Behind the Mic: Cayman Kelly

Cayman Kelly in the StudioKelly was first introduced to Radio when he was 15 years old and has consistently been in it ever since.  He was complimented on his voice at a young age and a lot of people told him he should be doing something with it…but he didn’t yet understand how to utilize it.  However, through years of experience and training, he now has it down to a science.  Consequently, his voice has been heard on numerous television and radio stations across the country, in movies, video games, concert tours and commercials as well.  He loves being able to look at words and bring the to life with his voice!

What radio VO work have you done in the past?

When I entered the Voiceover world, I started in television promos first and because I was on the radio as an on-air personality, I never really considered being a radio imaging voice.  However, when my radio career led me to Satellite radio, there were so many different genres of music and talk channels, that we all utilized each others amazing talents. So, I became the voice of a variety of imaging, inclusive of the Dr. Laura Show, College Sports Nation, Urban View, Real Jazz, Watercolors, Soul Street, and some of the occasional pop up channels.  Later, after a merger with Sirius and XM, I met my good friend Bryan Apple, who introduced me to Kwazi and POWER 1051 in NY, which happened to be my first Radio Imaging gig in terrestrial radio. Since then I have done Milwaulkee, El Paso, Boston, Atlanta, Washington DC, Philly, Detroit, Orlando, Syracuse, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Birmingham, Ft. Wayne, the Breakfast Club syndication, etc.

What are you up to presently?

I am currently still on the air as a personality at SiriusXM Heart & Soul, Channel 48.  I have been doing my satellite radio show for the past 15 years.

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What do you love about your job?

I love the fact that I can do what I love!  I fell in love with radio when I was about 15 years old and since that period of my life, I have been around radio in some capacity. Even though it has presented some challenges over the years, I have had a lot of growth in the process.  In my current on-air position, part of my job was programming the channel as well as being on-air. But, as my Voice-Over career started to grow and take shape, I was able to shed some of my responsibilities of programming and just be on the air, which is really my passion.  So, nowadays I am able to do my voice-overs and my radio show from my studio in my house, which is another thing that I love! Plus, my commute consists of walking down a couple flights of steps every morning…What’s not to love?

How did you get started as a VO actor?

My voice-over career actually started by “accident” while I was at BET.  I had been hired to Cayman Kelly Voiceoverprovide content for BET UPTOWN, which was a 3rd party channel for the newly launched technology, XM Satellite Radio.  So, in an attempt to be in the know of what was happening on the television side, we had meetings with the Creative Services Department.  As we became familiar with each other, they started asking me to voice some of the radio commercials that they needed. Then, I started doing ALL of the radio commercials for their programs.  Shortly thereafter, I became the voice of the TV Network itself. They also, had some new digital networks that I voiced as well. There’s a Proverb that says, “A Man’s gift will make room for him and bring him before great men!” That’s how it all began…Something I always wanted to do but never knew how to start and the doors were opened!

What was your first gig? Any memorable ones since then?

My first VO gig was BET, which lasted for about 7 or 8 years for me.  Since then, I have done some really FUN and MEMORABLE gigs! One of them that stands out to me was the first CARTOON NETWORK promo that I ever did for ADULT SWIM.  I remember looking at the script and seeing a line that said, “When he’s not kicking ass…He’s Getting It!” I felt like a kid that was getting away with bad behavior…it was just so much fun to get loose like that on a read.  My other standout had to be my FAVORITE and that was having the opportunity to voice some reads on GRAND THEFT AUTO V! That was another session that I got to get loose on. The crazy thing is, when I did that session, I couldn’t tell anyone!  Trust and believe, I didn’t say a word…I wasn’t about to be the ONE who caused a leak for a Billion Dollar game. Oh, and there’s one more…I played myself as a Radio DJ in the movie, “Barbershop: The Next Cut!” I remember going into that studio and there was a huge screen in the booth where I could see the parts of the movie that I was going to provide voice for, and when the LION roared at the very beginning of the movie my voice was the first thing people heard!  Oh what a feeling! I had the opportunity to walk the red carpet at the premiere and party with Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Common, Nicki Minaj, Anthony Anderson, and so many more celebrities at the After Party. Made me feel like I was a STAR!

Who are your VO idols/mentors?

There are a lot of people that I look up to in the VO world such as Joe Cipriano, Don Lafontaine (RIP).  But as far as radio imaging is concerned I would definitely have to say Dr. Dave. He was doing imaging before I even knew what it was.  I remember watching him record his voice for different stations across the country on reel-to-reel and then package them up in boxes and fedex envelopes (way before Mp3’s and internet).  I was a young teenager with a deep voice and he used to always tell me, “You need to be doing something with your pipes!” I didn’t really know what that meant until years down the line. So, when I landed POWER 1051 in NY and started to pick up more and more radio stations to image, I remember calling him and telling him, “This  life is awesome!”

If you weren’t doing voiceover, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career?

That’s a great question!  I often think about that too.  But to be brutally honest, I really have no idea.  However, I do still enjoy being a personality on the radio and I woud love to transition into TV at some point.  So, I guess I do have an answer. Lol

What did it feel like the first time you heard your voice on the radio/television?

The first time I heard myself was on television and it was soooooo exciting!  I don’t think there are any words to describe the feeling of hearing yourself do something that you’ve always desired!  I also voice a lot of concert spots. So, seeing or hearing one of those spots unexpectedly still gives the same feeling of excitement.  I guess it never gets old!

How has new technology changed the way you work?

Technology is so amazing!  It allows you to be portable and still maintain the quality of a “Studio”sound.  All while not even having to carry big bulky hardware. Also, you can work and audition from anywhere in the world and with the internet, turn around times are QUICK!  Like I mentioned earlier, I can remember when there was no internet and seeing Dr. Dave record his station imaging on reel to reel and Fedex out to the stations. We have certainly come a long way.

What gear do you use on the road? In your studio?

I have an Apogee mic that I plug right into the bottom of my iphone and record on an app called Twisted Wave when I need to do quick pickup type stuff.  But, when I’m traveling and I can set up in my hotel, I carry a Macbook, shotgun Mic (Rode NTG3), and my Universal Audio Apollo. If I need to do something in my car I just purchased the Universal Audio Arrow (which is bus powered).  As far as the main studio in my home is concerned I use a Mac, Adobe Audition DAW, I have a few different mics that I use (the Nuemann TLM 103, Shure SM7, and my favorite Rode NTG3). I use a Universal Audio Twinfinity and a Mackie board as well as the UA Apollo (which I bought in 2014 and just recently took it out the box, thanks to a post on FB that I saw Rick Party do).

Which production system do you use and why? Any favorite plugins?

I use Adobe Audition probably because I’m used to it.  I learned on that program when it was called Cool Edit.  Since, I’ve added the UA Apollo to my arsenal, I stay trying different plugins.  But, Rick Party turned me on to the Manley VOX BOX, Little Labs, and Valley People, which I absolutely LOVE.

Have you ever had a voice coach? Would you recommend it?

I’ve actually used several voice coaches and I highly recommend it.  I’ve gained nuggets from each one of them that I have applied to my voice-over gigs!  If you think about everyone is a unique individual and we all have different ways of doing things.  Consequently, working with others allows you to learn from some of their techniques that YOU may not have ever thought of.  I think it’s really beneficial to keep an open mind to learn. It just makes you that much better as a Voice Artist.

How do you schedule and prioritize your work? How much time do you spend auditioning for new work?

Unless I have a scheduled session, I usually just voice my scripts in the order that I receive them during the day. I really pride myself on a quick turnaround.  So, as soon as it’s in, I voice it and send it back to the client. I also spend quite a bit of time auditioning. Afterall, being an entreprenuer, I really can’t afford to get comfortable.  Things change really quickly in this business and if I want to keep up with the lifestyle that I desire, its certainly important to be heard and try to increase my clientele.

How do you market your services to potential clients?

I don’t have a particular formula that I use to market.  I’ve been blessed to have landed a lot of gigs through recommendations and auditions.  Sometimes, when I land something really cool, I will mention and post it on social media and/or send a blurb to the blogs to post.

When it comes to VO work, studio & gear, what are your most ingenious methods or discoveries for saving time and cash?

VO work can be one of the most amazing things that I have ever done.  Sometimes, its kind of surreal that you can make a living using your voice!  As far as Studio and gear, you no longer need a lot of expensive hardware to give you that studio sound.  For example you can get the same exact sound using the UA Apollo and it’s plugs, which would cost you in the $1k range opposed to $12k for the hardware.  That’s saving some serious cash and it’s portable! Plus, that’s not a lot of wiring that you need to be bothered with. Doing VO as a career saves you commute time as well as fuel costs because most of the time, you’re in the comfort of your own home working.

What is the best voice processing trick or voice-over technique everyone should know?

I’m really not an audiophile kind of guy, so I have relied on people that actually do sound design and engineering to show me some things as far as processing is concerned.  I’ve learned a lot by trial and error, turning knobs and flipping switches until I get the sound that I desire. I will say that Mic Technique is very important. If I’m doing a comedy read, I need to back of the mic and if I’m doing a dark supsense read, I need to ride the mic close.

Do you have a different approach to reading radio imaging copy as opposed to TV/Radio commercial ads?

Usually, looking at any script, whether it be radio imaging, TV Promo, or commercial, every script needs its own technique regardless of what it is.  As you grow in VO artistry and understand the gift of interpretation, it’s almost like the copy speaks to you and tells you how it should be delivered!  It’s amazing when you find your voice and can use it for the instrument that it is to bring word to life! I know it sounds weird, but those who actually do it will understand exactly what I mean!

Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry?

There are so many people that ask me how do they break into voice-overs.  I think a lot of people look at it as being an easy way to make some quick money.  So, the first thing that I would suggest is to erase that thought and do the research to understand the competitive nature of the field and learn as much as you can about technique as well as the business side of it.  The next thing I would suggest is to get some training from a coach or some classes because it’s not enough just to have a nice sounding voice, you have to know how to use it. Lastly, I would advise that you find the lane of voice-over that suits you because it is a very broad field, there’s commercial, promo, trailers, narrations, audio books, etc.  Not to say that you wouldn’t be able to do it all eventually, I just think that it’s easier to learn when you focus.

If you could go back in time and hang out in any decade which one would you go back to and why?

Wow! That’s a good question…I think I would choose to go back to the late 80’s or 90s.  I really loved the New Jack Swing genre of music that was created in that time period as well as the fashion (that’s now coming around full circle).  Plus, if I knew then what I know now, I certainly would’ve started doing voice overs back then and I would have been a lot more aggressive and assertive!

Cayman Kelly Voiceover

Favorite 2 pizza toppings?

Hmmmm! I would probably say spinach and onions.

If you could invite one person to dinner, living or dead, who would it be?

Another good question! I’ve met a lot of people throughout my career that I have become friends with but I think I would have to say Stevie Wonder.  He’s someone that I’ve always admired as an artist. His amazing gift to paint a picture with his song writing skills and he’s just a genius in music and his philanthropy efforts are nothing short of GREAT!  There was an occasion when I was chosen to be the voice of the TV spots for his “Songs in the Key of Life” Tour and I felt like I met him then! LOL But, man I would have a conversation about him being a radio owner, song writing, and a whole host of topics…then I’d probably ask him what’s the possibility of me voicing KJLH??? LOL


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