voiceover Talent!
Tell us a little about your broadcast-quality home studio. Where is it? What kind of equipment do you have? What do you like about it?
I absolutely love my studio — there’s always improvements I’d like to make, but it’s exactly what I need to get high-quality work done quickly [and without distraction]. My SourceConnected and ipDTL-equipped studio is mostly in a Studiobricks OnePLUS booth — a “pop-up” booth that basically functions like LEGO and IKEA got together to make a top-notch soundproof space. In there, I typically work on an AKG C414 microphone; I really like how crisp and bright it makes me sound without adding any sort of “sheen” on my voice. On request, I can also use my trusty Sennheiser 416, though I usually prefer that for my road setup. I record my sessions on my Mac via Twisted Wave, with an ART Pro MPA II pre-amp and the good ol’ Scarlett 2i2 interface. George “the Tech” Whittam was instrumental in helping me get my sound just right. I’m also one of those people who needs physical lists and whiteboards and diagrams to keep track of all of my projects, so more often than not, my studio looks like a voiceover-specific crime analysis lab.
What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
I once finished 162nd out of 163 in a ski race… and the only reason I didn’t finish last was because 1 person crashed. *cracks knuckles* Oh, yes, a regular Tommy Moe right here. I did later teach skiing for a couple years, and still go whenever I can. Just, y’know… without racing.
How did you get into voiceover work?
Sketch comedy! I went to Pace University in New York for the BFA-Acting program, and while there I took improv & sketch classes with the Upright Citizens Brigade, the People’s Improv Theater, and the Magnet Theater. When I started working with my own troupe — a cooking/stoner enthusiast show called “I’ve Got Munchies” back in 2005 that’s still going — I insisted on doing any of the VO work that fit my voice. I loved writing parodies, and so I started getting pretty good at imitating commercial and narrative voiceover.
Do you remember what your first voiceover spot was?
Believe it or not… sketch comedy! I took a video sketch class in 2007 with James Murray, a.k.a. “Murr” on Impractical Jokers, and one of the sketches we made was a parody PSA about Cooties. True to form, when time came, I happened to be in the room when he was editing and I asked if I could do the voiceover. It ended up going viral and got shown on Comedy Central, the CW, G4 [RIP], and a bunch of other places. It won some award from Yahoo!, too, back when that mattered. I’m proud to say, 13 years later, it’s still a fun sketch. I think it holds up pretty well.
Do you remember the first political voiceover spot that you did?
Vaguely. So, I don’t remember who it was for — it was in 2012, I believe, and the computer that had the files is long gone. But I remember being *very* surprised that I got cast, because they were looking for someone to sound very gruff and militaristic… and you can hear in my work, that’s not really my sound at all — I’m typically pretty “next door neighbor” with a Millennial spin. I was definitely doing an impression of someone gruff and militaristic. But, they booked me, and had a great laugh when we connected for a phone patch session and heard how I actually talk!
What has been your favorite voiceover project to date – political or otherwise?
A recent one I really liked was for Playworks’ “Play at Home” series. My wife Abigail is the Minnesota Program Director, and she created a series of shareable, single-game tutorials for students stuck at home during the Covid pandemic. My fellow Blue Waver Maria Pendolino and I donated our voices through our “Millennial Voiceover” partnership, and they came out really great!
Why do you think voiceover will be an important part of political advertising in the 2020 election?
Two reasons: for one, as a society we’re craving authentic, real, human connection more than ever as of late… and that was before the pandemic hit. Any way, any tool that can be used to foster a genuine connection to a potential donor or voter really needs to be used to ensure you’re getting the results you need. And secondly, accessibility ought to be at the forefront of any campaign that hopes to be successful. Not only are you ensuring you reach voters who can’t connect visually, but you’re also increasing your chances of engaging voters distracted in the moment you’re trying to reach them.
What issues would you like to see at the center of the Democratic platform for this year’s election?
Besides winning? 🙂 There’s a whole lot that I want to see Democratic leadership do, but I think their best path to long-term success — especially after the events of the last couple months — is worker’s rights and opportunities. A Green New Deal, if executed right, can and will put a lot of the country back to work and help revive the middle and working classes. That, and voting rights — if we win enough races to have a mandate to do so, voter reform — granting greater voter access while abolishing gerrymandering and the electoral college — would go a long way to ensuring our system is more fair and equitable.
What is your biggest voiceover pet peeve?
Not booking a job. Ugh! It’s the one thing that guarantees I’m not voicing something.
If you could tell political voiceover clients one thing that would help you do your job better, or help them get what they want faster – what would that one thing be?
If there’s anything in particular you heard in my demo or audition that led you to cast me, please let me know! It’s such a great shorthand to know going in what specific direction, tone, and/or style you’d like. The other is music — if you know what music you’re planning to use underneath, that’s always a huge help at the top of the session to know what I’m playing off of.
What advice do you have to aspiring voiceover talents that want to work in the political arena?
1. Don’t neglect your acting classes. At the end of the day, our job is to bring a script to life, and to create real, genuine connections within the world and point of view of the ad. 2. Be ready. If you think standard commercial bookings work fast, just wait until you work a hotly-contested campaign. 3. And, much like the rest of voiceover, breaking in is a marathon, not a sprint. Be patient and keep working your craft!
What hobbies do you have outside of your voiceover work?
Punk rock and comedy are two of my biggest loves — and they combine at The Hard Times [thehardtimes.net], where I’m the copy editor. I’m also a comedy producer & director, working over the last few years with Late Nights Minneapolis, Real Tough Films, and the National Theatre for Children. Otherwise, you can find me gardening, skiing, homebrewing, at Burning Man-related events, or with my nose in a biography. All of this to say, I’m usually at home if I’m not out on my bike or at the improv theater!