There’s a lot of cool stuff in Seattle, WA. But one of the coolest people there (and in the Voice-Over world, one of the most respected) is Mr. Creativity, Scott Burns.
VOICE-OVER IS A PRETTY UNIQUE CAREER CHOICE – HOW DID YOU GET STARTED SCOTT?
My voiceover career began with a crash. In 1980 I was hired by KJR in Seattle to replace the legendary Charlie Brown in mornings. Six months later I was involved in a car accident that broke my upper mandible, requiring the doctors to wire my mouth shut. (I don’t think it was really necessary, they just seized upon the opportunity after hearing my show.) I returned to the airwaves after healing but was given the, “We’re going in a different direction” memo and asked me to return the key. The General Manager, Shannon Sweatte felt awful about it however and offered any resources at his disposal to help me out with my career.
I told him I wanted to meet Pat Fraley.
I knew of Pat only from his multiple voices in the Stewart Street Money Mysteries, an incredibly inventive on-air radio promotion produced in the style of an old 1930’s radio drama. When I learned he had moved to Los Angeles and was doing work for Hanna-Barbera cartoons, I wanted to do the same and asked to be granted a meeting with Pat.
I drove to LA, was most graciously invited into Pat’s home and given the tour of his recording studio…which consisted of his clothes closet and a cassette machine…and showed me how he auditioned for work. To that point I’d never given thought you could “just do” voice work that wasn’t tied to an in-house radio produced commercial.
Mr. Fraley told me I needed to get an agent, which I did upon returning to Seattle. Thus began my experience first in commercial, narration and later games in the Pacific Northwest. Yes, it would have been great to work in LA…but I didn’t think Pat would like the idea of me “crashing” on his couch.
WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER, WERE THERE ANY VOICE-OVER TALENTS WHO INFLUENCED YOU OR WHO YOU ADMIRED? WHY/HOW?
Absolutely…Dick Orkin. I first became enchanted with this man hearing the series, “Chickenman” which aired on KRPL, (the station where my on-air career began in Moscow Idaho.) Later of course I’d hear his incredible writing and voice on National radio campaigns and PSA’s. Dick’s voice just cut through with a deep, flat delivery coupled with an absolute clueless authority. His spots are so creative and well timed with the comedy coming from him playing multiple attitudes. I still use them as reference as to how a spot should be.
I would also say Gary Owens from the TV show Laugh-In was another influence…because now when I read specs that ask for, “Non-Announcery” I know what not to do.
WITH WHICH BRANDS WOULD PEOPLE MOST ASSOCIATE YOUR VOICE?
It might be difficult to pin one brand on me since every client gets a different me. For K-Mart I was a high school principal delivering announcements over the PA about Shop-Your-Way offers. For Skechers they utilized what they deemed my “Movie Guy” delivery. For T-Mobile I was a business man in global sales concerned over outrageous data charges. I book a lot of “friendly, natural guy” jobs for narration and eLearning projects though. I’ve been the tour-guide voice for a GPS powered charter bus service, explained how the Zune works to agents in the Philippines and provided training to experts seeking certification with Parallels Cloud University. I may not have known what I was talking about, but boy was I friendly about it!
WHERE WAS/IS THE MOST UNIQUE PLACE SOMEONE WOULD HEAR YOUR VOICE?
I’ve been heard high atop the Space Needle welcoming visitors to the historic landmark commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Worlds Fair, as well as down to earth at the Woodland Park Zoo’s petting zoo kiosk talking about cow stomachs. But possibly the most thrilling was being heard as Barney Fife telling people to “Nip it!” from speakers positioned inside a 1963 Ford Galaxie at a Mayberry Squad Car convention in North Carolina!
IF YOU HAD TO PICK YOUR FAVORITE KIND OF VOICE-OVER PROJECT, WHAT WOULD THAT BE?
I would start with free parking. You think I kid! In all honesty a perfect voice over project would be a session where I have ample time to settle in and collaborate with the producer and creative team. Having outside distractions like worrying about how much time is left on the meter is a total stress inducer.
Of course voicing cartoon characters in an ensemble setting would be a dream come true, but in all honesty my favorite kind of voice over project ends with the words, “Great job…come on in!”
WHAT ONE BOOK HAVE YOU READ THAT REALLY HELP SHAPE YOUR LIFE, EITHER PERSONALLY OR PROFESSIONALLY? HOW?
The Endurance; Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition by Caroline Alexander. This book just fascinated me! A group of men embarked on what they knew was a hazardous journey, offering small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. It TOTALLY reminded me of my radio career….
In actuality the greatest take-away of the story was that even when the crew was trapped in an ice pack that eventually destroyed their ship, Sir Ernest Shackleton didn’t show his disappointment. Instead he came up with new plans.