Behind the Mic: Dani States
You’ll hear Dani’s distinctly hip, authentic, fun, and engagingly real sound on Pandora, iHeart radio, and national television. And now she’s bringing her fresh voice and perspective to radio imaging. Most days, you’ll find her working from her home studio in Seattle with Moose, her faithful studio dog watching and waiting right outside (and occasionally inside!) the booth.
What radio VO work have you done in the past (stations/markets)?
I don’t have much of a “radio” background…I was the 6P – midnight gal at KCLX in Colfax, WA in the early ‘80s…I got the job by BS’ing my way in, telling the station manager I knew how to run the board (after all, how hard could it be?!). Had a bit of an “issue” one night when I couldn’t break in after a sports feed…thought my mic was off as I cursed my way through the process of figuring it out. Turns out the mic was on the whole time (Yeah. I know.). Fortunately, there were only a few cows listening to the station and rumor has it they gave sour milk the next day. I quit out of humiliation. Hahaha!
Went on to sales at KHIT in Seattle and voiced a few spots before moving on to a media buyer position with McCann Erickson, Seattle.
What are you up to presently (freelance/on-staff at a station)?
I’ve been doing VO full-time for 8+ years. You’ll hear me on Pandora, iHeart, and Spotify. Most of my VO work is commercial, podcast intro/outro, and sponsorships.
What do you love about your job?
First and foremost, I LOVE my clients. I love building relationships. I have several clients that I have worked with from the very beginning and we’ve become friends and long-distance office mates. Besides that, after 15 years in corporate marketing and advertising, I LOVE working for myself. There’s nothing better than knowing that everything I do has a direct benefit for my client and for me, personally. Win-Win! (Oh! And, working in my jammies all day if I want to!)
How did you get started as a VO actor?
It was my husband’s fault. 🙂
After getting laid off for a second time from a corporate marketing job (both during downturns…) He said, “why not do voiceover?” I bought a mic, set up in a closet, learned how to record, and started auditioning on an online casting site. I was on unemployment for 6 months and had to make it work in that amount of time. I did. I booked a few small jobs, then some bigger ones. Started gaining a few repeat clients and got my first *big* paycheck the week that my unemployment ran out. And the rest is history.
What was your first gig? Any memorable ones since then?
My first paid gig was podcast bumpers for “Hardstyle Quantum”…It happened the second day I was auditioning. I applied some coaching that I’d gotten in my first voiceover class a couple of weekends before, “Give them what they ask for on the first take. Then, give them what you think it should be on the second.” They loved that second take – and used it as it was! No directed session. No additional takes. (And, thank god they did! I wouldn’t have known what to do if they wanted anything more or different.)
Since then, I’ve had some really REALLY fun gigs. Probably most memorable was a text-to-speech job that took me to Scotland for four weeks in 2015. I lived in Edinburgh, worked 3 hours a day, five days a week. Spent the rest of the time exploring the city and weekends traveling (St. Andrews, York, London, Paris…) It was one of those jobs that sounded like it was too good to be true, but actually turned out to be a dream come true!
Is it just us or does it seem super obvious that Dani LOVES doing voiceover?
Who are your VO idols/mentors?
I have had several at different stages of my career. Early on guys like Mike Brang, Tim Tippets and Jay Preston took me under their wings and helped me get started – they were so generous with their time offering advice, teaching me the technology, and helping me understand the business of voiceover. Then, I started meeting some really amazing women – Jodi Gottlieb, Tish Hicks, Sally Neal, and Kay Bess have been friends and mentors. My VO idols include Debbe Hirata, Rachel Butera, Heather Walters, Kay Bess (she pulls triple duty as friend/mentor/VO idol) and the extraordinary Mia Bankston.
If you weren’t doing voiceover, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career?
I would probably be a midwife or doula…or one of those people that work for an ecology concern and counts things on the beach.
What did it feel like the first time you heard your voice on the radio/television?
Well, to be honest…with my first jobs, it was horrific. I wanted to be so much better than I sounded. Now, it’s fun! And, it always stops me in my tracks – especially if I’m just listening to the radio or TV and not really paying attention. My voice pops in and I’m like, “Hey! That’s me! Ha!”
Fun fact: I voiced a campaign for Robinhood early in the year, just before the whole GameStop thing…It’s fun to think that my voice might have played a small role in “Democratizing investing.” 😉
How has new technology changed the way you work?
Since I started in 2014, it really hasn’t changed much. Online casting and home studios were already “a thing.” Remote directed sessions were more common (for me) than in agency auditions and in-studio sessions. So, I haven’t felt like I’ve had to adjust my business or work style much to adapt to technology.
What gear do you use on the road? In your studio?
My studio is a VocalBooth out of Medford, Oregon. It’s my happy place, for sure! I have both a Sennheiser 416 and TLM 103, but right now the Senny is my most favorite mic. And, I run it through a United Audio Apollo Solo. I also take the Senny with me on the road – and have an older Apollo Twin that I use as my travel interface. So, my audio quality is pretty consistent whether I’m at home or traveling.
Inside Dani’s magical VO booth!
Which production system do you use and why? Any favorite plugins?
I use Adobe Audition. Coming from a marketing background, I was familiar with other Adobe products, so it wasn’t much of a learning curve to make the switch from InDesign and Illustrator to Adobe Audition. I don’t process much at all, but my favorite plug-ins are iZotope “De-Mouth Click” and RVox Mono, for a teeny bit of breath reduction.
Have you ever had a voice coach? Would you recommend it?
Absolutely. Yes. I have worked with so many great coaches. Marice Tobias, Dave Walsh, Tom (or Thom) Pinto, MaryLynn Wissner, Jodi Gottlieb, to name just a few.
Professionals in every evolving field are required to do continuing ed…and so are voice actors. Trends change. We get stuck. We get “comfortable” doing things a certain way. We can always get better. AND…I always recommend sitting back and letting things soak in a bit. Because you can also “over-coach.” It’s a balance, to be sure.
How do you schedule/prioritize your work? How much time do you spend auditioning for new work?
Unless a client has a rush, I generally prioritize by FIFO (first in/ first out). I keep a pretty detailed production log to keep me on track. As for auditions, I try to get a few in every day. I like auditioning. It’s fun!
How do you market your services to potential clients?
Poorly. Ha! You’d think with a marketing background, I’d be great at it. But, I’m not. Mostly, I stay in touch with my clients. And, occasionally, I hire my virtual assistant to do a little outreach. But, for the most part, my work comes organically through current clients, auditions and people who find my website.
When it comes to VO work, studio & gear, what are your most ingenious methods/discoveries for saving time and cash?
Exporting audio within range markers is the fastest, easiest way to separate a long track into individual files. My clients love me for it.
What is the best voice processing trick or voiceover technique everyone should know?
I don’t process much at all…but the iZotope “Mouth De-Click” is a must have.
Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voiceover industry?
1. First of all…don’t get into voiceover for the money. Do it because you think you have a passion for it. Especially when you’re starting out, but even when you’re experienced, the “job” is auditioning. So, if you do not love auditioning…just stop there.
2. Get. Reputable. Coaching. Don’t do a Google search…“How to be a voice actor.” If you think you want to be a voice actor, do your research and find local or online coaching to get started. And, if the coach offers you “Six easy lessons and then you’ll record your professional demo…” Run.
3. Start with online casting sites. Get your feet wet. See if you book. And, if you do, keep doing it. Wait until you have a good body of work before trying to “get an agent.”
BONUS: “It’s selection, not rejection.” If you didn’t book the job, that doesn’t mean you were “rejected.” The client “selected” someone else. And, next time, they just might “select” YOU.
Bonus advice #2: Make sure to get out of your VO booth and into the sun (preferably with an awesome dog like Moose)!
If you could go back in time and hang out in any decade, which one would you go back to and why?
The 60’s – hands down. I wanted to be a flower child. But, I was just a kid and I missed it. Or the 1730’s in the Scottish Highlands.
Favorite 2 pizza toppings?
Mama’s little peppers, roasted garlic.
If you could invite one person to dinner, living or dead, who would it be?
My mom, Karen Cooper Tuell. She died when I was five. I’d love to share dinner with her and fill her in on all that’s happened since she left. I think she’d be really proud.