Today we’re diving into the world of voice-overs with American voice actor and on-camera talent, Rachael West. You might recognise her name (or voice!): she can also be found on MRC’s website. We’re going to talk about her journey in the field of audio production, tips & tricks, and even some influential people she’s met. All that and more in this episode with Kyran Mountain and Rachael West.
Rachael West works in Denver, Colorado, but she travels quite a bit when projects call or when vacation time arrives. She showed an interest in acting very early on in life, when she created her alter ego, Brooke Woode―at the age of 3! Brooke wore fancy hats and spoke in a very “sophisticated and cultured” tone. Rachael still channels Brooke in her work today.
She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Mesa State College (now Colorado Mesa University) in 2005, with an emphasis in Theatre: Acting and Directing. She graduated summa cum laude and had the honour of delivering the commencement address to her graduating class.
Rachael has done all kinds of things: she’s worked at The Moose (100.7) in Grand Junction, Colorado, and then moved to Denver to finish her radio career at KYGO (98.5). During her eight years of country radio mastery, she developed an obsession with Keith Urban, having seen him perform live five times!
How Did She Get into the Voice-Over World?
Everyone has their own story of how they got to where they are, and Rachael’s started when she was really young. As we mentioned earlier, it began with Brooke Woode: a little girl who had this flare for the dramatic and liked to hear herself talk (that’s essential if you want to be a voice artist!). Rachael did Theatre in elementary school and always loved to play around with recording software, like Parrot Talk in the ’90s. She was always recording herself reading anything out loud―from newspapers to the back of a salad dressing. It became an obsession, which drove her mother crazy!
Later on she went to college for Theatre, and really dove into learning about acting and what it meant. Then she happened to be in the right place and at the right time when she got into radio. She graduated and had completed her acting degree. She wanted to move to Denver, so she sought out KYGO, which was the #1 Country radio station at the time. She convinced them to hire her and then moved to Denver to work the overnight shift.
When she began working for KYGO, Rachael witnessed a change starting to happen in the terrestrial radio industry. Everyone in the industry that she knows has moved on; they’re either in New York City or Orlando―all these big markets. She didn’t really want to move, so when her position at KYGO became redundant, she thought, “You know what, I’ve always wanted to try this voice-over thing. It seems like a good combination of acting and my background in radio. So how does this work?”
Now coming from a radio station, you’re used to working with mics and you know how recording works. But she quickly learned that there’s a lot more to the voice-over industry than just that. It was a learning experience for Rachael; she started her own company back in 2009, but it took almost two years before she was really up and running.
Who Inspires Rachael West?
Growing up, Rachael really admired Jodie Foster because she always seemed to have interests outside of acting. Rachael tries to do the same; to not be just an actor, but a well-rounded person―that means educating herself in as many other things as possible, and having experiences outside of the business.
She also looks up to the late Don LaFontaine. She got the chance to meet him at the very first voice conference in Las Vegas. Rachael loved his nature; he was a great spirit and very friendly. He took the time to talk to everybody at the meet and greet. That experience made Rachael think about the other side of this business, which is connecting with people; inspiring others in whatever change we can effect; and just being a good steward of the industry and helping people along the way.
What Is Her Big Success Story?
Entering into her 6th year of officially doing voice-overs and acting, there have been a lot of great successes. Even more so, there have been plenty of learning experiences. One day she wants to write a book that’s about all of the trials, tribulations and lessons she’s learned as an actor and a talent. One of the highlights was when she got to be in a Walmart commercial a few years ago, which aired nationally. Currently, Rachael has many great, consistent clients for voice-over and on-camera projects.
The most important thing that Rachael learned is to just settle into herself, because it’s so easy to go in and have this high energy, “I’m in an audition, this is amazing! I’m gonna do an amazing job!” And then you end up not paying attention to what the client is looking for. Rachael’s advice is to just be comfortable with yourself, particularly during on-camera auditions. Because if you don’t do that, people can tell right away―just like an animal can smell fear!
Best Advice for Those Who Are Just Starting Out?
Rachael’s a big believer in getting to know yourself―you as the instrument, whether it’s just voice, just on-camera or both. You are your instrument and if you don’t know yourself, and you don’t know what it is you’re offering, you’re at a disadvantage. There are many more people out there who do know what it is that they offer, and they can do it at the drop of a hat. She emphasises the importance of really getting to know yourself, and to be okay with making mistakes and using them as a teaching experience.
Tools & Resources
She definitely cannot do her job without the Internet: email, social media, and various blogs and websites. Rachael mentions backstage.com, which is a good online resource because it combines acting and voice-over; you get a good mixture of the actor’s perspective and you’ll get good voice-over advice as well. When Rachael has the time and isn’t working, she visits those blog sites to see what people are talking about and to check what casting directors might be posting.
Rachael has had a home studio for nine years, which has gone through many, many stages. Right now the set-up can be best described as a converted closet, but it’s soundproofed to the best of her ability; it has full-on studio regulation monitors; her production computers; Adobe Audition, which she use for editing; and the Neumann TLM 67 Condenser Microphone.
Fun Story: Blanket Forts
When Rachael travels for on-camera work, she brings studio set-up because she still has those regular voice-over projects that need to be delivered. So now, over time, she’s developed this recording technique: when she checks into a hotel, she asks for extra pillows and at least two extra comforter blankets. She then uses those to set up a makeshift sound booth in the room. After she does that, she puts the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, so that housekeeping cannot see what she’s been doing.
Voice-Overs from Rachael
If you want to hear more from Rachael West, you can check her out on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, or visit her website. Your can also get her fantastic voice right here from the Music Radio Creative site.
Plus, we’re giving away a special offer―don’t miss out, listen right until the very end of this episode to claim it! Join us next week to chat with a very special guest: Dave Jackson from the School of Podcasting!