A look into Simon’s voice over world. Find great tips from the new questions inspired by some of our Friday Voice Over blogs.
What got you into the career and what was your first voice over taster?
After a career in law and business, I decided to try my hand at stand-up comedy. I was hopeless at straightforward joke telling, but I’d always had a knack for voices, accents and impressions and built my act around that. I became a regular club performer and appeared on countless BBC radio and TV shows – including my own Radio 4 comedy series – and also voiced cartoons and puppet shows.
A comedian friend of mine set up her own voice over agency c.1993 and asked me to join her. She had very few clients at that time, so pitched me out for everything, knowing I could offer a range of accents and deliveries. My first job was a radio commercial – in the voice of Sean Connery – for a minor station in Jersey. I loved the work and have been hooked ever since. I no longer do stand-up – voice over work is a lot more fun and way more civilized!
What has been your favorite voice over job to date and why?
It has to be the Land Rover global TV campaign. My voice was heard in nearly every English-speaking country in the world! I’d been asked to provide an Anthony Hopkins sound-alike – the idea being that Hopkins would do the final VO – but the agency and the client decided they were happy with my voice. It led to countless spin-offs – promos, idents and radio commercials.
If you had to pick one style which you feel represents you best, what would it be?
Hard to be specific because my USP is my versatility. I love it when clients ask me to provide a sound-alike – David Attenborough, Morgan Freeman, Alan Rickman etc – or ask me to come up with an accent or style. But, increasingly, I am enjoying using versions of my natural voice and accent, which is probably best described as a warm, bassy RP.
Do you think that in this business its detrimental having a regional accent?
RP is probably the prevalent accent across radio and TV, but regional accents are widely used in commercials these days. For example, adverts for tools or vans or decorating materials are invariably delivered in Scouse or Cockney or Geordie. End-users don’t want to hear about some trade paint warehouse from an ex-public schoolboy or RADA trained actor. Likewise, an Edinburgh brogue can be very persuasive for mobile phone consumers, and teenagers will be more likely to take notice of a Mockney accent selling acne cream.
I like to think I can offer any accent, but my natural accent is RP. I was born and raised in London – with a short spell in Liverpool – so have not had to work at it. Delivery is another matter, and only experience teaches you to relax and not oversell.
What’s a typical VO day like for you, have you done anything interesting lately?
I guess, like most voice over artists, I’m always waiting for my phone to buzz with a text from my agent asking me if I’m available for a job. Most of the studios are in the West End of London. I usually cycle into town from home – around 7 miles – give myself an hour to cool down and drink some tea, then head into the studio. There’s nothing I love more than the buzz of settling into the booth and slipping the headphones on.
I also work on a freelance basis with brilliant sites like Piehole Voiceovers, and spend a lot of time preparing bespoke demos and finished sound files in my home studio.
I recently did a TV advert for Heinz. I provided an Italian/American Mafiosi accent for a commercial which is now being aired in Israel. My cod English is accompanied by Hebrew subtitles! The agency directed me via ISDN. Not your everyday job!
What do you recommend, setting up a home studio or using a commercial facilities?
Both. The voice over business is becoming increasingly internet-based. Clients may not have the budget, need or inclination to go through creative and voice over agencies and simply want to connect with the artists directly. It is therefore advisable to have – at the very least – a good quality microphone, a pop shield and a quiet room at home to offer voices on a freelance basis. An understanding of recording software is also useful.
Using a commercial studio will give rise to a cost which needs to be factored into the overall economics of the job. A £100 fee will soon be eroded by hiring fees, travel costs etc.
Any advice for aspiring VOs, can you recommend any online resource to them?
Clients and agencies know what they want. They’ve invested time and money into preparing a script (and visuals for TV ads) and have paid handsomely for creatives and studio time. The voice over artist must therefore be as professional as them. Take direction; do exactly as you’re asked; don’t joke around or try and entertain the clients while you’re in the booth; ask questions to make sure you know what they want; offer suggestions, but only if it’s clear the client/agency is open to them; practice the script before the session starts and when the mic is off; relax (to ensure a good, fluent delivery) but keep your wits about you. Remember, the client is always right. You are there to provide a specific service, not show off or go your own way.
Piehole Voiceovers has lots of info for established and aspiring VOs, but there are countless blogs and resource sites which it pays to mine.
Do have a favorite voice over? What else would you like to let us know about?
My own favorite is my Land Rover TV advert, It works beautifully with the music. Benedict Cumberbatch is my favorite VO du jour. Classy, resonant and persuasive.
As mentioned above, I can offer a warm, mature, bassy RP, but love the challenge of learning a new voice or accent.
Sign Up With Us