Behind The Mic: Randy Thomas
Randy Thomas has got to have the most impressive resume out there. A pioneer for women in radio and TV, Randy found her calling early on and she’s the dependable, hard-working, uber talented artist you want on your station.
1) What radio VO work have you done in the past? Since 1993 I have done imaging for some of the top radio stations in America from New York, Detroit, Cincinnati, Memphis, Denver, Los Angeles and more. For a long time I mostly imaged AC and Hot AC radio, but then I picked up more Talk radio and Rock formats. I just returned from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Barclays Center in NYC. Journey, yes, Pearl Jam and Elo were all a part of my rock radio days.
2) What are you up to presently? I am a full-time voice actor and live announcer.
3) What do you love about your job? What don’t I love? I get to work with fantastic clients and travel to the best cities to voice some of the biggest live shows on the planet.
4) How did you get started as a VO actor? What was your first gig? The first national radio and television commercials I did was for Hooked On Phonics. You may remember me saying, “Get Hooked on Phonics, call 1-800-ABC-DEFG!”
5) Have you ever had a voice coach? Would you recommend it? a) Always! You cannot become a great voice over artist without a great coach, or several great coaches. No one gets to the US Open, without a great coach. VO is the same way. b) Yes! You want someone who teaches, and best case scenario is that they are also artists who work at a very high level. Make sure you vet your coaches, demo producers, and marketing gurus. I created an event called Voice Over Mastery. We are celebrating our 4th year with another amazing conference in Los Angeles.
6) Who are your VO idols/mentors? Who influenced your work as a VO artist? a) Don LaFontaine was a mentor, in fact he wrote the foreword to my book “Voice For Hire“. b) Many people…Peter Thomas for one. Joe Cipriano was super-helpful and a good friend when I started out at FOX doing promos in the 90’s there. My radio career as a DJ and voice over career has had one constant. I tended to get hired for the jobs that only men had held previously to my arrival on the scene. From being one of the first women on the air in Detroit rock radio, then later in Miami. Around 1993 I was one of the first women to do radio imaging, and of course the job that set my career in motion, the Academy Awards. I recently returned to the 89th Oscars for my eighth time.
7) What is your dream gig? I love the variety of work that I get to do: promos, commercials, imaging and TV affiliate work. Movie trailers is a door I would like to kick open next.
8) Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry? 1) Find a great coach. I can help you find one if you like. I just need to know what your budget is for a coach, and eventual demo. I coach in person on occasion and every week via Skype. My rates are consistent with most Los Angeles or NYC pros, generally charging around $150 an hour via Skype. 2) Buy a decent mic. Learn Pro Tools or Twisted Wave and create a proper recording space in your home. 3) Study, practice, and after studying with a great coach or two, figure out where you will succeed in VO. Commercials, promo, voice imaging for radio and TV? Animation and character work, online narration, cable documentary narration? There are a lot of choices, so you need an expert that has succeeded at scaling these various VO mountains, because advice is always cheapest if you are smart enough to get it secondhand.
9) If you weren’t doing voiceover, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career? I would probably be a teacher, an activist and coach.
10) What’s it like being a part of the voiceover community? It is an amazing community filled with some of the most talented people in the world. Most are kind, giving, caring and honest. To be a member of the brother and sisterhood of SAG/AFTRA is an honor and a privilege, to live a creative life.
11) How do you schedule/prioritize your work? Every day I plan out my workday and exercise schedule based on copy coming in the night before. I generally do my auditions in the morning and map out my day from there.
12) How do you market your services to potential clients? I send them my demos and let them hear what I do in the hopes that they like a particular read or sound and go from there.
13) Which production system do you use and why? I used to have a state of the art studio in Florida with all the bells and whistles. Now I rent a house in LA so I use my Sennheiser 416, Scarlett 2i2, Avalon, and I record in Twisted Wave. For big sessions like the Tonys and Academy Awards, I use a studio in town.
14) What gear do you use? I love my Sennheiser and Neumann u-87. I also have a Manley Mic and Vox Box which I will use again, down the road.
15) How has new technology changed the way you work? It allowed me to leave Los Angeles 15 years ago so my daughter could grow up there, but now that she is at USC we are back. But I was able to leave and travel because of the digital world we live in.
16) When it comes to VO work, studio & gear, what are your most ingenious methods/discoveries for saving time and cash? Hire an editor. It is worth it for me to do more work knowing I can have an editor take hours of work off my plate.
17) Do you have a different approach to reading radio imaging copy as opposed to TV/Radio commercial ads? Of course. In radio you have to engage the listener even more and in television it is a much more subtle performance.
18) What did it feel like the first time you heard your voice on the radio/television? I loved it! A real high!
19) Your resume is crazy impressive (THE voice of The Oscars, The Super Bowl, The Emmys, Tonys, and SAG Awards to name a few). How did you feel when you got those first phone calls and how does it feel to hear your voice on the most watched programs?! My heart skipped a beat the first time I was chosen to announce the Academy Awards, and I am so very grateful and honored every time I get a call for a major show. I am truly blessed, but I have also learned over the years how to keep those major clients close and I learned why they keep coming back to me :).
20) What are some acting tools you bring into your voiceover career? You have to ask yourself certain questions: Who am I in this situation? Who am i talking to? What is the message? Keep it real and relatable.
21) When did you realize voiceover was going to be your career…and a such a successful one?! At first I thought radio broadcasting was my career, but it took me into live announcing and voice over and it felt honest and true. It is easy for me to live in all three of these worlds.
22) If you could go back to any decade and hang out which one would you go back to and why? Believe it or not I don’t like looking backwards. While I am always pleasantly surprised when I tune into a rock station and I happily sing along with the music I grew up with, I don’t live in the past… I find myself focused on today and tomorrow. I like new contemporary music that makes me feel good. My daughter has the best Spotify playlists ever! However I also find myself tuned into news-talk stations, like KFI and KABC driving around LA.
23) What’s your guilty pleasure? Chocolate and wine. Flowers too! In fact I’m starting a new podcast this summer called “Wine Women & Chocolate”. I am doing it with my best friend Catherine Curry Williams. We are talking to men and women all over the world and having conversations about things that matter today.
24) If you could travel anywhere in the world right now where would you go and why? A beach, any beach. I have a lot of writing on my plate right now and spending a month near the water writing is my dream!