Interview about life as a Voiceover Artist - we get people to obey!

Voiceover Artists do love talking about Voiceovers don't they?

The impressionist and Voiceover Artist Simon Lipson interviewed me in 2020 about life as a VO and the nuances of the job.. I thought I'd share a transcription for you to have a read of our chat.. or take a listen here
Podcast audio

Simon Lipson:
We don't often think about the voiceover artists behind TV and radio commercials, cartoons, documentaries, drama and video games. But they're actual people, most of them. I'll be interviewing some of the very best to get an inside track on life behind the microphone. I'm Simon Lipson and this is You're Popping.
Simon Lipson:
I'm delighted to welcome you today to You're Popping. Saxophonist, sea swimmer and all-round geek and of course voiceover star, it's Clare Reeves. How are you, Clare?

Clare Reeves:
Hello, I'm fine. Thank you. How are you?

Simon Lipson:
Well, I'm very well. I mentioned the sea swimming because you mentioned it to me in your email and you live in Folkstone, is that right?

Clare Reeves:
I do, by the sea.

Simon Lipson:
What happens over there one morning in February to just get out in your swimming gear and throw yourself in the ice cold sea?

Clare Reeves:
I can't talk about February yet because this is very much a 2020 based adventure so far.

Simon Lipson:
I see.

Clare Reeves:
I started sea swimming earlier in the summer, when you're just too hot and you can't cool off and the only thing that will do is actually throwing yourself in the sea. I did a bit of that. I started going earlier and earlier in the day. And it became more and more exciting and thrilling that I was involved in this lovely secret sort of meditation that very few other people were. I kind of became one of the sea swimmers. And then a little group of ladies adopted me.

We're known as the Cinnamon Bun and Swimming Club, because obviously we have our priorities right. So we'd swim on a Sunday morning together and have buns and coffee on the beach afterwards. And that's kind of evolved in that... I probably go two-three times a week swimming. And this is November... and I was in the other day and I'm the most surprised of anybody.

Simon Lipson:
Admirably British and bonkers. It's a bit like my tennis. I play tennis through the winter and it gets to the point where you just spent an hour freezing on the court. But looking forward to the cup of coffee and a croissant afterwards, that's really what it becomes about.

Clare Reeves:
It does.

Simon Lipson:
I get where you're coming from. I called you a voiceover. There are lots of terms for voice artists, voice artists, there's voiceover artists, there's voice talent, there's voice actor. How do you define yourself?

Clare Reeves:
If anyone asks what I do, I would say I'm a voiceover artist and then the people pull a face, don't they? And then you kind of have to sort of explain that a bit sometimes. But what I have said to someone that asked me this question before, "Which is it? Which are you?" I think my rather geeky reply was something along the lines of, "Whatever anyone wants to Google and I come up under."

Clare Reeves:
So if someone's looking for a voiceover talent, yes, hi. I'm here. That's exactly what I do. If you're after a voiceover artist, yeah, I can do that too. Or a voice actor, yeah. Yeah, I can do that.

Simon Lipson:
You tick all those boxes?

Clare Reeves:
Yeah.

Simon Lipson:
Presumably, this is the when you're doing the, is it SEO tagging or whatever it's called, because this is all beyond me. But you use every term you can possibly come up with to describe all the things that people might call you.

Clare Reeves:
The keywords, all of that stuff. Yes.

Simon Lipson:
Interesting. You mentioned about people pulling a face. I've discussed this with one or two other of my guests. The idea that somehow voice over work is a kind of a piffling nonsense of a job that we just turn up, we read some words and then we take a big old chunk of money and go home. Do you find that, that people kind of slightly dismiss it as something of little substance?

Clare Reeves:
I think the biggest feeling I get from people is that they're surprised that it's a thing. Because really, in a sense, we must be doing it really well if nobody's noticing it. Do you know what I mean?

Simon Lipson:
Sure.

Clare Reeves:
So we're therefore not intrusive and we're part of people's lives. And part of the whole soundtrack to their day to day world, is about disembodied voices, isn't it? If you're not breaking through and being intrusive, and someone's going, "God, that sounds awful. What's that? Who does she thinks she is?" Then probably we're doing it right.

Simon Lipson:
Yes.

Clare Reeves:
So that's a good thing. And then what I found is if you raise awareness in people through confessing what you do, then they become kind of a slight armchair expert in it and they can't help but listen out for you and you get texts at all times of day and night going, "Was that you on that thing? It sounded like you." And sometimes it is mostly. Mostly, it isn't.

Simon Lipson:
I think so

Clare Reeves:
Yeah. Sometimes I get a little bit funny about, "Well, they don't sound anything like me. I'm unique." And then I remember I inhabit that world of the '30s to '40s British female which is quite well populated.

Simon Lipson:
Certainly, in my previous podcast, which was Making an Impression, I interviewed a lot of people like Rory Bremner and Alison McCallum, very well known people whose voices actually, their natural voices may not necessarily be that well known, but we know them for their range of voices. Whereas voiceover artists, although there is some crossover and lots of those people do voiceover work, we're kind of invisible. As you say, there's this idea that when you watch TV and you watch a bunch of adverts, that's just a bunch of adverts.

Simon Lipson:
You're not thinking that somebody's sitting in a studio going through a script, hitting all the right notes, hitting all the right emphases and all that stuff. Likewise, then on comes the documentary and that's somebody else doing the same thing. The only time I ever... Even I, as a voiceover artist, only ever rarely notice a voice. It's like the guy who does the documentary voice for Surgeons: At the Edge of Life, he talks like he's got a voice somewhere back here. I don't know what he's doing. That makes you need to find out who that was. But mostly, I don't care.

Clare Reeves:
I'll look at the credits. I said, "Oh, I know them." Someone I know that's always nice, isn't it? It's a small world.

Simon Lipson:
Most of the people I've interviewed and most of the people I'm going to be interviewing come from a background either in drama, some kind of performing art, impressionism, that sort of... I don't know if impressionism, is the right term, impressionists. But I don't think you do, do you?

Clare Reeves:
No. My background is a bit different. It gives me either cause for celebration or insecurity depending on the company I'm in and what I'm trying to do. It can be a little bit imposter syndrome on me, but then again, I have to go... Actually, this has been my job for 10 years now, so I must be all right.

Simon Lipson:
Yeah.

Clare Reeves:
Yes, my background is in radio. I've always had a fascination with broadcasting. It dates back to when I was a child growing up on the South Coast of Devon watching Saturday morning children's television. I must have been about seven or eight watching Swap Shop, and all of those lovely children's programs on Saturday Mornings. There was something very special about them. Do you know that was? That was that glimpse they gave you behind the scenes, because the cameras sometimes turned behind the sets.

Clare Reeves:
You could see people working there and constructing the magic and you sort of saw both sides of the flats, the glamorous shiny side and then you saw the other side. And you realized that this was a thing that people were doing as a job. So from that age, seven or eight, must be, I said to my mum, "I'm going to work there." And you know what? I did eventually. Via sort of BBC Radio, Devon when I was 14 and going in and pressing buttons and things and then when I was at university, I started working for the local radio station.

Clare Reeves:
In my first year of university, every Sunday morning, for pretty much three years, I turned up at six o'clock in the morning on a Sunday morning to help put the program on air to answer phones, to present the little competitions. Eventually, I was trusted to produce and present the show, so that when I'd left university, I'd already had three years of broadcast experience. And for me, that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to present my own radio programmes.

Clare Reeves:
When I got to the age of about, I don't know, 25, I had seemed to have done that. Yeah, tick. At that silly age, I was presenting three-hour all speech programs on the air. This thing is ridiculous. I look back at it now and I'm like, "Oh, yeah. She could talk." As part of that, yes, I was doing trailers and promos and just used to working with my voice and microphones, pressing buttons and doing all of those really cool voice-overy things I suppose at that age, every single day of my life. And then I left local broadcasting and went to the World Service as what we call the Sound Studio manager, which is the sound engineer working for programs for Africa and the Middle East. So most of the programs I was pressing the buttons for, I didn't understand what they were saying.

Clare Reeves:
But they point to you and you do what you think is next. And this is going back to tape and razor blades and tiny graph pencils-

Simon Lipson:
All that splicing malarkey.

Clare Reeves:
All that stuff. I feel very privileged that I had that level of training and then what was really wonderful was taking that training back into the studio. If you were sitting in there recording an audio drama for BBC Africa or something and they'd say, "Okay. Right. Look, I need that to kind of loop." And you had the magic skills to be able to create a tape loop with actual tape. And then still I was voicing things for different parts of World Service. And then I went into television, I was doing quite a lot of heavy lifting geeky stuff in putting the BBC TV channels on air.

Simon Lipson:
Now that we're in COVID land, hopefully better news has just arrived as we speak with a possible vaccine, but right now things are very much home based. I know you've got a home studio. I presume then that your technical knowledge acquired down the years has been a huge boon when it comes to putting together your own... You're submitting stuff, but we were just talking before we started recording, I was saying to you that I have my own studio, but because my hearing is so naff, I couldn't really hear what I was doing. But it didn't help also that I didn't know what I was doing.

Simon Lipson:
In what way would you say that that's helped you to make your career really take off as a home-based voiceover?

Clare Reeves:
As a home based voiceover, operating a studio in whatever form has no fear for me. I don't have the tech worries that a lot of people do and understandably, because if you've trained in acting, why should you know? It's not like we're all born with that innate knowledge. It is a specialist area in itself. So that gives me the kind of confidence that I pretty much know what I'm doing.

Clare Reeves:
I can make stupid mistakes, the best... But I'm probably quite quick at troubleshooting. But it's also... It's not just about the buttons. I think what it is that the training has given me is an ability to listen to myself and to my surroundings and know how to get the best out of that microphone. Because I just can hear it probably differently to other people because we were sort of trained to have ears like bats really and listening to things intensely, what did we hear, why did we hear it? How is that created? It's sort of a level that... I suppose it does give me sort of that power, sonic power that maybe I wouldn't have had I not been through that whole BBC training for years.

Simon Lipson:
What about voice work itself? The way you've described it, you were kind of doing these things without thinking too much. Now I'm suddenly doing a promo, I'm doing a trailer, I'm presenting shows. Once you kind of committed to the idea of, "Do you know what? I think I can do this, become a voiceover professional." Was there a point at which you thought, "I actually ought to take some vocal training."

Clare Reeves:
It wasn't really the vocal side of it. For me, it was more about sort of unlocking some of the secrets of the delivery. So I trained with Nancy Wolfson, voiceover favorite based in California around commercials and that I found very helpful in the deconstruction of a script. Again, you guys that did the drama school thing have probably got that advantage on me.

Simon Lipson:
Don't look at me, I didn't go to drama school. I was a stand up, an impressionist. I drifted into it and learned as I went along. Maybe I never learned anything. But Nancy Wolfson, Darren Altman, I spoke to the other day, he trained with Nancy. And it does sound fascinating. And to some extent, I think I wish I'd done that. I kind of feel like I'm too far past that 30 years on into the job.

Clare Reeves:
The most important thing I think, in voiceover especially in this situation where we work on our own so much and we're self directing, is having someone else who knows what they're on about, knows what they're listening to, have a listen to you once in a while.

Simon Lipson:
Yeah.

Clare Reeves:
And go, "You know that thing you keep doing that you don't even know you're doing, maybe stop that." Or, "You would book more if you did it like that." And actually, as we all know, voice acting is very often just actually being a really cool version of yourself, a really authentic version of yourself rather than somebody else. And it's that helping you to find out who you are, it's so introspective, it's true, who you are and dig deep into that person to deliver that script in a way that only you can, no pressure. For me, that's really interesting.

Simon Lipson:
I think the most important tip that I got along the way about two or three years into my career, somebody said, "Stop pissing about in the booth. They don't want to hear you doing 12 impressions. They just want to get the job done." I learned that. It was quite a painful lesson because that agency never used me. So I haven't done that for 25 years. But there's always that urge when I see a microphone.

Clare Reeves:
Is there? You see that I'm not like that at all. And that's definitely a reflection of your background as opposed to mine. I'm like, "Microphones are ears and they're always listening, behave yourself."

Simon Lipson:
Let's talk about directions. It's a fertile area this. I've had some absolutely insane direction, mostly directions from creatives are very good. But quite often, you sense they don't really know what they're looking for. They're not quite sure what they want to hear. And then you end up with someone saying, "Oh, that's my favorite. Can you do that faster, but slower?"

Clare Reeves:
Oh, yeah.

Simon Lipson:
And you think, "Honestly, what the fuck are you talking about? I don't know what you're talking about." But of course, you tend to go, "Sure. Yeah, I'll give that a shot." Have there been directions along the way that have just made you think, "What are you on?"

Clare Reeves:
Yeah, there's a lot of that. People get really carried away. It's something about when you have a lot of people involved, isn't it? Especially it does tend to bring out the best in that particular situation. I don't know if they're trying to prove something to each other sometimes or they just want to be involved or test you or... I've had very few of these experiences just to be clear though.

Clare Reeves:
There was one that... Accents are not my strong suit. I do what I do and people tend to book me for that and then occasionally I'll chuck in, "I'm from Devon via London and East Anglia and I live in Kent. My dad's is a Yorkshireman. And so my accent is beautifully mixed up anyway." Which seems to work for people. And if they say to me... I did have one. I can't remember who it was for. It was a corporate, some description. And they said, "Look, it's really important to us that you sound like you worked in New York 10 years ago. You don't live there anymore, you live in the UK now. Oh, and you wear a suit to work."

Simon Lipson:
Right. Yeah.

Clare Reeves:
"Thanks for all of that." And they obviously thought they had given me pearls of absolute wisdom. I was like, "Okay." So what that means in real terms is they want somebody quite corporate. It's about translating the creative idea, isn't it? And I guess this is part of the fun, right? They'll say these things. My job is to translate that into, they want something fairly corporate, but probably someone who's quite relaxed in real life and maybe with the occasional hints of something slightly American going on in there, just occasionally you drop it in. That worked. And they go, "Yeah, that was great. Thank you."

Clare Reeves:
And then they go away thinking, "Yeah, I directed that really well. She did exactly what I wanted." So maybe we're self perpetuating it by being really good at following some of the crazy wooly stuff we get because then they go back and say to the office, "I was brilliant there. I got exactly what I needed out of her by telling her that she lived in New York 10 years ago and wears a suit to work. I am brilliant. Let me direct the next session in exactly the same ill-informed way."

Simon Lipson:
I was going to say God help the next voiceover artist going in there. It's going to be a whole page of instructions. Backstory and god this... You mentioned there that you get a lot of people sometimes in the room. You sense that they will feel they ought to say something, they ought to chip in. And then you end up with 10 different... One going, "Can you go up on end." Another one going, "why don't you try going down on end and you don't know where you're going anymore.

Simon Lipson:
Is there a point at which you would say, "Look guys, I don't really know now what you want me to do because you're giving me lots of conflicting instructions." Or do you kind of keep your head down and just keep throwing out versions and hoping that eventually you're going to hit some kind of middle ground they're all happy with?

Clare Reeves:
It's such an interesting point. I think that because I'm used to running studios, that I feel that I need to take a bit of control. "This is my space - welcome to my studio, my rules. Yes, you're my director, you are the clients, I'm here to make sure you get the end result you need. But what I'm here to do is to make sure that happens working in a way that suits me." So if somebody is saying, "Oh, you need to go up on that word," and someone else is saying, "You need to get down on that word," I would then sort of say, "Okay, look, so you're saying you need me to go up, you're saying you need me to go up and down. What I'm going to do for you is, I'm going to give you both of those options, then I'm going to give you my take on what I would do if that's okay with you."

Clare Reeves:
And they can't possibly say no, because you've just said you're going to give them exactly what they asked for. Plus, you're going to give them the right version.

Simon Lipson:
Exactly.

Clare Reeves:
Where you're putting no emphasis on and, and you're making sure that the words that actually need to be hit are hit and they go, "Yeah." And they will all think they're right, don't they?

Simon Lipson:
I think there's a trust issue here. I think it depends who you are. But if they... I do a lot of work for one particular client. And in the end, it's almost a case of, "Well, you know what you're doing. We've been doing this for seven years. Carry on. We might throw a tweak in but on the whole, you know how to do it." But it's when they don't know you that well.

Simon Lipson:
I've been doing it for 30 years. Just once, I lost my temper, because normally I'm unfailingly polite and whatever they want me to do, I'll do and I'll do it to the best of my ability. And in the end, it works out fine. But there was just one occasion where I didn't much read creative. It was really irritating me. And he kept stopping me on the comma and on an and, and on an in and it was just getting to the point where I just went, "Look, I haven't got a first fucking clue what you want me to do anymore. I just don't know." And I lost it.

Simon Lipson:
I didn't shout but I lost it. And I sort of said, "I'm just coming out of here. I need a break." And I took the headphones off. I was a bit... Flounced out of the studio and came back and we kind of struggled our way through to the end. It was that kind of directing to within an inch of its life.

Clare Reeves:
Yeah, micro directing.

Simon Lipson:
Exactly. Trust me a bit here. I do know how to do this. I've been doing it a long time. Have you ever got anywhere near that level of frustration and fury or is it always, "I'll deal with that idiot giving me three different conflicting instructions."

Clare Reeves:
Take this how you will, but I really believe that I can deliver absolutely anything they need me to in the right way. And though I have that sort of unfaltering belief that I can do it, I sometimes say to them, Look, this is about me taking control again, isn't it? I think it's about me saying, right, okay. Just step back for a second, I need to run this right the way through, then talk to me about how you feel. I would probably nip it in the bud, "Look, I am not comfortable stopping there. That's stopping the flow of the piece. I want to make sure I get the best for you." It's all that sort of slightly BBC-ish managing thing, I think.

Simon Lipson:
The more experience you have doing the work, the more you feel comfortable saying something, "Look, I think that doesn't quite work for me. Let me give you to you how I think it sounds in my head." And on the whole, I'd say 90% of the time, they're going to be... Oh, yeah, they'll bow to that.

Clare Reeves:
I've not had any good rows though about it.

Simon Lipson:
You haven't.

Clare Reeves:
Now I feel a little bit disappointed. That sounds quite entertaining.

Simon Lipson:
The same person. I used to do that, it was Land Rover. Land Rover. This was my Land Rover voice down here, I was Welsh, you see. And he'd say to me, right, he'd say, "Can you read it like this?" He would go, "Land Rover, the marvelous experience of driving your land rover on... Thinking." And he'd say, "Do it like that." I said, "You mean like that? So I go, "Land Rover, the wonderful experience of..." And he'd go, "No, no." And I'm thinking The trouble is, we are talking in different languages at the moment. I'm talking in Land Rover and he's talking in something else.

Simon Lipson:
I think that's... He couldn't hear what I was doing somehow and I could hear what he was saying, but I thought I can't emulate that. This is my Land Rover voice. This is what I'm here for. I think sparked a kind of a sense of, we are never going to see. We're parallel lines here. And funny enough, I did a lot of work for that studio and that guy over the years and we reached an accommodation, I think after I had my little flouncy moment.

Clare Reeves:
Maybe that's sometimes needed to clear the air in that situation because it clearly reached a point where there was a bit of a blockage and maybe sort of stepping out and the cooling off thing is a really wise move. I guess I'm just thinking about, gosh, if this was to happen to me soon, what would I do?

Clare Reeves:
The whole working from home studio thing, you could play it to your advantage a bit and you could kind of take your arm surreptitiously around and kind of disconnect it, couldn't you and go... And then connect it back on, "I'm really sorry. I don't know what happened there." And just take a minute, couldn't you?

Simon Lipson:
Yeah, you could do that. So I like that. I like that.

Clare Reeves:
This is a new plan. This is a new plan.

Simon Lipson:
This is how it goes from here. Talking of... And I've never been a prima donna in the studio. I've been an idiot trying to entertain and I've had one flouncy moment in 30 years. So I think overall, I've done okay. But I have occasionally been in a studio with someone being difficult. Have you ever had trouble? Because there are some famously difficult people out there. Tom Baker, is well known for his slightly charmless approach. Have you ever been in a studio with somebody being a little bit too, "Look at me."

Clare Reeves:
I have a bit. They weren't a name, but it was very difficult and it became a little bit, in a group situation, a bit, "Look at me, look at me, look at me. Pick me. Pick me. Pick me." I'm thinking, "You've already been hired. You're here. Calm down a little bit." And it was difficult because the... I don't want to name any names or name any project or anything.

Simon Lipson:
Come on. Name a name.

Clare Reeves:
No, no. It's not happening. But it became quite apparent that person was sort of still auditioning and it's hard. And it's tiring because you're aware of it. This is sort of a sense in the room that this is a bit awkward. But of course, that's not the kind of person who's going to pick up on the awkward either. What actually happened is kind of everyone worked hard, the director worked hard to work around it. Some of us were called back to do another day, recording things slightly more mellow and a bit more down to work.

Clare Reeves:
And that person wasn't in the cast that day. So it's a tricky one. But I've not really worked with celebs in the studio in voiceover. I have in radio a bit. Does this count or not? I don't know. I did a lovely job a couple of years ago for the AIM Independent Music Awards, big music industry bash. I was the live voice of God for that, which was just delightful. Because it's kind of the closest I get to mixing radio presenting and voiceover in one handy hit. Because I've got all the live stuff going on and it's like, "I should step into it now. Boom!"

Clare Reeves:
And it was like, yeah. You get that red light, goes on buzz all over again, well, I sort of miss sometimes. I had to navigate people through this whole event and listening to me for the entire night with the poor likes of Jarvis Cocker and Nick Cave and big, big music industry stars. I was doing my work. Most of the time, they were sitting there drinking and eating and you could see all these wonderful things going on at all these lovely tables, that I couldn't be part of because it was nothing to do with me.

Clare Reeves:
But then, doing those announcements and I was kind of doing an announcement and I'd just sit there and kind of thing to self, "Jarvis Cocker is listening to me." And I was given the opportunity, one of the assistants, my agent who was there on the night said, "I can introduce you to Jarvis Cocker, if you want?" And do you know what? I said, "No. Please don't do that because it just wouldn't be very nice for you or for me. I want to come out with some sort of dignity intact and..."

Simon Lipson:
I hear you. I did a similar job where I was at incredibly lavish corporate due where they brought in four or five casts from West End shows to do little snippets of shows on a makeshift stage but an extraordinary makeshift stage in the V&A. They turned the V&A into this theatre. And I was Mr., "Next, Elaine Paige sings..." Something like that.

Simon Lipson:
At the end of it, they called me onstage. And all of the performers did that little that slightly theatrical clappy clappy thing towards me with the hands outstretched, clappy, clappy. And I had to take my bow and I thought, "Oh, my God, this is not me. I tell jokes. And I do Ronnie Corbett impressions, this is not what I do." But it's interesting because voice work does take you places that you don't ordinarily... You don't actually expect. I'm really a little boffin in the studio churning voices.

Clare Reeves:
Yeah. That was one of my top favorites, I think because you can see from my workplace props behind me that I love my music. And my saxophone's behind me.

Simon Lipson:
Yeah, there are saxophones galore behind you. Only two. Well, it looks like a lot more. I did ask Claire before the show, give us a quick toot on one of those saxophones and she turned me down flat, which is a great disappointment. What other stuff have you done that's been a little bit off the-

Clare Reeves:
Well, it's a funny one because this was... I know, I'm here to talk about voiceovers, and this person found me sort of through my voiceover marketing, if you like. And it looked a very strange job. But I thought I was intrigued enough to follow up and have a conversation. And there's an Iraqi radio station in Erbil, in Northern Iraq. It's called Babylon FM. They broadcast a great deal in the English language to largely a Kurdish population.

Clare Reeves:
This was a few years ago now and there was still sort of quite a lot of trouble in the area. There was a lot of stuff around IS, a lot of news happening there. Very difficult place to live for people. But the guy that ran the radio station asked me if I would be so kind as to be their newsreader. He would send me... This is so odd, isn't it? So he would send me sort of the day's news at about 8:00-9:00 PM at night in a one minute sort of format. I would have to read it in a kind of chart show-ish lively newsy, yeah, kind of way. Even though you're reading really sad stuff in a happy way, and I don't like that very much. And then I'd have to mix it with the top and tail on the bed, mix it, send it back, and it will be played out three times during their breakfast show the next day.

Clare Reeves:
So I became for probably a year and a half to two years. This was a five or six evenings a week. It really was quite a drain. I couldn't go anywhere without a microphone. Even went to a voiceover conference and I had to absent myself from part of it to go and read the news for Iraq.

Simon Lipson:
So you probably had to deal with some difficult names and words that...
Clare Reeves:
Oh, yeah.

Simon Lipson:
Because that does bring me on to a question, I do like to ask. What words have stumped you or given you all kinds of issues in the booth?

Clare Reeves:
"Don't we all just love digital?" Isn't that a terrible... Everybody says that, don't they?

Simon Lipson:
Everyone's said it so far on the show.

Clare Reeves:
Do you know what I really hate as well and I get myself really crossed about it? The word click because there's one word that's guaranteed to make my voice click so I have to edit it out and that's click. And it's really infuriating because I know it's coming. I must talk to Nic Redman about it actually about the way that I use my voice on it. Because it's probably... I think it's to do with the way that my palate sits with the L sound and my hint of Devon that comes through trips me up. But click, there'll always be a little click sound in there. For heaven's sake.

Clare Reeves:
The other day, I was doing a piece around a service station in the Netherlands and I could not get the very simple name of the service station right. They sent me three reference files. And in the end, they said, "Look, we'd love you, Clare. However, on this word, you really suck." It was the service station called Total, which we know, don't we know in the UK? And they have part of their service station, I think it's where they have the all the sweets and custard creams or whatever the Dutch equivalent is, is called Serve Auto, serve auto. So first time I did it serve "or toe". No. Okay, so serve alto. No. Serve auto. But no.

Clare Reeves:
The emphasis is, and I heard them in the booth laughing, serve alto, but it's not serve alto, it's serve auto but it's not serve... I can't. I'll really shoot myself again. You can't blend serve and alto together even when you emphasize serve. For me, it's like the difference. There's a difference between ice cream and "I scream" cream or ice cream.

Clare Reeves:
But anyway, this is an ice cream word, serve auto, serve auto, like that. And that's how it should be. And eventually, after 20 minutes, I got the one word that was missing from this script. And I was... They thought it was hilarious. They were sitting there, we were chatting on Zoom in the studio and they had their cameras up like that taking photos of me.

Simon Lipson:
Yeah.

Clare Reeves:
What was nice about that is this very faceless world of voiceover that I live in, usually, they would send me a script to record it, I'd send it back. And hopefully they pay me. What that became is an opportunity, I suppose to see them face to face, to actually chat to those two guys and see their faces and they found it quite interesting to actually see me rather than just one of my silly photos on the website, to actually see me working and to associate the voice they've heard many, many times on loads of projects over the last few years, actually see that voice coming out of the person and I think quite amused them.

Simon Lipson:
It does change the dynamic, doesn't it? Because I've been talking to Melissa Sinden and Darren Altman and others and everyone is doing a lot more work from home. And it's unusual actually to have a set up where you're Zoomed in on that. It tends to be... You can all hear each other. I've done a few voiceovers using Source Connect and you can hear them and there's a lot of... It's like being in the studio. But you can't make that bit of eye contact.

Simon Lipson:
They can't see exactly how you're producing sound. I think there's just a little... You were once removed from traditional process, which is I'm in the booth, you're over there. There's a little bit of shorthand, visual shorthand that you lose when you're in your own studio.

Clare Reeves:
Totally.

Simon Lipson:
Traditional, I just did traditional beautifully, but that's another toughy.

Clare Reeves:
Traditional. I've got so many of them that drive me mad, but you know what I do? If they're really that bad, and I can't talk anymore, I will just record them and turn them into a little clip and post them on social media. Because it seems to exorcize them from me if I can somehow chuck them out there and go, "Look, this is what I've done. I'm not proud of it." This shows I'm a human and also the voice over is much, much harder than people think.

Simon Lipson:
It's so tricky. Yeah.

Clare Reeves:
It's so hard. Anyway, that's my thing.

Simon Lipson:
Well, I like that. That's a great technique actually, to kind of exercise them by putting the rubbish out there and saying... But do you ever get that thing where there's a word you're stumbling over in a script, it's in the middle of a line somewhere. You know it's coming and because you know, it's coming, you're going to cock it up. And then you get it right finally, and then cock everything else up afterwards?

Clare Reeves:
Yeah. Because your mind is still going, "You did it! You're brilliant!" And then you can't say, "And the..."

Simon Lipson:
Exactly right. Exactly right.

Clare Reeves:
Do you know there's a really good technique for this, that I learned a couple of years ago, when you've got one of those sentences, is actually just to whisper the script to yourself and then just mouth it without making any noise at all. It's magical that the next time you do it, it's sort of all right.

Clare Reeves:
It's that thing where you've got a really tricky word in the middle of a sentence. They do come up in medical or sort of fairly techie things that I quite enjoy doing, infrastructure. If you just can't say them, then have a go at it and then you come back to it, put your voice in and it works.

Simon Lipson:
I will definitely try that next time. I did a documentary called Mega Air which was about the air freight industry. Quite fascinating.

Clare Reeves:
I quite like that.

Simon Lipson:
You can find it on Dave, eight parts. Eight hours of just airplanes carrying tulips to Amsterdam.

Clare Reeves:
Flipping wonderful. I've probably seen it.

Simon Lipson:
I'm sure you have. And that's me kind of doing all of that stuff. And there were lots of place names that I had to conquer. They would send me references, but mostly it would just be in the studio. I'd try, I would just do the stumble and then say, "[inaudible 00:37:21] Actually. This is how we pronounce Skipper, Schiphol." Gotcha. Gotcha right. And then I'd marked it up a few times and then get skipper.

Clare Reeves:
Then get it. Yeah.

Simon Lipson:
But they have lots of weird words, meteorologically.

Clare Reeves:
Oh.

Simon Lipson:
That's a killer.

Clare Reeves:
Meteorologically.

Simon Lipson:
Meteorologically. And I thought, "Well, can I just get just meteorologically?" But of course, when you become very conscious of it. And you think-

Clare Reeves:
Obsessed.

Simon Lipson:
Yeah. And I've got to hit every one of those vowels and consonants along the way and strangely enough, I did it first time and then cocked up the next word. Oh, God. And then I couldn't do meteorological for half an hour. Anyway, so these are some of the great things we voiceovers... It's not rocket science, but it sits somewhere very close.

Clare Reeves:
It's out there.

Simon Lipson:
Yeah. Exactly. I know you do commercials, you do documentaries. Have you done animations, games, those sorts of things?

Clare Reeves:
No, I haven't. I wonder if this is my imposter radio broadcaster person telling me that I'm not going to do animations or video games and that kind of thing. Look, the point is there's a load of people out there much better than I would be at that stuff.

Clare Reeves:
So for me to get up to their level would be a lot of work. I just don't know whether it would be worth my while when I'm pretty happy. I don't know. I'm doing myself out of work or am I just being really honest? I'm not sure - both.

Simon Lipson:
I do think that having done all of those things, I recognize where my strengths and weaknesses are. And so for example, video games, which is just a lot of roar. "Thor, you come to..." That kind of stuff. I think that's just not me. I wasn't trained as an actor. I could do the voices in a kind of a ham-fisted way. But I don't think it's me. I've done radio plays. And I did a radio play. Well, I better not name names here, because there was some famous people in this, it's embarrassing, but I was playing a range of minor characters and I was in a scene and six actors were standing around in the studio doing what was actually quite an emotional scene where somebody had died and their spouse was getting very emotional about it.

Simon Lipson:
I'm a comedian. I just think, "Well, okay. I'll do my funny voice." And then this guy, started doing the whole emotional scene and started crying. And he was really crying and as I looked around the studio, all the other actors were crying. But I didn't quite clock it. And so right at the end, I said something idiotic like, "Well, that was very good." And they were all doing the "love, that was so beautiful". And I thought, "This is probably not me either." I can do funny radio, I can do lots of sketchy stuff. But serious? It was a sort of a comedy. But that was a serious scene and I was not built for it.

Clare Reeves:
No. And exactly that's it, isn't it? I think it's much better if we just say, "Do you know what? I'm actually really good at commercials, I'm trained to do it. I love doing them. For me, it's my favorite thing because I get to put lots of stuff I care about into action. And I know I make people happy when I do it right."

Clare Reeves:
Do you know what? I love seeing and hearing my work about the place. And if you show me a voiceover actor that says they don't like seeing their stuff on the telly, then you're lying.

Simon Lipson:
God. I love it. I love it.

Clare Reeves:
It's brilliant. It's great. And then people say, "What was that you? And I say yes, it is." And I'm proud of that. Because most of my work goes on over there. And nobody sees it, and nobody hears it and nobody cares about it except for my clients, which is very important. But sometimes it's lovely to do a piece of work, then people go, "Oh, wow, it's amazing. I didn't know that was you." My son loves it. There's a Colgate ad I'm on that's still out at the moment on the telly. And if my son sees it, he will shout, "Mum, you're on the telly!"

Simon Lipson:
Yes, I get that. I get that.

Clare Reeves:
It's really fun.

Simon Lipson:
Not from your son, obviously, but I do get it.

Clare Reeves:
He'd struggle to identify you probably.

Simon Lipson:
I did have one... I've had one classic moment where I was in a cinema with some friends busy packed cinema. Up on this huge screen, there's me doing Land Rover. And my friends all turned in on me and started pointing at me. And so everyone in the cinema knew that was me. And I thought, do you know what? This is good enough. I don't really need ever to do a voiceover again. Because-

Clare Reeves:
No. You've reached peak voiceover recognition.

Simon Lipson:
That's it. Exactly right.

Clare Reeves:
It's all we ask, isn't it? Somebody to go, "Wow. Look! That's you. You're a bit of a star, but you're also a sort of a stealthy star as well because no one really knows." So we love doing those. I really love doing documentary.

Clare Reeves:
The day I got the call from National Geographic, that was one of those, "Yep. done that. That's amazing."

Simon Lipson:
Tick that one off. Yeah.

Clare Reeves:
Yeah. And the real just joy of doing that and knowing that was one thing that I always wanted to do was really satisfying. But I do get a lot of corporate work. You know what? I like it, although it might not be everyone's cup of tea to talk about inventions, oil rigs.... All of that ..I quite like it. I think you can learn a bit. But for me, I don't know about you. It goes into my eyes. I then become an expert in it deeply and care about it deeply for as long as it takes me to read it the script.

Simon Lipson:
Yeah.

Clare Reeves:
And then, if one should happen upon a pub quiz that might contain questions about that thing, do I know anything about it?

Simon Lipson:
Not a thing.

Clare Reeves:
No, nothing. But it's quite interesting, isn't it? The amount of information that goes through us in that sense is really fascinating-

Simon Lipson:
It is. Because you're focusing, as you say, you're kind of focusing on the words and the delivery at the time, but you're not really absorbing a great deal of information because that's not what you're there to do. I've done lots of stuff, a typical cars, all kinds of... The weight depth is 12.9 meters, but I don't know what any of that means. I don't really care, but I just want to say it right? I want to say it really well.

Clare Reeves:
Yeah, yeah. Really well, so that it sounds like I understand and I'm giving it to the right people in the right way. So that they go, "That's not some idiot voiceover artist who doesn't know what they're talking about." However, there was one, probably about a year ago I had from a regular client. It was a corporate voiceover. I read the scripts, maybe two or three times. I do quite like to get into understanding about what I'm talking about if I possibly can.

Clare Reeves:
And I read it. I don't know what that is. What am I actually talking about here? And I kept reading it. I have absolutely no idea. I know, I'll Google it and I'll watch some videos about it. And I sat there and I was kind of just sitting there with a cup of tea watching it trying to kind of get myself in the right headspace for this piece of work.

Clare Reeves:
And again, I watched two or three videos and I just found myself laughing hysterically because I still didn't know what this thing was, this widget. And in the end, I think I've watched probably watch about four or five videos, read some more stuff, reread the script. And then I think it's something, it worked out, it's something to do with scientific slides for samples of things that go into some machine.

Clare Reeves:
Any more than that I cannot be specific. But it took me that long to determine what that was about. I thought and now it's my job to try and get other people to understand this stuff.
Simon Lipson:
As you say, you have to be authoritative at that point.

Clare Reeves:
I firmly believe we are there as voiceover artists to get people to do stuff, whether that means go out and buy a thing or to learn about this products or this piece of machinery so that they can use it safely, whatever that is. We are there to get people to do stuff. And it is simply that. And if I'm not in a position to get somebody to do the thing that needs doing, then that's not going to work for me or the client or anyone and it will be an unhappy situation.

Simon Lipson:
Well, I think that explains it rather well actually. There's the ultimate, the highest purpose of the voiceover is to convey information and get people to obey.

Clare Reeves:
Yeah.

Simon Lipson:
Do as you're bloody told.

Clare Reeves:
We're just there to manipulate ultimately.

Simon Lipson:
That's what it is, it's a cracking job, isn't it?

Clare Reeves:
Isn't it?

Simon Lipson:
Just we're coming to the end, I've had a lot of fun chatting to you, Clare. And I just wanted to ask you, because we talked about where we are COVID-wise, and maybe things are going to be improved. But I wanted to, for the time being, ask you about how you're doing in terms of the work coming in, has much changed? In terms of promoting yourself, is the imperative there to get out there and do it more. So how is the overall this period been affecting you?

Clare Reeves:
I think that I probably sort of share sentiments of most people around March and we kind of fell into all of this, didn't we? And nobody really quite knew what was going to happen. I did believe that as somebody who's been working from their own studio at home for the last 10 years, I thought, "Well, this will be fine. Surely this is my time. Everyone's going to want me now." And my fellow voiceovers who have also been doing the same thing from their home studios.

Clare Reeves:
But the immediate situation was not that. And all of a sudden, people were all over social media with their "studio", as in a really cheap, nasty mic in an echoey room going, "Hi, look at my home studio. I can work from home on my home studio." And I think as a voiceover community of professionals, we were all a little bit weeping at this. It seemed to me that there was almost a blitz spirit about it. That people would be hired and it didn't matter that they sounded awful, because we're still doing this, and we're in it together and people will forgive a little bit of awful audio.

Clare Reeves:
And there seemed to be that spirit for probably a month or so and I was getting worried. And it was a little bit tumble weedy. And I decided that, instead of being sort of sad and bitter about lots of things, I wouldn't be that anymore. And what I would be would be prepared to look at where the work was. And there was nothing I could do about those people. I could raise awareness that I had a good quality studio, I could keep working, I could keep pushing, I could keep marketing, but work out where the money was now and who needed me and to make sure that they knew I was about to deliver what they needed.

Clare Reeves:
And I was hitting the marketing and some kind of like... I think I did a little brainstorm or solo meeting which you have lots of, voiceover artists do, "I'm having a business meeting with you." "Oh, thank you very much. Nice to be here." So a bit of that and a couple of hours of spider diagrams. I managed to put myself in a headspace that I knew what I wanted to do and how I wanted to achieve it, and to push forward. And the last month has been on a par with every other October I've ever had, if not slightly better.

Clare Reeves:
I think it's because I've just been marketing more, building my connections more because, you don't jump the six foot gate if there isn't the bull behind you. I love what I do and I want to keep doing this. In order to be able to make that happen, I have to push myself and market and make sure I'm working really hard to keep my business going.
Clare Reeves:
I imagine it's going to be a little bit like this for a while, because it's a bit unpredictable. But I have seen a decline in the use of terrible studios on air which has made me think that people don't want to sound all COVID-chic on their productions now going forward because that's so 2020. And aren't we all going to be really keen to forget this?

Simon Lipson:
Yeah, I'm sure. Yeah. Yeah. Well, look, it sounds as though you've got voiceovering taped.

Clare Reeves:
Well, I hope so. But I can't assume.

Simon Lipson:
I wish you every success going forward. Well, I guess it's time for you to have a dip in the sea now, because it's probably -15.

Clare Reeves:
Well, it's at least 14. Very warm.

Simon Lipson:
Ideal. It's ideal. I wish I could join you. So thank you for joining me on You're Popping. It's Clare Reeves. And to everybody who's been kind enough to tune in to the podcast, thanks for joining us, and we'll see you next time. Bye-bye.

Simon Lipson:
You can find You're Popping on all the major podcast platforms, so why not subscribe and give us five stars? We also have our own You're Popping Facebook page and our Twitter handle is @voicemaestros, where you can also find links to our Making an Impression podcast featuring some of the best impressionists on the planet.

Testimonials

  • Clare understands and interprets each script very well. That makes her delivery very natural and appropriate for every target audience.
    I’d recommend Clare highly. Her voice is clear, warm, and she’s able to convey different emotions easily.
  • Her voice is clear with an intriguing, friendly edge. She takes direction well and, because of her background on the other side of the glass, she is able understand what the director or client wants. 
    Clare is a true professional, delivering a high quality service in an engaging way. Her voiceover technique is stunning - clear, bright and inspiring to listeners.
  • You’ve got a lovely read there Clare, just mixed it all – sounds fantastic. Thanks again for such top, top work!
    We're all done with the project – so thank you very much for your help. Have a lovely week and we'll definitely be in touch for other voiceover work!    

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