Behind the Mic: Johnny Panzarella
Johnny has gone toe to toe in featured roles opposite Cuba Gooding Jr, Ned Beatty, Craig T. Nelson, Bruce Willis, David Morse, and Andre Braugher. His acting instincts and creative choices have made the leap from the screen to the audio booth, including rock and sports imaging where he showcases his unique attitude, edge, and humor.
What radio VO work have you done in the past (stations/markets)?
I started out doing a Beatles show at my college radio station and the hook was in. I was on-air at four Baltimore stations often doing their imaging…WLPL, WIYY, WGRX, and WOCT. The good thing was I never had to hook up a U-Haul and move around.
What are you up to presently (freelance/on-staff at a station)?
I’m currently the voice for some great stations and staff including WBLM “The Blimp” in Portland, WQBK Albany’s Rock station, WQNT Classic Hits in Charleston, and KZZK “The Grizz” in Quincy Illinois. I was also very proud to have been the last image voice for KSWD 100.3 “The Sound” in LA. Thank you, Dave Beasing! I also image for several TV affiliates and do a variety of political spots and commercials including the national campaign for Interstate Batteries. Don’t you love it when they use the option for a second year!
What do you love about your job?
What I love about my job is that I get up every day, cross the hall into my studio wearing Spongebob pajamas, and spend the day creating characters and bringing words to life with no boss around stopping me from taking naps. Who wouldn’t love that!
Check out Johnny’s Imaging Demo:
How did you get started as a VO actor?
I have to credit Oprah Winfrey with that. In 1985 I was filling in for the regular station announcer at WJZ TV in Baltimore when you actually had to go to the station to record. Oprah was an anchor and we met by chance one day in the coffee room. She said she loved my voice and encouraged me to pursue my dream and never give up. Then she asked me if she could borrow a quarter for a cup of coffee…said she’d pay me back which she never did. It’s been my life’s quest to get that quarter back!
What was your first gig? Any memorable ones since then?
My first gig was an anti-drug PSA that ran on Public Television. The first time you hear yourself on a spot is a legal drug! There have been a few memorable gigs doing dialogue spots with Daryl Green of the Redskins and Ben Stein. Bueller!!
Who are your VO idols/mentors?
I have always loved the work of Don LaFontaine, Ben Patrick Johnson, Howard Parker, Chris Corley, and Hal Douglas…just to mention a few. They can rearrange your DNA when you hear their work. To me, it’s all about how it makes you feel and think. My favorite has to be Anthony Call, the narrator for “A Haunting.” He can raise the hairs on my neck reading the phone book!
If you weren’t doing voiceover, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career?
If I wasn’t a voice actor I would probably be in some form of teaching. It’s a great feeling to enlighten and educate others.
How has new technology changed the way you work?
I started doing VO in the ’80s, so I logged many miles traveling to studios to record. Today’s technology gets it all done from home and I save tons of money eating from my own fridge!
What gear do you use on the road? In your studio?
I don’t take gear on the road. I plan my time away around studios I can go to and there are plenty out there. I like the conditions to be perfect. I’ve booked some great work from auditions on the road in my bathing suit. My home studio is pretty simple. Very streamlined and effective. I use a Scarlett 2i4 interface with my best friend 416 mic into my Mac. I have retired my Avalon 737sp, but still keep it in the rack because it looks great in pics! I have Source Connect Standard 3.9 and use Audacity for my day to day record and sends. I’m a volume freak and love my KRK Rokit 8 monitors…these go to eleven!!
Have you ever had a voice coach? Would you recommend it?
I’ve studied with David Lyerly. He is awesome, but in general, I prefer to keep a sharp ear on all forms of media for the actors who are booking. Also, videos, blogs, and other forms of industry teachings give me guidance. I trust my acting instincts and sensibilities to make good choices based on current trends. I’m not saying don’t use a coach. Do whatever works for you. It’s definitely not a one size fits all.
How do you schedule/prioritize your work? How much time do you spend auditioning for new work?
I schedule my work based on priority. Most work is needed by the end of the day, some asap, and some next day. I spend a couple hours a day auditioning. I treat auditions like I would a real session. There’s so much competition you have to deliver performance-ready reads. Plus some clients will use the audition for the gig.
How do you market your services to potential clients?
My marketing is heavy email lists, calls, and social media. I’m always carrying business cards because you never know who you’re going to meet. I’ve met a lot of clients out and about at pubs, ball games, airports, even at a funeral. Always be aware and listen to conversations around you and don’t be afraid to jump in and introduce and sell yourself.
What is the best voice processing trick or voice-over technique everyone should know?
I believe if you have the right gear and studio treatments and you employ the proper vo techniques, you’re going to get an amazing sound!
Do you have a different approach to reading radio imaging copy as opposed to TV/Radio commercial ads?
Two totally different approaches. Radio imaging for me involves a lot of acting, ad-lib skills, instincts, attitude, and humor. The ability to go off-page and make the copy yours. Most Program Directors and Brand Managers will be fine with you going off-road as long as you end up at the same destination. Commercials, on the other hand, are rather restrictive. The writers usually don’t like it when you mess with their words. There’s a lot of room for creativity with pace, style, and character…just stick to the script.
Check out Johnny’s Commercial Demo:
Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry?
Everyone’s journey is different with different tips as to how they made it. For me, number one is Never Give Up!! I purposely didn’t have a Plan B because I probably would have used it when times got really tough. Number two, be trained and prepared. You’ll be competing against the best in the world. Anything short of greatness is not enough. Lastly, if you have talent, confidence, and a good sense of humor – you will do fine.
If you could go back in time and hang out in any decade which one would you go back to and why?
The 70’s. High school, lava lamps, platform shoes, and bellbottoms.
Favorite 2 pizza toppings?
Pepperoni and Anchovies!
If you could invite one person to dinner, living or dead, who would it be?
My Dad. I miss him and he loved Anchovies, too. We could split a big pie for our dinner!