Last year, I did the second craziest thing I’ve done as a writer – I wrote a contemporary novel. And a young adult one to boot! Throw in a story written exclusively from an 18-year-old skateboarder’s point of view and I had officially lost my mind. 😉 But for those of you who’ve read this book, you know how much fun we had and today, the fun continues as I get to introduce you to my friend Nick Powers who is the voice behind the audio version of To Get to You.
He’s the talent who has brought Riley Kane’s story to life and when it comes to both vocal style and enthusiasm, there couldn’t have been anyone more perfect. As a California native (and a surfer!) he captured that perfect sound for this story. Some of his scenes are laugh-out-loud hilarious and other times, I find myself frozen in whatever I’d been doing, just listening to the depth of emotion he brings. I couldn’t be more thankful for Nick’s energy and talent on this project and today, he’s joining us for an inside look at his recording process. Plus, at the end, we’ve got a little surprise in store.
J: What made you first want to try your hand at recording audio books?
N: I was listening to some online webinars taught by a few very seasoned voice actors, and one coach in particular recommended students try narrating audio books. It’s a great way to do a LOT of VO in a short period of time, while working on acting skills. Also, I figured if I can read through and produce a full book, it would make my day-to-day, shorter VO work seem like cake!
J: As a voice actor, do you have any funny habits or quirks? Any special observations you do that us normal folk might not think about? You mentioned that when you started working on the book, you began to narrate your life. Can you give us a demo of that? 🙂
N: I listen a lot more carefully to radio and TV ads and sometimes think to myself “wow, that’s a great voice” or, “hmm I would’ve read that differently”. No major quirks, though. In the vocal booth I tend to use my hands a bit for reading emphasis. I ball up my fist almost like a politician as I read through lines and punch the air on certain beats. And YES, I started thinking like the character and narrating my life in my head! Like, “Nick rolled out of bed and threw on his favorite sweater, then went downstairs to see if the coffee machine was still broken. ‘Darn it. Starbucks, here we come.’ he said.”
N: The hardest part probably was figuring out how each character was going to sound. It took some reading ahead and looking at the context of the dialogue to pull out HOW each person would say certain things. I also researched surfer voices and Hawaiian voices to get the main characters as accurate as possible. Accents are tough for me. Then the tricky part was staying consistent with each voice. I sometimes had to think “wait, how does this guy sound again? And how would he say this?” The easiest part was editing the audio together, removing some breaths, background noises, reading errors, etc. It just took FOREVER.
J: If I remember correctly, you record from home, using your closet as a sound-proof booth. Can you share with us a bit about what a recording session for you might look like?
N: Yes, it’s quite a glamorous setup (lol kidding)! The term “sound-proof” is a pretty loose one too but I did my best to isolate certain frequencies that were reverberating in there and put some padding to soak up the sound waves. No home studio is totally perfect! I run cables out under the door to the computer and the rest of my equipment. I try and wait until a quiet time of day, evening usually there is less traffic outside- yes you can even hear cars outside etc with a sensitive mic! Then I make sure I’m wearing something light and cool (because a closet gets warm after awhile), hit record, then get in there with the script on my ipad and shut the door! I emerge about 30-1hr later with each chapter recorded, including multiple takes of certain tricky lines. I’m usually hungry afterwards. 🙂
J: Well, I owe you an order of Inn & Out fries – animal style! For those of you reading this, Nick would then send me the chapter he recorded and I had the treat of listening!
Nick, you do some AMAZING voices and I found myself laughing over the banter of Riley, Saul, and Jake when they were in the VW bus together. It truly felt as if there were three different guys in the car. Does that sort of acting and recording require any special technique?
N: Well thank you! Some of those voices are a little taxing to do, so having some water helps to switch between them and not get dry too soon. Although some voices NEEDED more dry, raspy-ness (Saul) so I would have to warm up a bit with some weird low grumbling sounds. Also for deeper voices, there’s this thing with mics called the “proximity effect” which says as you get closer to the mic, it picks up more low tones. So, for Saul, I’m really close to the mic and it captures the bass tones better. The other thing is switching back and forth, sometimes if I had trouble I would record a rough dialogue to get the timing and pauses right, then go back and re-record one character saying all his/her lines in a row. That way I could edit those in and they sound more consistent.
J: Wow, that’s fascinating! The consistency and diversity really shows. Of all the characters, who did you most enjoy performing? Who posed the biggest challenge?
J: Surprisingly, when I wrote the book, I imagined Jake’s voice in my head a particular way and then when I heard your recording of him, that became how I envisioned him and now I can’t imagine his voice any other way.
One last question for you Nick and thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today! What lessons or themes do you hope readers will walk away with after hearing the story performed?
N: I think the story shows that deep down, people are good and WANT to be good. You’ve got to be patient and tolerant with people, especially family, and give them a chance. As I was voicing the characters, I was trying to put myself in their positions to make sure I accurately said what they felt. As listeners, I hope people hear those character voices and feel more immersed in the story and find it easier to relate to the characters, maybe not literally what they are going through, but HOW they are feeling as they deliver lines.
J: Beautifully said, Nick. Thank you!
Giveaway update ~ Congratulations to Carrie Barley and Preston Leigh on winning the two audio downloads!