Mel’s path to voice overs:
For the curious types wondering, “Mel, how did you get involved in voice over?” Here are the answers to questions you might want to ask and, perhaps, insight into what first motivated me down this path.
I was faced with a few challenges as I stammered, stuttered, lisped and mumbled. That’s not how you expected a voice over talent’s story to start, is it? As my parents and school were concerned – it was off to speech therapy for me. It was a great experience… though I was, admittedly, resistant at first. During my speech therapy, I read aloud to learn how to breathe properly, pause as needed and focus on my words. I also had to practice tongue twisters. As it turns out, it was great practice for what would happen soon. It was the early 1980s…
My voice then swiftly made a swift and steady drop… in about a week’s time. I had trouble getting enough air to speak and started mumbling again. Soon I remembered and practiced my speech lessons – with much more intent. Fast forward a few years and I’m in a summer program hosted by a local college. It’s 1987 and I’m making friends from NYC and LA who introduce me to punk, hip hop and other music that simply wasn’t available to me before! I’m in a deep conversation about music when my group is approached by a camp counselor (also the General Manager of the college radio station) who asks some friends and I if we can help out at the college station.
Soon enough, I begin to ease into being behind a microphone and can speak a bit more naturally. The GM asks me to record the station ID’s, PSA’s and Underwriting /Sponsorships – promising to show me how to use all the equipment (a reel to reel tape and a CART machine). Over several weeks, I have completed a series of cringe-worthy recordings. The camp is over, and I can’t get to the studio to re-record them, but I realize I can try to learn how to record myself better. I ask my friends from NYC & LA to record some local radio stations and send me the tapes. Thankfully they do and, by skipping the music, I start listening to the commercials and imaging. I do my best to try copying the breathing, style, tone, and emphasis of those I believe have a great delivery and seem quite talented.
After a few more months, I’m back at the summer camp and I’m able to get into the studio and give the recordings another shot. It’s a different GM, but he gives the green light to re-record. I use what I’ve been practicing and, thankfully, it all comes out much better. A few months later – once the GM gets to know me and realizes how well I know my way around the station – I start working part-time at the college radio station.
In 1993 – I end up on a spring break trip, promoted by a local radio station. Two station employees get the opportunity to go on the trip and, as soon as she has the chance, my girlfriend announces, ‘We’ve both been on college radio’. They… were not impressed. We ended up having a long layover at the airport and started talking about the radio business. They end up a bit more impressed that I know how to record, produce, splice tape and transfer commercials to a CART machine. Soon, when we’re back in the US, they invite me in for an interview and offer me a job! It’s 1994 and I’m suddenly working as a producer and graphic designer (it paid to know computers) writing copy, recording clients and producing commercials!
Two years later, in 1996 and I get what seems like a groundbreaking offer. A local TV writer & producer I know is offering to pay me a whopping $20.00 (USD) to be the voice of a local television commercial. My first voice over!
Fast forward several years (it’s now December 2006) when I come to realize that I paid for all my Christmas shopping without dipping into my budgeted job money at all. I made the money doing voice overs, so I decide to take it more seriously, register TheRealVoice.com (initially there were three of us working together, or I would have registered my own name) and start learning to market myself.
In addition to being a copywriter/producer for television & radio. I also worked in Sales, IT and management positions, been a voice over demo producer & coach for beginner VO talent. Some other notable side projects required me to develop, produce and host podcasts and create eLearning type content. I will always, however, be a voice over talent, voice artist and voice actor.