Behind The Mic: Brian West
Brian West is our Voice of the Week feature but really…he’s the voice of every week in the voiceover community. This guy is behind the mic, in front of the camera, you name it and he does it. And he does it well. Welcome to the family Brian!
What radio VO work have you done in the past? Currently the image voice for WBLI Long Island, New York; WNFN Nashville, Tennessee; WAJI Fort Wayne, Indiana; WLMI Lansing, Michigan. I was also the national voice for CMT Television in Canada for a few years.
What are you up to presently? I host the afternoon drive home show on rock station Y108 in Hamilton, ON. I’m the narrator for shows on HGTV (Mountain Life, How Close Can I Beach) and on CNBC (Adventure Capitalists). I also voice for national spots in Canada and the US (Degree, Chase, Coke, Esso, Charter Spectrum etc).
What do you love about your job? I love being able to work from home and being in different studios working with different producers and people. Every day is unique and that’s what I love about media.
How did you get started as a VO actor? What was your first gig? I started as an on air host in radio doing local spots. While I was part time I focused on my VO demos and shopped them to agents. My first freelance national VO gig was a television spot for Hyundai. My first ever media gig was the mascot for a radio station called The Bear… I was the Bear and got kicked by many children.
Have you ever had a voice coach? Would you recommend it? Yes I’ve had a voice coach and highly recommend it. It’s always best to have another set of ears hear your work.
Who are your VO idols/mentors? Who influenced your work as a VO artist? Jamie Watson in Canada has been my mentor and friend since the beginning of my professional voice over career. I also love listening to David Kaye, Pat Garrett, and Jeff Berlin. Hearing their radio imaging is what gave me the bug.
What is your dream gig? My dream gig is to be in an animated film and / or a regular animated series. Also to voice movie trailers.
Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry?
1) Practice, Practice, Practice. My wife hates how I’m constantly reading out loud… like billboards when we’re driving lol. Having a voice is one tool, being able to read is a skill.
2) Listen to lots of radio and pay attention to the imaging and commercials. Try mimicking what you hear.
3) Work on different voices so you have a bunch that you can go to. Instead of singing in the shower, I work on coming up with different voices. TMI?
If you weren’t doing voiceover, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career? When I was a kid I wanted to be a school bus driver. Now that I have kids – not so much! If I wasn’t doing VO, I’d still be on air in radio. I used to have a part time job at a bank… but it’s too stiff in there.
What’s it like being a part of the voiceover community? While it’s definitely a super competitive industry, the folks that I’ve met who are successful, have always been willing to give advice and help out where they can. It’s competitive, but a small industry at the same time.
How do you schedule/prioritize your work? I have scheduled sessions that happen at a certain time with a producer, but when I have unsupervised reads I do them based on the order they come in to me (unless something is more time sensitive).
How much time do you spend auditioning for new work? I usually do an average of 3-5 auditions per day for spots.
How do you market your services to potential clients? I advertise my imaging on a radio site called MilkmanUnlimited in Canada and am constantly working on social media as well (Facebook, LinkedIn etc).
Which production system do you use and why? In radio school we learned on Adobe Audition (Cool Edit at the time), so I use that to record on my iMac.
What gear do you use? I use a Sennheiser 416 mic, Avalon M5 Preamp and Audient ID22 interface. I have a home studio after I converted a cold storage wine cellar in my basement – it’s nice and quiet! (And now has heat). When I’m traveling I use the Apogee One.
What is the best voice processing trick or voice-over technique everyone should know? Getting in close to the mic and speaking quietly can sometimes have some great results.
When it comes to VO work, studio & gear, what are your most ingenious methods/discoveries for saving time and cash? When I first started I used to voice things from the closet in our space bedroom. It was tight quarters but worked well until I could get my studio up and running. I also still use comforters and pillows when traveling and in a hotel and something needs to be voiced.
Do you have a different approach to reading radio imaging copy as opposed to TV/Radio commercial ads? For sure. Radio & TV commercials all have different direction depending on the spot. Imaging you can often have more fun with.
What did it feel like the first time you heard your voice on the radio/television? For me the coolest feeling was being in a different city when traveling and hearing my voice on a station there.
Not only are you in the studio but you have also been in front of the camera hosting red carpet events.
1) How do you prepare for a big red carpet event?
Doing as much research before interviews is key. There’s nothing worse than having nothing to say when an artist walks up to you. Also, trying to make sure you know a little bit about everyone is the toughest part.
2) Do you have a different approach to your voice on camera as opposed to the studio?
As much as you always try to be natural when reading, I think more of my ‘normal speaking voice’ comes out when in front of the camera.
3) Do you get star struck?
I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of cool people, so I generally don’t get star struck… although growing up watching his movies I’d probably be star struck by Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jim Carey.
Who or what kind of music are you listening to the most right now? The music I listen to is all over the map. Once minute I’m listening to Nirvana, then the next song is Eminem followed by Black Sabbath into The Beach Boys. It would be one hell of a radio station!
Agent: Nate Zeitz at CESD Talent
Agent Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org