SEVEN ?S WITH: LUCAS NUGENT
His deliberate, cool style is used to brand some of the biggest stations/shows in the country. Born and raised in the GTA (that’s Toronto if you’re not a fellow Canadian), Lucas has been involved in the performing arts his entire adult life. Now residing beside Detroit, you can hear him on stations like the new KUBE FM in Seattle, or on “BIG BOY’S NEIGHBORHOOD” on Real 92.3 in LA. Or if you happen to be up in his country, tune in to hear him as the voice of COTTAGE LIFE TELEVISION.
1) How did you get into the voiceover industry?
As a kid, voices would stick out to me. Here in Canada we have a furniture store called The Brick, and the guy that did the TV spots back in like the early 90s had this great low voice of a greek god, and would say “the brick”, and just draw it out slightly, I thought that was the coolest thing. Watching Aladdin even, the first time you meet Jafar, they EQ his voice to sound so intense and menacing. Lots of low end. I always enjoyed that scene just because of that. Despite this though, VO never really clicked to me as a viable career. Just didn’t make that connection.
Then fast forward to 2003, I was in college and someone played me a demo of the venerable David Kaye. And I thought to myself: you can DO this? For a living?! And boom that was it, I’ve aimed at VO ever since.
If the question is specifically: how did I do it? Well the answer for me was fake it till you make it. I never once marketed myself as “hey I’m just starting out”, since day one I pretended to be this accomplished professional. I’m still working on getting there 😉 but that’s what I presented myself as. I made my own demos. I had no material so I just made stuff up. Having production skills is a must, it will propel your career in any aspect of the entertainment industry. So I was able to produce all my own stuff, vary the bitrates to make it seem lifted from TV/radio etc. All that stuff. And of course you practice practice practice. Look at those who make it in boxing, acting, law, anything. You don’t see the late nights, the pain, the letdown, the rejection, and the practicing for hours and hours and hundreds and thousands of hours. You gotta really want it. When I was first starting I used to read Dr. Seuss’ Fox in Socks. I performed it every day over and over for like an entire summer. I’d do drills practicing my “s” sounds. Listen to successful VO guys and mimic them, discover why they’re pausing or drawing out certain vowels/words. And then just persistence. Sending demos, auditioning on the pay-to-play sites. Keeping at it until even I was sick of hearing from me.
2) Who influenced your work as VO artist?
Of course chiefly that would be the aforementioned David Kaye. He’s just got that legendary unique style and sound. It was just so magical listening back then. You can be anything with VO. He’s like the Bing Crosby of voice acting. The words are all that matter. If you listen to Bing, man he sells every single word, dripping with any range of emotion. Same with Kaye. I mean yes he’s got a fantastic voice. But it’s how you use it. I’ve actually since told him all of this and he is just so gracious about it, a very very nice guy.
Others I listened to and learned on I mean too many to mention. Dave Foxx, Jeff Berlin, Chris Corley. Chad Erickson. I’m middle of the road pitch-wise, so I can’t do the deep stuff, but you can still be influenced by style.
3) You originally wanted to be a movie star. What kind of movies did you see yourself in (or what character(s) did you envision yourself portraying)?
Mostly I had action movies in mind. This was around the turn of the century, so it’s a much younger Lucas Nugent. I had the shaved head, goatee, lifted weights etc. I always wanted to play a bad guy opposite Vin Diesel. He’s one of my favorites, and deep down I knew I’d never really be the main star, so to me that was much more attainable.
I ended up getting a couple extra parts and it was a lot of fun. One of them was for a prison movie filmed in Kingston, Ontario where I met Omar Epps who was starring in it. Good guy! He was friendly to us nobodies.
4) What did it feel like when you first heard your voice on the radio?
So wild. And so encouraging. You really feel like you can do this. “Wow, it’s really playing! This crazy plan of mine might actually work!” And you know what, I still get that feeling. When Big Boy re-launched I was up early recording the feed. One of his guests that week was the Snoop! Snoop Dogg heard my voice. Just crazy. I don’t think I’ll ever stop just being blown away by all of this. I do a TV channel here in Canada and I still get people I know saying “hey isn’t that you on Cottage Life”, and every time I completely light up and then bore them with conversation about it.
5) What’s it like working for the legendary Big Boy?
They actually don’t run a lot of pieces, Big does most of it himself. Sometimes they even get work from me but it doesn’t even ship, they go another direction (I can relate to actors who get their parts cut lol). But when they need something it’s pretty wild. My wife took policing in college and they say police work is “hours of boredom followed by minutes of sheer adrenaline”. Let’s be clear, never in a million years would I compare what we do to actual commendable dangerous work like policing, but conceptually it’s along the same lines. You’ll hear nothing for days or weeks and then bam an email comes on a Sunday night or something. These major shows have lots of working pieces. When I get requests there are people cc’d who I have no idea who they are. There’ll be like two producers I know, and then like four people I’ve never met.
And that’s another thing, there are no standard hours. You’ve heard the term “golden handcuffs”, it’s very true. And I don’t even voice network or anything yet. Before Big’s re-launch I was voicing Sunday night till around 1am. But honestly, it’s exciting, you’re in this highly exclusive industry and nerding out on all this stuff. You’re too pumped to even notice that it’s a weekend.
And the people there are just pure pros. So friendly, immediate, very talented. You feel out of place because you’re working with the best, and that old idiom “it’s just me” creeps in and you think soon they’ll realize it’s just me and ask me to leave. Henry Winkler says he was 50 before he realized they’re not going to ask him to leave show business. It’s that whole thing.
6) What equipment do you use in the studio?
My main mic is a Neumann TLM-103 (the little brother to the big guy, the u87. They use the same capsule). And then I simply run that into a Mackie mixer, and into my soundcard breakout box. I picked up one of those Delta 44’s years ago and it’s still working great. It’s been discontinued so if it ever breaks I have no idea how I’ll actually get the sound into my PC.
My plan in the future is to get all hardware preamps, eq’s, compressors, etc. But for now I just use software. And honestly, in these modern times, that’s all you need. The hardware is just for my mental game. Voicing in a room of big bad boxes just ups your game. If you’re interested, here is my wishlist:
-Neve Portico 5032
-BAE 10DC compressor
Hardcore stuff, I’d almost be afraid to touch them!
As far as EQ’ing, I’m a fan of processing. I run like seven filters over my voice. Does that sound like a lot? Some of them are just basic stuff like hi-pass or gates. As skilled as I am at production, a friend of mine works in Vancouver is a prod genius. He helped me with my chain. I basically EQ twice, then compress (twice for promo/imaging). First EQ is a 30 band that boosts where my voice is naturally missing some frequencies, and the next is a parametric that surgically just brings it out.
If I get loud I have to back off the compression because it really makes it sound too squashed. My “secret weapon” for promo/imaging is that tube modeled compressor in Audition 3.0, just gives it that silky warmth.
I do not have ISDN, and really have no plans on getting it unless I book something massive ongoing that needs it. I use Source Connect and have bridged ISDN sessions for years and have yet to hear any complaints. SC is great. And I even read somewhere that… CBS? Maybe? Somewhere big uses just source connect now. So it appears ISDN could be fading out.
7) What advice do you have for those looking to make a career out of VO?
You gotta really want it. No seriously, you have to really want this. No no, for real. You don’t get it, you have to… WANT it. Because it’s gonna take years and years, and you’re going to be rejected more times than you can count. And you’re going to be frustrated and confused and have self-doubt and have your audition that you spent an hour on passed over on a whim.
You’re going to be disappointed with your sound and practice until you hate the copy on that page. You’re going to wonder if you’re crazy why do I keep going no one is hiring me what is wrong with me. But then you dig down, train, practice, drill yourself. Persevere. And eventually… someone shows interest. And you book a gig. And you think “I KNEW it”. But then the cycle repeats. I get to do some high profile work now, but I still face a ton of rejection on a daily basis. It’s like playing baseball. All the training and mess ups and drills are the same in minor league, as they are in triple A, as they are in the majors. The game stays the same, just the stakes get higher. But you just put your best out there and let it go, don’t focus on it.
If you have heard that the VO industry is filled with friendly people, you have heard SO right. People in this industry, are just inexplicably selfless. I have had more help from more people than I ever thought possible. And I always tell them, there is nothing I can do to pay you back, please know you are amazing, and I intend to pay it forward to absolutely anyone that asks. And I have, I’ll give advice or help to anyone. Even you reading this, ask me anything. I’ll help as much as I can.
But it is a thrill and a half. Get into this because you love it. That sounds so cliché, but it’s true. When I booked the TV thing, my wife and I were on vacation getting ready at the hotel, she was in the shower. I checked my email and saw the booking had come in and ran to tell her. She said “That’s awesome! How much does it pay?” I kind of laughed and said you know what, I have no idea. I hadn’t even thought about it. I was just pumped I was gonna be branding a TV channel.
Humorously, there was a similar conversation when I told her about Benztown.
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