Voice Range: 20-50
Accents: American Southern, American New England, British, Irish, Russian, Spanish
Genres: Horror, Literary Fiction, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Contempory Fiction, Romance
Fluent Languages: English
Awards: Two-time 2017 Voice Arts Awards nominee
Matt Godfrey was born and raised in Alabama, studied Theater and English in college, then moved to Los Angeles where he lived for 8 years as a working actor. Acting, however, brought him back to the South, where he continues to appear in film, TV, and commercials, with the added bonus of spending his days with his nose in a book. He’s now a full-time audiobook narrator. He loves college football, a good haunted house book, black coffee, and the Oxford comma. He lives in the Deep South with his two favorite people, his wife, and daughter.
How on earth did you get into narrating audiobooks?
I studied Theatre and English in college, then moved with my wife to LA to work in film and TV. I've always been a huge reader, and in the back of my mind I knew I wanted to try my hand at audiobooks, but I had no idea where to get started. One day I stumbled across ACX and submitted my first audition, and got the book! I wanted to give a few books a try before I dropped everything and committed to the career, because narrating a book is a gigantic job and I had never done it before. After my first book I immediately knew this was what I wanted to do for as long as the industry would keep me around. It's a perfect melding of my two loves: acting and reading.
What do you do when you are not narrating?:
It's a bit of a cop out to say I'm reading, but honestly I am. My wife and I love to travel, and now that we have a daughter we have so much fun bringing her along with us and showing her the world. We took her to England last year and had a great time experiencing our favorite place in the world with our new favorite person in the world. We're also obsessed with food – whenever we travel, eating is probably the top priority. We're lucky that we've lived both in LA and the South – two amazing places to eat.
Many audiobook narrators do other voice over work, where else could we hear your work? Do you find there to any big hurdles to jump when going from audiobooks to something else or vise versa?:
I haven't done any other voice work that's available to be heard, I don't think. I did some scratch vocals for a big Disney animated film that was shelved, but that's as close as I've gotten to anything someone might be able to hear. Maybe a DVD extra one day? I'm a film actor though, so you can see me in a few things here and there. I did an episode of Netflix's Santa Clarita Diet, and I've been in national ads for brands like Chevy, Old Navy, Progresso Soups, etc.
Do you have the luxury of picking and choosing the projects that you work on or do you take as many as you have time for?:
It's a melding of the two. I'll take as much work as I can possibly get, I have to support a family! But if the book is something I'm just utterly opposed to, I won't take it.
For those of us that are unfamiliar with your work. How would you describe your narration style and voice? What would the one audiobook you would suggest for people to listen to your best work?:
I struggle to describe how I speak. I'm often told I have a unique voice and an idiosyncratic way of talking, so I don't really know what to do with that. I think my voice is fairly soothing and a bit higher pitched than a lot of males. I try to be as engaged and alive as I can with the narration, and I don't use a "narrator voice," if you know what I mean. I try my best to just read it as….me.
I would encourage you to check out the book Blackwater by Michael McDowell. Not only do I think it's some of my best work, it's one of the greatest Southern Gothic novels ever written and a true piece of art.
As a narrator, do you get compensated in a set amount or do you also receive royalties from the individual sales? Do you like one more than the other? Has there ever been an per finished hour book that you wish was a royalty deal, what book? Or vise versa?:
Mostly I get paid by the finished hour, because I'm a proud member of SAG-AFTRA and that's how you have to get paid if you want to contribute to your health and pension. Also I'm trying to support a family with this job, so the per-finished-hour gigs are simply the most reliable. But that doesn't mean I won't take a royalty-share book here and there when my schedule allows it. And some of them can be pretty lucrative if you know how to pick them. To be honest, my personal taste in books is not very mainstream, so the books I would choose to do out of love just won't sell that much. I love 70s and 80s horror novels, which aren't exactly topping the charts. But I don't really care. They're so much fun for me it doesn't bother me too much when not many people buy them. There are frankly a lot of books I would probably do for free just because I love them so much, but it seems I heard somewhere that working for free wasn't always a smart thing to do….
What do you see as your greatest achievement as an audiobook narrator? What has been your most difficult moment?:
Narrating Michael McDowell's Blackwater was a really big deal for me, because it's been one of my favorite novels for years. I tried to acquire the film rights from McDowell's estate several years ago but that never worked out. So narrating the book was a huge achievement, because I want to be associated with his work. It also takes place near where I grew up, so I felt like I personally knew all the characters.
Another big achievement for me has been the relationships I've made. The industry is relatively small, and I've met so many narrators, authors, and publishers I respect so much. I've been fortunate enough to work a lot with Jay and Ryan at Valancourt Books, one of my favorite presses. And through them I met and have become friends with the narrator RC Bray, who is literally one of the best narrators working and a wonderful human. It's been fun developing a relationship with the authors I work with too. I respect authors more than just about anybody, and I'm in awe of what they do. Being friends with so many is a real source of pride for me. I want just a little bit of their greatness to rub off on me.
As far as tough moments go, they're all relative because I get to do an amazingly fun thing for a job. Narrating a bad book is a challenge, but you're still reading a book for a living. It's not so bad.
If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?:
Alan Grant from Jurassic Park. Who doesn't want to be rescued by Sam Neill? He'd show you his cool raptor claw and then rip off his aviators in the most badass way known to man and look off into the distance with wonder in his eyes.
If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?:
Don't be fooled, his young body actually houses the soul of a 50 year old man and he's going to go to sleep before you.
What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?:
I will fight you to the death that the ending of LOST was amazing. What did you people expect?! It had to end that way!
You are hosting a dinner party and must invite 3 famous people (real or fictional). Who would you choose and why?
Alan Grant from Jurassic Park (see above), the T-Rex from Jurassic Park so Alan had something to deal with, and Jeff Goldblum because I peed next to him at a urinal one time and I want to see if he remembers me.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another narrator?
Don't read the book the way you think a narrator would read the book. Just read it like YOU would read the book. That's why they hired you.
Thanks, Scott Brick!
What is the first book you remember reading on your own? What do you remember most about the experience?:
It wasn't the first book I read on my own, but my first vivid memory of reading a book was when I was 11 and read Jurassic Park on a long plane ride. (Sensing a theme here?) The sheer terror of the story mixed with a sense of fun set the tone for my personal tastes today.
You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)? Will there be a tasty libation involved?:
As much as I hate to admit it, I don't think Alan Grant would be great in an obstacle course. So I probably just wouldn't do the obstacle course and hang out with Alan Grant instead. (I'm really digging my heels in on this joke, aren't I?)
Do you ever get specific notes or ideas from the writer about how something should be read? What is a helpful note, and what is, shall we say, less helpful?:
I hear horror stories of narrators being micromanaged and not allowed to just be let loose and do our jobs. I have been crazy lucky to have never had that experience. Everyone has pretty much just let me run wild, which I love. I love it when an author or rights holder sends me a character list with accent notes and key descriptive info, though. That's very helpful.
Do you have an initial process or routine by which you get to know the book you’re going to be reading? Do you mark them up, for example?:
I read on a Kindle and take notes on an app called Trello. I copy and paste every line that describes a character onto that character's corresponding card in Trello. Then when I'm recording I attach a snippet of their voice to the card for reference later.
How do you flesh out how a specific character will sound?:
Honestly, I just go with my gut and see what comes out of my mouth on the day I record it. Sometimes I can tell it isn't right and I'll come up with something else. But if I've prepped well and I understand the book, usually the right voice comes out.
Is your studio in your home? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this? Do you have something that you would consider unique in your setup? What is it?:
I have a little back house in my yard that we converted into a studio with a vocal booth. I love working at home, so this is the perfect set up. I still get to "leave" to go to work, but I'm just in the back yard. I can still eat lunch with my family in the middle of my day, which is awesome.
What is the atmosphere like in your studio when you record. What’s it like, and are things very serious or not very serious?:
Not serious at all. I work hard and I'm very dedicated, but I think the minute I start taking myself too seriously is when I lose sight of what I'm really doing. This should all be fun.
How long do you record at a time, on average? What is it about a book that will shorten or lengthen this?:
I usually prep from 6-7am, then record from 7-8. I take a break to eat breakfast with my daughter while my wife gets ready for the day, then I record again from 9am-3pm. Then I call it a day.
What is your favorite genre to narrate? Why?:
I love horror and thrillers. I grew up watching old horror movies with my parents every weekend, and that has really stuck with me. I love being scared.
What has been your favorite character? What character has given you the most grief?:
Mary Love Caskey from Blackwater has been the most fun I've ever had doing a character. She's just so hilariously awful. There was a character in Sweetheart, Sweetheart by Bernard Taylor with a West Country British accent, which was tough for me to get right. Hopefully I did it!
How do you stop yourself from laughing or crying at some of the things authors write?:
I don't! I've definitely gotten emotional while narrating.
I have heard that many in the industry dislike the term narrator. What do you prefer and why?:
I've heard that too. I actually like it, although I have no idea why. "Narrated by Matt Godfrey" has always been how I prefer to be billed.
How do you view audiobook narration/production: Art or Science?:
Total art. Prep and execution are a little different every time, as dictated by the book.
Do you have a philosophy of how to create the perfect audiobook experience?:
Whatever you do, please don't speed it up. Just listen at 1X.
Do you have a preference for reading fiction or nonfiction for pleasure? And is what you read for pleasure what you’d prefer to read for audiobooks?:
I'm fiction all the way in my personal life. I have a tough time getting through non-fiction for some reason. I need a strong story.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring narrators?:
Listen to audiobooks by the greats and pay attention to how they do things. Then settle in for the long haul, it's an industry built on relationships.
Do you believe that listening to an audiobook should be considered reading? Why or why not?:
Absolutely. When people say it's cheating, I'm always baffled. Cheating on what? Aren't we all just doing this for a fun? Books aren't an assignment, they're there to enrich our lives. There's nothing to cheat on. Listening, reading, it's all the same.
Are you working on any special projects?:
I'm doing my second book by Tom Deady, called Eternal Darkness. I've really enjoyed getting to know him and his writing, and I think he's fantastic.
I have the final book in Jennifer Westall's Healing Ruby series coming up this year, which is a series I'm sad to leave behind. At first glance it seems out of my genre, but actually I enjoy the books as much as anything else I read. They're wonderfully written.
I'm excited I get to narrate Michael Talbot's The Delicate Dependency, fairly unanimously thought of as one of the greatest vampire novels ever written. That one's going to be fun.
Have you ever gotten a poor review on your narration? What do you do with such reviews?:
I try very hard to stay away from reviews, because I'm afraid my self-confidence is too fragile for them. But I can't help peeking every once in a while…
How do you feel about authors that choose to narrate their own audiobooks? Any advice to them?:
More power to you if you know how to do it. Neil Gaiman is incredible at it. It is an ENTIRELY different set of skills though, and I think a lot of authors would do well to hire a narrator. But there are certainly those out there who can knock it out of the park.
This is for the question you wish I would have asked but didn’t.: