Chris Thomas: 2 First Names, 1 Awesome Voice.
Meet Chris Thomas, professional jazz trumpeter, composer, classical violinist, and VO star.
What are you up to presently (freelance/on-staff at a station)? I provide VO/imaging services for tv, radio, online videos, movie trailers, and whatever else someone wants to pay me to voice. I’m blessed to be working with many great stations, agencies and production houses in 30 states and 8 countries including my work voicing the Benztown AC Imaging Library. I work with producer Adam Hood (Hoody!), who does an amazing job turning out fresh, solid material every week. From bloopers/outtakes to setting the stage with situational sound effects (wrestling with Christmas lights or eating pie at the mic), we have lots of fun with our work!
What do you love about working as a freelance VO talent? I love the freedom to create my own schedule and grow as aggressively as I choose. Each day is unique, and that keeps me excited. Where else can you do work for a national movie trailer, global household cleaning product line and a pilates fitness program in the same week? I am constantly looking for new opportunities and enjoy the flexibility to pursue any project I believe in, large or small.
How did you get started as a VO actor? I grew a small roster of freelance VO clients and contacts while working in radio. In 2008, Edison Media Research included me in their list of “30 under 30” award winners. And in 2009, I dove into further growth of Chris Thomas Audio Productions. I still get to embrace my love of radio providing VO/imaging for great stations around the world along with my commercial clients in other fields.
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Who are your VO idols/mentors? Who influenced your work as a VO artist? I love producing/mixing other great VO talent. Dick Ervasti, David Lee and Brian Christopher were some of my favs over the years. I think experience on the production side helps when behind the mic working with other producers. Every day, my ears are open to learn new tricks or approaches from other talent. I’m also a musician/composer and feel that is helpful with timing, presentation and the overall vibe or soul of a script or project.
Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry? 1) Nothing comes easy. Your first couple years (or any other year) can be tough. It takes time to build lasting business relationships. Many people won’t call you back or return e-mails. But when someone does, and an opportunity is presented…be ready. Give them the best service they could ever wish for and a reason to come back. 2) Your voice is not right for every project. And neither is mine. Sometimes, in efforts to grow business, we try to force ourselves into an audition that we know our voice doesn’t fit. Every voice is unique and has its strengths. Find yours and focus on what people tend to hire you for consistently. It will clear up your vision and maximize your time. 3) Don’t under value your services. Work for fair rates. I’m all for negotiating a price break when necessary. But if the fair rate for a project is $400 and that client wants you to do it for $50, perhaps you should use your time on something else. There is a difference between doing something as a hobby and doing it to make a living. Think of all the costs associated with your business – computers, software, mics, mixing boards, processors, the bills to run it all, etc. And don’t forget to put a value on your time and talent. Then set fair rates that will keep the lights on.
How do you market your services to potential clients? New customers come through word of mouth, referrals, custom auditions, and social media or web pages. But just as important as gaining new clients is keeping existing clients. Once a year, I send out “thank-you” packages to new customers and regulars that provide me consistent work. I’ll include a hand written note to show my appreciation, a postcard with promo code (for a future discount) and fun items that contain my logo/contact info. This year’s miniature cowbells were certainly memorable! You can find pictures of the swag on my Facebook or Twitter page.
What gear do you use (microphone, pre-amp, booth, etc)? I use mainly Nuemann mics, the TLM 103 has a great ability to switch between hard/aggressive reads and lighter/conversational material without having to make too many adjustments down the chain. A couple processor options include a Symetrix 528e and dbx 286s. I use the dbx most of the time. Everything runs through a Mackie Onyx 820i board. My computers include a dual screen PC built for me by a gaming/audio wiz and an HP EliteBook 8560p for editing and back-up recording. I constructed my office to include sound proof insulation in the walls and ceiling (behind the drywall) along with sound dampening foam on the mic booth walls and a heavy “stage” type curtain that closes behind me when recording.
What is the best voice processing trick or voice-over technique everyone should know? Years ago, while recording an album of jazz charts I wrote and played trumpet on at a studio in Texas (where Stevie Ray Vaughan used to record), the producer shared a tip. He said when mixing live or studio sound, people often point out what they want “more” of. But instead of always turning things up to 11 (you’re welcome, Spinal Tap fans), he would look for opposing audio spectrums to turn down. So if you asked him for more highs on your mic, he might instead roll off a section of your lows, allowing the highs to shine more. I’ve kept that in the back of my mind ever since. It’s not always appropriate; there is one thing that we can always use more of…cowbell.
Do you have a different approach to reading radio imaging copy as opposed to TV/Radio commercial ads? Each project has its own requirements. If I have many different jobs in one day, I usually try to start with the scripts that require a low key, conversational or “guy next door” type delivery. Then I’ll move onto commercials and/or imaging, which often call for a bit more “shine” or luster in the voice. It’s better for me to start relaxed and increase the energy than the other way around.
What did it feel like the first time you heard your voice on the radio/television? That has been trumped by when my children (ages 2 and 6) hear me on tv, radio, or anywhere. They’ll hear my voice on a movie trailer or commercial, start screaming “DAD! You’re on TV!” and run to find me. They are especially excited when I voice something like VeggieTales, Yo Gabba Gabba (there’s a party in my tummy, so yummy…so yummy), or anything big in kid world. And they sometimes take over the studio to record greetings for Grandpa and Grandma or other fun things.
What’s your professional wrestling name? “Delicious Fatty Dip” – wait, that was my nickname in high school. The joke made a recent appearance as a Benztown blooper. Here’s a link to listen: https://soundcloud.com/ctvo/nyblooper
What’s your guilty pleasure? Nerds – the candy. Although, people nerds are ok too.
Dogs or Cats? Dogs. Our black lab mix was adopted from the humane society in 1999. She is over 16 years old and still truckin. That’s about 112 in human years! She’s a little stiff in the joints, but anyone that old has earned the right to be a bit loose at the seams.
Where in the world is Carmen San Diego? Probably at Gary’s house.