Today’s 5 Questions for a Professional Voice Over Talent are answered by Lee Gordon, a professional voice over talent based in Connecticut.
1. The beginning: When did you know you wanted to be a voiceover talent; how did your career begin (please include what year it started) and then when did your passion for voiceover develop into something professional?
When I was a kid, way back in the 50s, I would hear voices like the great Don Pardo or Johnny Olson on TV. I may not have known I wanted to do that for a living, but I knew it was cool. In high school, perhaps inspired by the popularity of Vaughn Meader’s JFK impersonations, I used to try to amuse my friends by doing impressions of my own. That, and being a fan of my local radio DJs, lead me to college radio, and from there to commercial radio starting in 1969. Eventually, I transitioned from DJ to Production Director and began doing some VO on the side. By the 90s I knew that radio station consolidation would ultimately lead to a contraction of radio jobs, probably including my own, so I prepared to try VO as a full time career, which happened in 1997, when my radio position was finally eliminated.
2. What is the one thing you know now that you wish someone had told you when you first started out in voiceover?
I kind of knew, but the point has now been driven home, that this is really two jobs. The easier one is doing voiceovers; the real work is drumming up the business. I sometimes tell people that I audition for a living.
3. What do you see as the biggest professional or personal obstacle you face that impacts your voiceover business and how are you working to overcome it?
Frankly, my biggest obstacle is me. For years I put in 50-60 hours a week at my radio job plus a few more doing the VO on the side. Once I was on my own I reacted to that by deciding not to work that hard for my new boss (me).
4. What personal trait or professional tool has helped you succeed the most in your career so far?
One trait that has paid off for me has been curiosity. Throughout my life I have found a wide variety of subjects interesting and so I have retained a little bit of knowledge about a lot of things. As a result, I have been able to record narrations and e-learning projects, even fairly technical ones, and sound like I know what I’m talking about. Being a good observer has also allowed me to incorporate a pretty decent range of styles into my repertoire.
5. In your development as a voice over performer, who has been the one particular individual or what has been the one piece of performance advice (maybe a key performance trick, etc.) that you felt has had the most impact on your actual voice over performance and why?
I’ve been doing this for so long, it’s hard to pin down just one individual or one bit of advice. Way back in college I learned a lot from working side by side with some very talented guys. Two in particular were Bruce Nadeau and Al Bartenhagen. As my radio career evolved I worked with a production and copywriting genius named Lance Drake. And in recent years I’ve picked up some incredibly useful information from colleagues such as Bob Souer and Doug Turkel, who have so generously shared their insights.