Behind the Mic: Pete Gustin
Pete Gustin is a current and 3-time winner of the Benztown Top 50 award and also the current title holder of the SOVAS Voice Arts Award for “Outstanding Movie trailer of the Year.” Pete is the voice of dozens of radio stations worldwide as well as the exclusive voice of Fox News and has been featured on Fox, ABC, CBS, USA, Cartoon Network, Comedy Central, FXX and ESPN. Pete’s work on movie trailers has grown exponentially in the last couple of years coinciding with his move to San Diego where he actually tries to get out of the booth every once in a while to enjoy his new sport of surfing in the Pacific.
What radio VO work have you done in the past (stations/markets)?
I’m on in LA, Boston, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Portland and many many points within that geographical circle along with stations in Africa, the south of France, the Seychelles, Trinidad and Tobago, the British Virgin Islands and … more.
What are you up to presently either freelance or on-staff at a station?
I am full-time freelance VO but still do a little production here and there, including handling all of the imaging needs for WRIF in Detroit. I’m also the sole creator of the Tirade Imaging Library and am presently working on my second novel.
What do you love about your job?
I love competing to “win” gigs. As kids, we have so many more opportunities to compete in things like youth sports and in school. Being able to compete on a daily basis with so many other talented VO people around the country and the world for VO jobs adds some excitement to every single day. After that, I love the opportunity to perform and to bring life to copy.
How did you get started as a VO actor?
Long story short? I hit puberty and my voice dropped dramatically. I used to sound like a little girl. Like … not a young boy … like a little girl. When my big-boy voice came in everyone started telling me I should grow up to be on the radio. I took their advice as soon as possible taking my first internship at WRKO in Boston my freshman year at Boston University.
What was your first gig? Any memorable ones since then?
My first gig on air was actually as a traffic reporter for WBZ in Boston while I was a freshman at Boston University. First gig making promos was for WRKO in Boston my sophomore year. Junior year I started my first DJ’ing job on WPXC on Cape Cod. First Production Director job was for WEEI and WRKO right after I graduated. Like, the day after I graduated. First “station” I ever officially voice was Liquid Metal (then called Hard Attack) on Sirius/XM……..which I’m still the voice of today some 19 years later.
Who are your VO idols/mentors?
The first guy I ever wanted to be like was a local Boston celebrity/VO artist by the name of Dana Hersey. I also got in touch with Don LaFontaine my junior year of college who used to give me acting and VO lessons from the back of his limo on his way home from gigs at the end of his days out in L.A. It was kind of……..amazing.
If you weren’t doing voiceover, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career?
I studied advertising and psychology at B.U…..so I’d probably be putting both of these degrees to good use in creating ads at some agency somewhere. VO’s was actually kind of always just the “dream plan”. I thought working in advertising was actually much more likely….but I’m REALLY glad it’s worked out the way it has.
What did it feel like the first time you heard your voice on the radio/television?
The first time I was on air I was a guest on a morning talk show in Boston and I was 10. I was like … “holy crap….I totally sound like a girl!”
How has new technology changed the way you work?
Well…I would not be able to work if it were not for new technology. I am of course legally blind. I can’t actually “read” anything. Hell…I can’t see much of anything these days. So, my copy gets red to me via a little computer voice in my left ear and I recite it back in real time as I hear it. it was hard as all hell to master the skill…but it was completely necessary in order to do what I really wanted to do in life. Fortunately, the human brain is adaptable and I’m not easily dissuaded by a challenge.
What gear do you use on the road? In your studio?
I pretty much never get to go on the road. I’m locked in the booth pretty hardcore every day. I had a soundproof recording studio built by a company called Soundproof San Diego. The booth is absolutely amazing. It’s soundproof and, well…pretty much bomb proof. I use Pro Tools on a PC with a Prism Lyra 2 fed by a Sennheiser 416 shotgun mic along with 2 mice at the same time with 32 different macros for editing.
Which production system do you use and why? Any favorite plugins?
I use Pro Tools because it’s whatI learned on. Well…technically I learned on the DSE 7000FX but they don’t make that beast anymore so….Pro Tools it is. One handy dandy little plug-in I found is the Black Box. It honestly doesn’t do a heck of a lot to the VO….but it does just enough to make it sparkle and cut through. Juuuuuuuust enough.
Have you ever had a voice coach? Would you recommend it?
Yes. Oh yes. Of course. I’ve worked with Marice Tobias, David Lyerly, Artt Butler and Richard Redfield. Were it not for them I’d still be growling at a mic thinking my baritone sound was enough to be a voice over guy. They all worked with me extensively to teach me how to…you know……..act.
How do you schedule or prioritize your work? How much time do you spend auditioning for new work?
I try to do work at the moment it comes in. I think all of my clients would tell you that they are amazed with my turn-around time. All scripts are usually done in maybe 5 to 10 minutes and I usually handle between 40 to 60 sessions a day. I will of course have to put some of the bigger and more demanding clients like Fox News and other TV networks at the head of the line even if something else had come in first…but no one ever waits very long. Some days I do zero auditions. Others I can do up to maybe five or so. I am however always working on new demos and new ways to market and advertise which I think is just as important as auditioning.
How do you market your services to potential clients?
Like a hooker. I am a total prostitute. I show off my goods and try to tempt people into sleeping with me … I mean … hiring me to read copy.
When it comes to VO work, studio & gear, what are your most ingenious methods or discoveries for saving time and cash?
The big time-saver is the left-hand mouse I use called the Contour Shuttle Pro v2. I don’t even need the keyboard when I use pro Tools. I play the program like a piano; cutting, copying, pasting, moving and everything else with my fingers floating over the keys like a pianist on his ivories.
What is the best voice processing trick or voice-over technique everyone should know?
Don’t over-do it. Seriously…..the old-school big, forced “radio” sound is dead and has been for a long time. Let your natural sound shine through. I mean….don’t JUST talk like you normally would…but don’t pop a vain in your neck unless you’re the voice of a death metal station.
Do you have a different approach to reading radio imaging copy as opposed to TV or Radio commercial ads?
Yes…completely. I also have different processing for different jobs. Radio is a little bit exaggerated. Above I said don’t push your VO…and you shouldn’t…..but a lot of radio copy does call for a bit of an exaggeration to what you’d normally do as an actor. It’s just the nature of the type of promotion radio does. TV promos are more natural. Trailers are far more laid back than people think when they talk about them…and commercials are completely natural and will book based solely on your acting skills.
Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry?
- Take acting classes
- Read as much copy as you can as often as you can. Repetition and practice are your best friends
- Wear as little clothing as possible when you read copy. Clothes can restrict your diaphragm so … underpants only when possible.
If you could go back in time and hang out in any decade which one would you go back to and why?
I wanna go back in time to the era of the ancient Greeks and Romans. I know I wouldn’t be able to be a VO guy but I could be like a Town Crier or something and I feel like that time of innovation for thought and technology would be fascinating to see first-hand.
Favorite 2 pizza toppings?
If you could invite one person to dinner, living or dead, who would it be?
Julias Caesar (and a translator). I would like to witness first-hand the personality and magnetism that made him who he was. I’m actually pretty sure he’d be kind of a huge dick and really bossy, but it would still be very interesting to see. I feel like he’d be kind of like Donald Trump but somehow even MORE arrogant cuz, well…he actually does (or did) rule the world.
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