Behind the Mic: Chris Rollins

Chris Rollins is an Emmy winning voiceover actor that does radio and TV, commercial and narration.  Selfie 1You can hear his voice on FOX television as the voice of “Lethal Weaponpromos, and on a bunch of different radio formats around the world. We are ecstatic to have him on the Benztown Brigade as a voiceover artist!

What radio VO work have you done in the past (stations/markets)?

In the past? I was on 95.8 Capital FM in London, 100.3 The Sound in LA, i101 in Chicago, 102.1 The Edge in Dallas, Channel 4 in Dubai, 2Day Network in Australia, Cities 97 in Minneapolis, DaveFM in Atlanta, and a many others.

What are you up to presently (freelance/on-staff at a station)?

I am doing voiceover work and freelance exclusively, and have been since 2009. In addition to many awesome radio stations, I am also the voice of the “Lethal Weapon” promos on FOX, and narrated the last two seasons of “Yukon Men” on Discovery.  I’ve also done work for ESPN, Weather Channel, MLB, NFL, FX, etc.

What do you love about your job?

What’s NOT to love?!?!  I work from home. No two days are ever the same, and I get to interact and work with some amazing and creative people.

How did you get started as a VO actor?

I was the imaging director for many years at many different stations in many different cities, and I knew I wanted to get into voiceover.  So I started using my voice as a spice, and eventually, stations started paying me just to do voice-over. How cool is that?

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

I can’t remember to be honest.  The first station to pay me for only my voiceover was either Power 98 (a defunct CHR in Amarillo), or 96.7 KissFM in Austin.

Who are your VO idols/mentors?

My dad, first of all. He worked in radio in the DC area, as well as at the Voice of America.  He also did some voiceover himself. He introduced me to the studio when I was really young, and I fell in love with the turny pots and the blinky lights.  He also introduced me to some local VO people. Their stories were fascinating!

I also learned a lot about what to do and NOT to do as a voiceover, working with some of the best.  The late great Brian James was so accommodating and so much fun to work with. Chris Corley, Brian Lee, Jeff Berlin, Jen Sweeney, Annie DeWig and others were always so easy to work with, and fun to BS with on the ISDN.  I am proud to be working alongside them now, and to call them my good friends. As far as what NOT to do as a voiceover actor… those mentors shall remain nameless.

And my idols?  I grew up loving “Ernie Anderson” and of course “Don LaFontaine”.

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

I can’t imagine doing anything else.

(But I have always wanted to drive a train.)

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

Surreal.  And I will add, it never gets old. ☺

How has new technology changed the way you work?

With technology, you can work just about anywhere these days!!  The biggest worries you now have are finding a quiet space, with good acoustics.  But usually a small closet, some pillows and a thick blanket fixes that.

I’m also VERY glad to have FTP delivery, as opposed to FedEx’ing out reel-to-reel tapes.  What a pain in the ass!

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

3- Doorway View

HOME SET-UP: Sennheiser 416 Shotgun.  Avalon M5 Mic Pre, and an AirTools 2x Processor (thank you Brian Lee).  I route everything through a Mackie 1604VLZ4 because I like the analog sound.  I also have a Behringer Headphone Distibution Amp, to add treble and bass when needed.  You can screw up the monitor, but not the mix!

SIMPLE ROAD SET-UP: Sennheiser, into a MicPortPro into my laptop.

COMPLICATED ROAD SET-UP: Sennheiser, into AirTools2x, into MicPortPro into my laptop.

REALLY COMPLICATED ROAD SET-UP: All of the above, plus and Audiobox USB interface and a Mackie Mix8, to send to my Comrex Bric-Link so I can bridge to ISDN.

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

Don’t laugh … I use SawPro32 to do all my editing.  It’s old, and simple, and kinda clunky, but I love it.  And I am lightning fast on it. I always tell people, whatever helps you do the best work and be the most efficient, use that.  If it’s ProTools, good for you. If it’s an Orban DSE-7000, I am impressed. If it’s an Otari MX5050 8-Track, I bow to your greatness.

I don’t use any plug-ins for voiceover – unless I am on the road.  But when I produce (which isn’t very often anymore), I just use EQ’s compressors and other fun things in Waves Platinum.

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

Yes I have, and I would absolutely recommend it.  Just make sure you work with somebody who is not promising you overnight success and guaranteeing a “multi-million dollar career”.  Coaches help you find your sweet spot, find your read, find your VOICE.

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

I use the calendar feature in Outlook ALL the time.  I also categorize all emails that come in and use those little color coded categories – RED for Radio stuff.  BLUE for TV. PURPLE for commercials. LIGHT GREEN for auditions…etc, etc…

Auditioning is mostly what I do.  I would say 75%-ish of my time behind a mic is auditioning.

How do you market your services to potential clients?

Email is the best way these days.

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

This saved money, AND my ass.  Because AT&T sucks, I lost my ISDN lines.  Luckily, a very good VO friend of mine had ISDN that he didn’t use very often.  He also is a technical mastermind, and told me about this ingenious little box that talks to other ingenious little boxes over the internet and sounds amazing and had NO latency.  It’s called a Comrex Bric-Link, and I really hope it becomes the industry standard for communicating – kind of like Zephyrs were the ISDN industry standard back in the day.

Anyway, I am part of a gang of four VO dudes that co-op an ISDN box, and our little system has worked flawlessly.

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

Less is More.

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

Absolutely!  Commercial is completely different from Radio imaging and Affiliate work.  Commercial can be conversational or it can be announcery. It can also require you to have a good sense of comedic timing, or you just have to be able to squeeze 45 seconds of copy into 29.

Promo is sort of related to Radio work, but different enough that it makes the transition very tough.  Narration is way over in left field, but still a REALLY fun part of VO. They are all different and you really need to know how to approach each piece of copy correctly.

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

A – Work Hard, do the legwork. Network and market.

B – Have Patience. LOTS of patience. Don’t expect success right away. And accept success humbly.

C – Cost agents money. That is the ONLY foolproof way of getting an agent – when you take jobs from their talent, they will pay attention to you.

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

I’d go back to the 80’s, and re-do it with all the info and experience I have now. I miss parachute pants and big hair…and 80’s new wave.

Favorite 2 pizza toppings?

Besides the usual… I like pineapple on pizza. I also like mushrooms.  But not on the same pizza.

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

My father-in-law.  He was a very successful economist, and was one of the smartest guys I knew.  He was kind to me and believed in me when I was a young stupid kid dating his daughter.  Despite the fact that his daughter and I were too young to be getting married, and despite my screwy career choice.  He passed away about two years ago, and I miss him dearly.

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