By Alex Greenwood
In our continuing series of interviews with artists, actors, musicians, writers and other creatives, we’re thrilled to go IN A WORLD of voiceovers with our first v/o artist interview: John Edmondson. John owns and operates Voices of the Office, a company that specializes in voiceover work for commercials, films and audiobooks. I first met John when he auditioned to read the audiobook version of my first novel, Pilate’s Cross. He got the gig, and did a fantastic job.
Afterward, I sat down for a fun conversation with John to learn a little more about what he does and why he does it.
Tell us a little about yourself.
That’s a really tough question…”tell us a little about yourself,” which I guess is more of a statement or demand than a question. The word “little” is a bit subjective, what I think is a little you may quickly become bored with and ask yourself “when is this guy going to shut up?” But here goes: I was born, lived as a child for a while, got a job in radio in my early teens, quit radio and got a real job in the airline industry. Was one of the first group of employees hired at America West Airlines back when they started up. After radio, my first professional voice over gig was the voice of America West Airlines – you got to listen to me when you were placed on hold for reservations, some days you swore at me for talking so much – or you were on hold too long. But that was a side job – they didn’t have to pay me any extra for me to do that since I was an employee working in I.T. It has been a spectacular ride through aviation over the last 30 years (really hard to say 30 years … ’cause I still think I am in my 20’s).
When/why did you start voiceover work?
I have been grousing about working in corporate America and the silliness that occurs in big companies for a while and my wife has encouraged me to seek out something else. She really wanted me to try voiceover again. The industry has changed since I worked in radio. Now I have a studio at home, make recordings and post them on the internet. How cool is that? A computer, microphone, software, and presto! I can speak to the world.
My major in college was speech communication, with an emphasis in oral interpretation. I had a wonderful professor at ASU at the time, and she really encouraged me in interpreting the written word. I love to read, and want to find a job where I get to read all day. … the only job better would be one where I get to play video games all day, but I have the sense that those are going to some of the younger set – and pong players don’t really have a career path…
You took a break from voiceover work–why, and what did you do?
As I said, I spent the last 30 years in the airline industry. I had some spectacular opportunities to work with wonderful people, participated in start-up airlines around the world, traveled the world, absolutely spectacular … I started because I had a college roommate whose father was an airline pilot, and the family got to travel for free. I decided that was what I wanted to do … travel for free. The last 4 or 5 years I’ve decided that air travel is not so much fun, and so that took some of the joy out of the job. It takes a while to recover from a good security grope.
What V/O projects have you completed recently?
Your book Pilate’s Cross; Biblical Proof Animals Do Go to Heaven; a series of short history books, an autobiography of a CIA analyst that will be coming out in the next month or so…and I just completed some parts of a spiritual guide that will be available in the coming months.
If an author wanted to get you to narrate his/her work, what would they need to know about your preferences as far as genre, themes, etc. Is there any project type or genre you won’t do?
Character dialog is hard because one needs to remember that character throughout the book. I am not afraid of them, but if the dialog is snappy, without a lot of identification of who is speaking, it becomes harder. At this point I am not too worried about any particular type of book, I suppose I would gravitate towards those with less dialog simply for the ease. Since I do both the reading and the technical production, the time spent producing is longer with dialog. If someone else is doing the production work, then I am all over doing separate voices.
How do you market yourself?
Poorly. I jumped into reading books with Pilate’s Cross, and have not spent enough time going back to catch up on building a marketing plan. I hired a coach who ripped my web site www.voicesoftheoffice.com apart, and said I needed a web site with my own name: www.johnmedmondson.com. So I built that myself … I have on my to do list to go back and work on the Voices of the Office site. The coach is great in that she teaches how-to and where-to market one’s voice. My planned target niche is corporate voiceover for training videos, web sites and the like.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned about marketing so far?
You can’t do too much of it, unless you are on social media, in which case you have to figure out how to keep your name in front of people without being annoying. There is one of my friends on Facebook who is probably promoting his book a bit too much.
Any favorite writers or narrators?
Carl Hiaasen, Dave Barry, Jimmy Buffet, Jeffrey Archer, Ken Follet, Janet Evanovich, John Grisham, Robert Ludlum, Louis L’Amour (I would go to CA for Thanksgiving from school in AZ., a good friend would drive me as he lived near my Aunt and Uncle. Somewhere about Buckeye, AZ the radio desert would begin until about San Bernadino. To keep us entertained, I would read aloud Louis L’Amour books), the list of my favorite authors goes on and on, and now includes J. Alexander Greenwood! I traveled so much that I would go into an airport bookshop and buy the latest paperback only to find that I had already read it – extremely disappointing.
My wife pointed out that the library provides books for free! Later in my airline career when I would travel overseas on a 5 or 10 day trip, I would pack my backpack with 5-6 library books – probably the cause of my back problems today, and read all of them on the trip. My biggest travel fear is that I would run out of book before the end of the flight home. That happened to me on occasion, and I would have to pick something up overseas. My best find was Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon – wow what a great find, I went on to read the rest of his books – there are a couple the library doesn’t have that I still need to find.
What’s your take on the future of audiobooks?
My parents just sent me a Wall Street Journal article that says audiobooks are booming, and they are the newest art form. Non-readers are flocking to audio books, and syncing them with ebooks and becoming readers. So who am I to argue with the Wall Street Journal? .
What’s next for you?
Wild success in the voiceover business, but if that doesn’t work as well as I am expecting, I live in Phoenix so being homeless 9 months of the year isn’t too bad. And I have been contributing to St. Mary’s food bank regularly… kind of like a savings account in case I need to make any withdrawals.
I have been blessed with opportunity, the ability to work hard and make opportunity, with having a little bit of talent, and having wonderful friends and family – not necessarily in that order. I don’t know what that light is down the tunnel, but I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to be able to trudge down this track for a while and see what it is.
Anything I didn’t ask that you’d like to mention?
Yes, what is John Pilate up to now?, and when will we get the next installment? Some of us develop unhealthy addictions to reading about our favorite characters, and need our fix …
Keep your eyes peeled, John–I have it on good authority that he’ll be back this fall. In the meantime, we hope readers will check out your work and consider hiring you for their next project. Thanks for the great interview, and best wishes in your future work!