JV: How would you describe your voiceover skills?
Rachel: Definitely versatility is the thing I think has enabled me to be so successful at such a young age. In the Atlanta market, people might hear me and think I am just the sexy girl, but what they don’t know is all over the country and even outside the country, I’m working with companies where I might play a soccer mom one day. The next day I might play a teenager who’s mad at the world, and the day after that I might play a regular 20-something female who has just been burned by a guy for the tenth time. It’s definitely versatility that is the key to making it.

JV: Are you represented by an agent at this point?
Rachel: I am. I have two agents here in Atlanta. I’m represented by Richard Hutchinson and Houghton Talents. And I work for tons of production houses all over, from the ma and pa shops to the big ones, from the infomercial big guys who have worked with George Foreman to the small production companies that are struggling to make it.

JV: So, do you sleep?
Rachel: (Laughter) You know, there was a point where I was starting to become a burnout, which was about a year and a half ago. I was starting to become a complete burnout, and people joked, “Why don’t you just get a cot and put it in your studio?” I had no time for my friends. I had no time for anything, and I realized that was not going to work out in the long run. So, I’d say about eight or nine months ago, I took a break and I started working eight-hour days, which for me is a break. I started working eight-hour days for probably about two or three months, just so I could come away from it all, take a deep breath and remember all the things about it that I absolutely adore. And it worked, because now the fire burns even hotter than before.

JV: Are you a techno geek to the point you’re in there tweaking the plug-ins and checking out the different microphones and such?
Rachel: Well, I will say this. People always ask me how I learned to produce the way I do because I guess some people think my production is good. I don’t know. But they always ask how I learned it and how I learned it so quickly. I have to tell you, I was the kid in broadcasting school that was scared of Cool Edit. Remember Cool Edit back in the day? I was the one that was like, “Oh my god, get me away from that. I hate it. I’m going to suck at it. I have no idea what’s going on.” Then one day, a very nice guy taught me just the beginnings of it, and instead of being the kid that was afraid of Cool Edit, I ended up being the girl that people would drop hundreds on to produce their demos. So, I went from being afraid of any kind of technology whatsoever to mastering it.

However, at the same time, I have to drop a name here. There’s a man here named Forrest Martin, who is one of the best producers in the country, period, hands down, and he has literally helped me with anything and everything relating to technology -- plug-ins, production. He taught me all of Pro Tools. He took three hours out of his day and did a Pro Tools lesson, helps me with plug-ins. If I can’t seem to quite get the right sound on a spot or the right sound on imaging, I’m like, “What is wrong? What’s going on here? How come I can’t make this person sound warm?” He knows exactly what that is and tells me. So, without him, I definitely would have had a much more difficult time in the technical aspect of it.

JV: I would say you’re quite the sponge.
Rachel: Yes, and I’m so, so lucky. I know I keep saying this, but I am so lucky that there have been so many very, very nice men – and I say men because I work with all men – there have been very, very nice men that have just completely and totally taken me under their wings and gone out of their way to help me. I think a lot of the times, like in any career, sometimes people just don’t want to learn or they don’t give their 100 percent. I just think those people need to stay home.

JV: Do you have a home studio as well?
Rachel: Yes. I have Pro Tools and Adobe Audition because I use them both. And because I have an apartment, my studio consists of a StoneBooth In A Bag. Do you know what I’m talking about? It was designed by Steve Stone, the imaging guy. He had a voiceover box named after him. It’s like a portable sound booth. If you go on vacation, you can take it with you. I was lucky enough to meet Steve, and he took us to his hotel room, and I fell in love with the box immediately. So, I’ve got one of those, and I’ve got the Pro Tools rig and the mic stand and the mic. And honestly, I don’t feel like microphones are quite as important as they used to be because, with the effects that I put on my voice afterwards, I can make it sound like I’m using whatever kind of mic that I want. So I’m not busy spending thousands and thousands of dollars on shotgun mics or the latest Neumann. I’ll do it in post if I need to. I find that most of the time, the only person who cares about the mic is the VO person, not the client.

JV: Are you doing much processing to VO work that you send out, or is it pretty much dry?
Rachel: It depends. I think it’s an insult to a producer if you’re going to send them your voice already processed, because to me, that’s like saying, “Here, you have no idea what you’re doing, so I’m going to go ahead and process my voice, just so you don’t screw it up. Thanks and have a great day.” I don’t like to do that to people. What I will do is… let’s say I’m sending it out to one of my agents for an audition and I know my agent is not going to process it afterwards. Yes, I will send it out processed, 100 percent of the time. But if I’m sending it to one of my fellow producers, whether it be for the on-hold company I work for or the production company in Chicago that’s going to put it on TV, I don’t know if they want it processed or not, so I leave it dry.

JV: I’ve yet to figure out why there is such a disproportionate number of women in production versus men, and especially in imaging. Do you have any insight into that?
Rachel: Well, it’s true, because the only two females I can think of that do this along with me – voice, produce and write – on a level to have their own business and all that stuff are Kelly Doherty and Ann DeWig. Both of those females have been, of course, unbelievably nice to me. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting them both. Ann DeWig took an hour out of her day to answer all the questions that I had, and I feel like girls tend to stick together in this business because it is a disproportionate number. But I will say this, and some people are not going to like this at all -- there are a lot of women that are not going to like this at all -- but from where I stand, right now in 2009, the fact that I am a female has been nothing but an advantage to me my entire career. It has gotten me jobs that I would normally have not had, if I had more competition. It has provided me a built-in uniqueness in that I am a female, and that, in and of itself, makes me stand out. I am the female that can do voice, production and imaging and go out to lunch with the boys and swear and curse and look at that girl’s ass and laugh. And then I’m also the female who can go and put on my little high heels and my makeup and so on. I try and take that stigma of the ugly female producer, who’s overweight and hides in her house all day, I try and take that and throw it out the window. I think people really, really grab onto that attitude, and in turn, give you more jobs. I really do.

JV: There's few women in production, I think there's even fewer fat and ugly  ones.
Rachel: (Laughter) Well, there is a stigma. I’m not trying to subtract anything from what the women before me had to do because I know it was hard to push down all those walls and all those barriers of the men laughing at you saying, “Ha, ha, ha, you can’t be our producer. You’re a woman.” But I really feel like those days are gone – with the exception of a couple of ignorant people, but there are ignorant people in every business, not just radio. I really feel like it’s an advantage being a woman. Every time I see a young female trying to do what I’m doing, I completely try to take her under my wing and help her out and motivate her in any way possible.

JV: Well, I guess my question will remain unanswered. What you said is very interesting, but it still doesn’t tell me why there are so many men in radio production versus women.
Rachel: Here, I’ll tell you why. I know what you mean, and I didn’t answer the question. I’ll tell you what it is. I would say that most females that get into the business, as a female, they gravitate towards the jobs they think are for them. There is a preconceived notion in the world of radio, and it starts in broadcasting school, and nobody puts it in your head. The teachers aren’t standing up there saying, “Okay, only the boys can be producers and voice guys and imagers, and the girls can be on-air talent and promotions.” That’s not the way it goes. I just think it is a natural human instinct to follow what those before you have done, and somehow, it may be a fluke, the girls went one way and the boys went the other. The girls definitely didn’t go on the production way. So, I think with the girls, it’s just a natural thing to follow what they see, and they don’t see any female producers. I don’t think it’s anybody’s fault or anybody has been holding the females back. I just think it takes a female with a lot of guts to cross the boundary of, “Okay, I’m working in a department where there are ten guys and me, and you know what? I’m going to stand out and be better than these guys.” It takes a lot of guts to do that, so maybe that’s why.

JV: Excellent answer. What do you think a female imaging voice, such as your own, brings to the table for a radio station? Obviously there’s a contrast from the stations with the male imaging voices. But what do you think a female voice does for the audience? Does it attract more males, more females? Does it impart an overall image about the radio station that a male voiceover simply cannot do? Do you have a sense of any of that?
Rachel: I definitely don’t think it’s something that a male cannot do, because I think they’re both capable of either doing a male-oriented or a female-oriented station. Take Lifetime TV. Lifetime TV was just ordered to not have any female voiceovers on the station because it was getting too, quote/unquote, female, even though Lifetime is a female station. But I definitely think both males and females can do either/or. Like I am the voice of a sports station – very small market – Ithaca, New York, and they specifically wanted a female. They said, “We don’t want you to be be-bopping around like, ‘He-he-he-he, 1160 ESPN.’” They’re like, “We want you to be a strong female with a little twinge of sex in your voice,” and I really think if it’s geared towards a guy, a female brings something unique. You are not expecting to turn on 1160 ESPN radio in Ithaca New York and have me [a female] come on and say, “1160 ESPN Ithaca.” You don’t expect that. You expect Jim Cutler to come on and – boom, “1160 ESPN!” That in and of itself can make your station stand out.

JV: Would you say you’re right-brain or left-brain dominant?
Rachel: Goodness. Let’s just put it this way. My worst nightmare would be for you to sit me down and put a bunch of numbers in front of me and tell me to either put them into the right angles on the triangles or whatever. I’m definitely a right brain. When I was 18 I decided that I lived on my own planet, and thank God I had discovered it. I always think people take themselves way too seriously. The numbers people are not anybody I can associate with, although I do have good friends that are numbers people, but that is not conducive to doing a good job at this career. It’s just not. I’ve never met a left-brained, good producer. I’ve met some left-brained producers, but they sucked.

JV: Interesting. I’ve never asked that question, but it might be worthwhile to keep that in the back of my mind when I’m talking to other producers. I would think the left-brain would come into play a lot when it comes into the mechanical production side of it, but maybe not.
Rachel: Luckily for me, I guess, I hold up my “I’m a female card” when I need to, and I jump up and down and go, “Help, help,” and a left-brained male producer will come in here and help me. (Laughter)

JV: What’s down the road for you? Any plans? Taking it a day at a time?
Rachel: I definitely 100 percent want to branch out. I’m already in Canada. I’m actually all over Canada, but I definitely want to branch out internationally and be the voice of a lot of other TV and radio stations internationally. So, that’s definitely number one.

I’d also say that my goal of producing and writing just for fun and having voiceover work be my number one source of income, that’s the path I’m headed down now, and if I can get there – not if I can, when I get there -- then that will be one goal that’s achieved. But I tend to have the personality that, once I have achieved one thing, I’m already bored and onto the next. So, who knows?

Audio

  • The R.A.P. Cassette - July 1995

    Production Demo from Steve Martin @ BBC Radio Scotland; plus hots spots and promos from Hal Knapp @ Z100 NY, Deborah Hopkins and Pat White @ WIL St....