Tavern Talks: Andy Taylor

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Welcome to Tavern Talks, where we talk to the people who make Tavern of Tales what it is. Today we’ll be talking with the voice of the Overseer for our “The Resistance” project. You can hear his voice announcing for the Qatar Tennis Federation and recently as the announcer for the U.S. Open. He also the voices a few of my favorite miscellaneous characters on our Above and Below project such as Breric the famed cartographer and Zorhim the enormous fish, voice acting extraordinaire, Andy Taylor.

JP: First off, I wanna ask, what was it like working for the radio?

A: Um, it’s funny cause I grew up in a radio family. My father is still on the radio, in Boston. He’s Loren from the Loren and Wally show on WROR. So as a kid, I was like, watching this guy go to work every day, and adoring what he did and laughing all the time and it was infectious. That’s what I wanted to do, despite the fact that radio as an industry itself was declining. Couldn’t quite see that yet in the early 90s, late 80s. So I got into radio and traveled  the country like a lot of people in broadcasting do, did, initially and then I landed in Springfield MO, and had a radio show that was like a community centric broadcast product. And the responsibility associated with that from chasing tornadoes to updating people on the weather to um...just the community involvement was addictive. It was a really cool experience. And uh we accomplished a lot, during the ten years I was apart of that product. And the best part for me was feeling like we were part of a team of true professionals that were committed to their community and committed to making their community better. So it wasn’t just like, “Here’s another song. Here’s some more country music,” we had a news team. We had a three person morning show and we really focused on the community and it was really awesome.

Here’s a pic of Loren and Wally for reference. Try to guess which one’s Andy’s father.

Here’s a pic of Loren and Wally for reference. Try to guess which one’s Andy’s father.

JP: How’d you get into voice acting? Did it feel like there was a major difference between being a VA and doing radio work?

A: Totally. It’s very different and that’s why many people who are in broadcasting often have a hard time transitioning to voice acting, because as a broadcaster it’s all about projection. It’s like hard sell radio commercial, whether they be auto dealerships or whatever. And when you transition to voice acting they’re looking for the subtleties. They’re looking for a unique sound or they’re looking for something that’s a little more flat, a little more monotone, well not necessarily monotone, but a little more flat, so that the imagery is what really captures the audience. And you’re accentuating that and moving things along through the narration of what you’re doing. And that’s difficult for a broadcaster, because you’re always projecting, you’re always exciting, you’re always in a good mood, you’re trying to make people laugh, you’re trying to make people enjoy the experience and it’s a completely different thing. As far as transitioning into voice acting, over time like when the iPhone came out, it was like the writing was on the wall. Everybody had their own show on Facebook, on Twitter, Instagram came along. And they weren’t really using morning radio broadcasts to get stuff off their chest, to have fun with a radio team they loved and trusted, because they had their own show already. They didn’t need that. So by 2011, it was the end of a four year contract, and I said, “I think I’ve had enough. I’m going to make the leap. I’m going to try and do some voice acting.” And at the time I had already been the announcer for the US Open and some major sports events around the country, so I had some income that helped me out there, but then I spent the past 6-7 years developing new relationships in the voice industry and new partnerships and learning as I go. And it’s been a fascinating journey because it’s totally different than radio broadcasting or announcing in general.     

JP: I’ve always wondered, as you get older, does it feel as though you’re pigeon-holed into certain roles?

A: Um...well first of what’s interesting is as you get older, your voice changes, you know? When I was in radio, when I was a twenty year old kid, I was in South Florida working and I had a general manager of a product look at me and say, “Listen this is not for you. You just don’t have the voice for this.” And well five years later I had this number one radio product in the Midwest, so um, it wasn’t necessarily that my voice had changed over time, he was just looking for this Shadoe Stevens and the deep voices, and I didn’t have that. Um, but I don’t think I can absolutely for certain say that I’ve been doing voiceover for long enough, so that I feel like I’ve been pigeonholed into any role. If anything the landscape has completely changed. You don’t have to depend on your relationship with an agency or casting directors to land work. People are now business like Tavern of Tales and different companies around the world are working directly with talent instead of going through an agency. They hear the voice and they go, “We think you can do this, can you audition for it?” So you audition and you try out many different angles. I’d say because I’m not part of an agency and I don’t have an agent that says, “These are the three things he does, that he does well,” it opens me up to more possibilities in the wild wild west of voice over that exists today.

Here’s Shadoe Stevens for reference too!

Here’s Shadoe Stevens for reference too!

JP: What’s been your favorite role to play?

A: Most of my work is narration, you know there’s the live event hosting for what I do which is always fun, interesting, and unique. I do these events in Doha, Qatar where we’ll be doing a tennis match and we’re gonna do a trophy ceremony and the Qatar Tennis Federation will come to me at the last second and say, “Hey, by the way, David Beckham is here and we’d like you to interview him on the court before the trophy ceremony.” Those things stick in the middle of my mind as far as voice work, what I do, as memorable. But as far as roles with voice acting, anything character related is always the most fun. That’s why I really love working with you guys, because there’s a defined character with the games people play and so you have to deliver on that and the expectations people have for that game and what that character’s gonna sound like. That’s the most fun.      

JP: Seeing as you can do a multitude of voices and roles, how do you best prepare yourself before a take? Does it depend on the role? How do you approach voices from character to character?

A: You gotta know...what is your partner looking for? What do they need out of this character? And then you can throw three, four, five different characters at them to see, okay, which one’s going to stick. Does it have a little bit of an Irish accent, you know, whatever. But you wanna deliver on the vision that your client or partner has for a specific character, but in order to do so you need to bring a lot of your own sanity or insanity to the table to present options, stuff that’s going to be unique. Often times clients will say, “This is the character, this is the role, he lives in a swamp, he’s got a hump back,” and so you just start messing with it and then the different things, you know, you do with your own brain, and voice, can develop the character itself and help the client find the character for that role.   

JP: Any advice for aspiring voice actors?

A: The thing is with voice over today, you can still depend on agents, you can have someone cut a demo for you and put it online somewhere and hope people will find you and you’ll have an opportunity to get some work. But the most significant thing you can do, if you have zero experience whatsoever, is to go to a voice acting class. Get that initial introduction, work with others, find your unique sound. And you have to be authentic with what you’re doing in any role that you’re reading for, you have to bring a level of authenticity to that. And that’s very difficult to discover. But on top of that, now of days you’ll have to understand the technical aspects of recording, because a lot of what you’re doing is recording yourself and emailing off or uploading audio for clients. And if you can’t deliver on the quality of the voice over and the content that you have in your demo, let’s say someone else produced, if you can’t deliver on that quality, then you’re not going to have that client for very long. They’re going to understand that pretty quick. And if you don’t do that and you constantly depend on a producer to do your work, well that’s pretty expensive too, right? Because you’re paying somebody else to get paid to do your job. So understanding the technical aspects of working with audio, understanding the software to work with those programs are very significant. I would build your base off that, but then the most significant thing is to discover your own authenticity and being able to deliver a script in your own unique way.