Behind the Mic: Saint John
“I got into radio because I love music and I love the art of communication. Early in life I had the good fortune to be able to listen to some of the best in the business… some of the greatest radio stations and biggest personalities of all time. And of course , I fell in love with the theatre of the mind … not just of the on air talent but of the ever present “phantom personality” … the imaging announcer. The voiceover artist conveys more about your station in 3 seconds than many personalities do in an hour. As a station voice, I love working with program directors in helping to create something unique … something that no one else can duplicate. My style can be over the top … it can be intimate … and it is always engaging. And with station imaging that’s the whole point.”
I began in radio as weekend on air talent and at WZOU/Boston (now WJMN) I was also assigned the task of dubbing music and spots … and then voicing the occasional 60 second commercial. My first station. Imaging voice experience was at Boston’s KISS108 … I was asked to fill in for the station’s creative director for a few weeks and fell in love with both the creative process and hearing my work on the air defining the station. Haven’t looked back since!
What radio VO work have you done in the past?
I’ve been the voice of some pretty exciting stations over the past 2 decades including
- WXRK New York
- KBIG Los Angeles
- KYLD San Francisco
- CKBE Montreal
- HOT957 Houston
- WPOW Miami
- Z90 San Diego
- KXJM Portland
- KIKI Honolulu
- B97 New Orleans
- WLOL Minneapolis
- B95 Fresno
- iHeart Radio DANCE NATION 90s
- KDON Salinas Santa Cruz Monterey
- DaJam983 Maui
- 91.4 Studio1FM Dhahran Saudi Arabia
- 105.7NOWfm Spokane
- Q97 Fresno
Check out Saint’s demo:
What do you love about your job?
I love entertaining and making real connections with people through radio. With 997NOW, having a 2 decade relationship with people in San Francisco is incredibly rare and allows me to have a real place in people’s daily lives. Bonneville encourages our personalities to make a difference in our communities which is incredibly rewarding. On my shows on WPHT I love giving a different perspective and challenging our listeners. Engagement is really what gets me excited. And that’s what I also go for in the voiceover booth. It drives everything I do.
What was your on-air first gig?
First radio experience was during high school. I had a free period … and had access to the radio station at the college next door (Virginia Wesleyan College). From there its was Z104/Norfolk … WHTT … WZOU … then KISS108 Boston
What was your first voiceover gig?
First official station voice gig was B97 New Orleans.
First client station B95 Fresno.
Any memorable ones since then?
All (ok MOST) clients are memorable in that their individual situations are unique. That said … any time I have non English language vo … it’s challenging and fun (especially since I’m not fluent in Mandarin Portuguese or Spanish).
Who are your VO idols/mentors?
IDOL … Hands down it has to be the late Chuck Riley. First worked with his VO at X100/San Francisco and was blown away.
MENTORS … Almost everyone else doing voiceover. I’ve learned so much (stolen so many ideas…lol) from so many other incredibly talented vo people. I can’t name a single voice artist that hasn’t made me hear things in a different way than I normally would.
If you weren’t doing voiceover, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career?
If I weren’t in radio or voiceover, I’d be producing electronic dance music full time (which I do in my spare time) and performing at festivals and clubs. And if not in music or entertainment, I’ve always had a fascination with flying.
How do you continue to stay motivated throughout your long career?
I am blessed and grateful to have relationships with people who challenge, motivate and encourage me daily. From my radio fam from 997NOW (Michael Martin and Jazzy Jim) and Greg Lawley at Lawman Promotions to people like Chachi and the Benztown crew, I get perspective and opportunity to brainstorm with some of the absolute best in the business. Working around fresh talent is a also a huuuuuuge benefit and keeps me from getting myopic. And while I don’t really actively think about how to stay motivated, my friend and mentor (Michael Martin) believes that a key for creatives is having other creative outlets … so it IS that music production and doing talk radio that is a pressure valve. Also taking vacations and enjoying the food, fashion, music and theatre scene in San Francisco is energizing.
How has new technology changed the way you work?
As a voiceover talent, digital technology has been a game changer. Editing is so simple and cleaning up tracks couldn’t be easier. Uploading and emailing has made turnaround time almost instantaneous. And going on vacation is infinitely easier. I used to travel with a full rack kit and now the Neve gear comes with me on a laptop in plug in form.
What gear do you use In your studio? On the road?
The mic for most of my clients voiceover is a Sennheiser 8060 (a little more present for me than a 416 and its smaller so it travels better). Processing in the booth at home is Neve 1073spx pre/eq and Neve 2254R compressor into Sound Devices USBPre2 interface and of course Wheatstone Voxpro. On the road its the Sennheiser into a UAD Arrow (Neve 1073 and 33609 plugins) into Ableton live 10 to record and Wheatstone Voxpro to edit and clean up.
Which production system do you use and why?
For voiceover it’s Wheatstone Voxpro. It’s idiot proof (lol) and since I use it on air every single day I’m lightning fast and it’s second nature. For the very infrequent full promo that I might produce Ableton Live 10 is fantastic … easy … and is incredibly stable. I use it with Waves and UAD plugins (although the stock plug ins it comes with are decent). Of course I can rock with ProTools (started on a system from Pacific Recorders called ADX then on to ProTools) but for me Ableton has made it obsolete.
Have you ever had a voice coach? Would you recommend it?
I’ve just started to work with Marice Tobias and find it valuable. Working with a coach is probably not for everyone but I personally believe that being challenged and encouraged to see things from a different perspective can give you a different edge and a serious advantage.
What is the best voice processing trick everyone should know?
Actually not really a trick but audition EVERY MIC until you find the one (or ones) that works for YOU. Don’t just look at what everybody else uses and assume it’s best for you. Some people sound better on a $100 handheld Shure mic than on a $3500 Neumann U87. DON’T BE AFRAID TO EXPERIMENT.
As for processing … EQ sparingly to sound natural to slightly bright … compress with slow attack time and relatively quick release … then a bit of peak limiting
Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry?
1. FIRST and FOREMOST … MAKE SURE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH THE PROCESS. Don’t be in love with the idea of being a voiceover artist… love the work. If the satisfaction solely comes from getting the gig and the check … you’ll be disappointed far more than delighted. If the work itself isn’t the turn on you’re doing the wrong thing.
2. Like everything in life … don’t overthink it. Especially in a creative field DO NOT SECOND GUESS. When you’re first starting out, don’t be afraid if you’re not perfect. YOU HAVE TO SHIP! It’s easy to get paralyzed because your early work isn’t all the way there. Do your best … ship your best … and always work toward perfection (if there is such a thing).
3. LISTEN TO EVERYONE ELSE’S WORK and get a feel for why you think it works. Incorporate that essence of what makes their work resonate where it makes sense but DO NOT IMITATE. Make friends … network … and talk to other voiceover artists about THEIR points of view and possibly think about voice work from a different perspective than when you began.
If you could go back in time and hang out in any decade which one would you go back to and why?
I think the 70s were incredible … media and music were exciting and vital. Between Top 40 and rock radio were so dominant. And some of the best (and IMHO most important) albums of all time were recorded in the 70s.
If you could invite one person to dinner, living or dead, who would it be?
I could easily give you a hundred … historic, political, spiritual, music or media people … hard to narrow down to just one…but at this moment I’d love to sit down with Gary Vee. He’s always thought provoking, inspirational and challenging…and cuts through all the BS.
Favorite 2 pizza toppings?
Pepperoni and Jalapeños … I’m pretty basic… lol.