Narrator: R. C. Bray
Tell us a little about yourself.
With over 125 titles to his credit, Audie-nominated and Earphones Award-winning narrator R.C. Bray has performed Off-Broadway in NYC, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, and many stages in between. An accomplished producer and voice actor, R.C. can also be heard in countless TV and radio commercials. He lives with his gorgeous wife and two beautiful daughters in New England.
How on earth did you get into narrating audiobooks?
Geesh. How much can I write?! LOL!Let’s start by telling you how much I hated audiobooks. I mean, really, I thought audiobooks were the dumbest things in the world. What a lazy person’s way to read a book! (This coming from a guy who had only read about 6 books in his life until the age of 30 or so).But when I started my VO career working at a small production house in CT with an owner who almost, but not necessarily, required me to listen to audiobooks related to growing the business on my 45-minute drive to and from work each day, I realized OK…. they’re tolerable. Not only that, but I learned stuff too. Imagine that!Armed with the knowledge that if I was able to sit through nearly 12 hours of Jack Welch reading his book Winning… I’m more than certain I could listen to ANYBODY else read an audiobook.So I went with a series I’d been interested about for a while: Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. A fresh, new-to-the-biz fella named George Guidall was the narrator. I took a gander at his pic on the back of the box, saw that he was a pretty handsome guy not unlike myself… so I had a listen. To say that I loved it would be ridiculous. Obviously, you’ve got Stephen with the pen. Add George with his incredibly unique and smooth voice and you’ve got my attention for hours. But it wasn’t until I heard the second book in that series, The Drawing of the Three (which I ran to get right away!!) that I realized I REALLY wanted to become a narrator. Frank Muller, the narrator of the second book in The Dark Tower series, is the sole reason I wanted to become a narrator. I always thought audiobooks were just someone speaking the words that were written into a microphone. If George Guidall broke that belief (which he did) – then Frank Muller shattered it.What Frank did with that book – and every other book he’s ever narrated – was simply astounding. You can do character voices? I love to do voices for characters. You can perform with actual emotion? Well… that’s how I’d certainly do it. You can, in short, play every single part and make a book play out like a movie? I love movies. And I love incredibly written verse. You can put those together when reading a book into a mic? I WANT TO DO THAT!!!!!From there I found Pat Fraley and Scott Brick and their workshop/seminar in NYC; attended APAC that year; met some incredible wonderful people (the audiobook world has no one less than incredible, btw); and here I am today with over a hundred audiobooks to my credit. I know “how” wrap-up above was kind of bland compared to the “why” I got into narrating. But it’s the “why” that I think of every time I get in the booth and see the pic of Frank Muller I’ve got as the wallpaper on my desktop, and that’s way more important to me to tell than the biz part of it.
What do you do when you are not narrating?
I’m a family man. I’ve got a gorgeous wife and two daughters (4 and 6). Not to mention three cats, a boxer, and a new chocolate lab puppy. I’d like to mention that only one of the cats and myself are the only males in the house. Therefor, if you need any suggestions on how to do your hair, paint your nails, which earrings to wear, and pretty much just tell you how something ought to have been done after you’ve done it… give me a shout.
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 used to do 90% auto dealer commercials. “Get in now for zero percent financing!!” “It’s the biggest sale of the year!!” “disclaimer: everything you just heard is too good to be true, see dealer for details.” But while you may have heard one or two of those, you’d never recognize it. I did a completely different voice – my auto ad screamer if you will. I also did a few things for Target, Scott Towels, SF 49ers… A few promos for CNBC, SNY, Bio….But this was all over three years ago now. I’m a full-time audiobook narrator I’m beyond happy to say.
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?
Yes and no. I used to say yes, yes, yes! to everything that came my way. But because I’ve been on a pretty steady schedule, I’ve had to turn a few down. There have also been those titles that I just didn’t think I was right for. I’ve learned that you just can’t and simply shouldn’t take everything that comes your way. The basic reason being you might not be right for it in the first place. In other words, don’t do everything for a check. Others will come, and they’ll probably be more suited to your strengths anyway.
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’d like to think that I can do everything! Reality is I’m mostly approached to do private eye type stuff. I’ve got the deep rasp that can easily be associated with a guy who’s trying to overcome an addiction of some sort while getting his fledgling PI company to get some business… any business! I’ve also got the ability to be an everyman though, too. The one I’d recommend most is the one that most listeners seem to enjoy: The Martian by Andy Weir. I’m very proud of the performance. But there are a bunch of others I’d love to recommend too: Huntress Moon (Alexandra Sokoloff), Anybody’s Daughter (Pamela Samuels Young), Suffer the Children (Craig DiLouie), and the Mountain Man series (Keith C. Blackmore).
What do you see as your greatest achievement as an audiobook narrator? What has been your most difficult moment?
My greatest professional achievement thus far has been the Earphones Award for Lion Plays Rough by Lachlan Smith (also a highly recommended series), and two 2014 Audie Nominations for The Martian by Andy Weir and Richard Bard’s Enemy of My Enemy, Brainrush II (Brianrush series is yet another recommendation!)Personally though, it’s the fact that I’m a full-time narrator. It’s an accomplishment that I’m very proud of for having identified, stuck with, and eventually became.
Do you have a list of your own favorite narrators, who inspires you? Do you have a list of favorite audiobook that you have listened to?
Influential narrators: as stated above, Frank Muller and George Guidall, Simon Vance, Paul Michael, Richard Poe, Johnny Heller, Tom Stechschulte, to name a few…..Fave audiobooks: The Drawing of the Three (Stephen King/Frank Muller), Deception Point (Dan Brown/Richard Poe), No Country for Old Men & The Road (Cormac McCarthy/Tom Stechschulte), The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Steig Larsson/Simon Vance), All Quiet on the Western Front (Erich Maria Remarque/Frank Muller), IT (Stephen King/Stephen Weber), Blaze (Richard Bachman/Ron McLarty)…. there are tons!
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?
What I love most is that pretty much all of the authors I’ve performed for have really just let me do my thing. I’ll get pronunciation notes and some things about the setting, of course. But for the most part, I’m left to do what I do. As a narrator, that’s really encouraging, not to mention liberating.
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?
Gotta read it first of course. Don’t want to end up performing a character as an Irishman on holiday if he’s actually a woman from New Hampshire. I don’t mark up the book, but I do put down little notes about each character on my Notes app.
How do you flesh out how a specific character will sound?
The info about a character is always there for you from the author. Other than that, I almost wait to see what comes out of my mouth when I hit record. I’ll know immediately if my instincts are correct and the voice is a good fit or if I’m way off. I often crack myself up with what I hear.
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?
In my home. It’s a 6’x4′ Whisper Booth that I’ve decorated with pics of my family, artwork the girls made me in school, shelves with trinkets and stuff I’ve picked up along the way. Some folks want a clear and clean atmosphere – I prefer a nice cozy setting. Oh, and I don’t use a light. Just the light from my iPad. It makes for a nice setting, sure, but it’s really because of how hot a light inside there makes it!
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. Silly in fact.Put it this way: the book I’m narrating is really my only interaction with anything/one besides myself I have until my wife gets home from work. There’s a lot of one-sided conversations going on. And they can get pretty ridiculous as I’m sure you can imagine.
How long do you record at a time, on average? What is it about a book that will shorten or lengthen this?
Varies from day to day and book to book. I mathematically figure out how many pages I need to complete per day to sync up with the deadline date, but only use that as a guide really. If I’m on a roll one day, those figures will obviously change. But I try to keep it close to what I’ve figured. I’m still figuring out my limits (after 3 years of doing this!) and what I can/can’t do. I’m the most optimistic person I know when it comes to getting a new book – but that kind of screws things up when reality sets in!
What is your favorite genre to narrate? Why?
Thriller/Suspense, Horror-with-Heart, Mysteries. Simply because I’ve always liked them as a reader/listener/viewer. It helps a lot if you enjoy the book your narrating!
What has been your favorite character? What character has given you the most grief?
Mark Watney in The Martian came the most easily to me. All I really had to do was read the words as I would say them and voila!There’s a character in a Sci-Fi series (Cutter’s Wars) that I gave the absolute worst voice possible to. I dealt with it through the first book because I’d already committed to it and thought hey, it’s a pain but it works. I had no idea the second book was going to be focused on not only her – but her entire race!!!!
How does it make you feel that a book that you helped bring to life is becoming a movie?
I don’t think I had very much to do with that. I’m sure it was well on its way as soon as Andy wrote the last sentence.
What are your thoughts on Matt Damon playing Mark Watney?
Honestly I’m having a little difficulty picturing it. But then again I couldn’t see him as Jason Bourne either And we all know how that turned out. The guy is one serious bad-ass action star! If it weren’t for the somewhat similar movie Moon, I would say Sam Rockwell would’ve easily nailed it.
How do you stop yourself from laughing or crying at some of the things authors write?
I don’t. Thanks to the digital age, retakes are easy and outtakes are hysterical either way!
Do you have a philosophy of how to create the perfect audiobook experience?
Enjoy the story. Even if it’s a turkey, as George Guidall says. That’s really it. If you enjoy it, you get lost in it and that’s when you, the narrator, disappear.
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 seem to end up reading Non-fiction for pleasure. I’d love to read more Fiction, but I guess my subconscious says, “You’ve been doing that all day – NO!” Ironically, if I’m not in the booth, I fall asleep within minutes while reading for pleasure. I don’t get it either!
Do you have any advice for other aspiring narrators?
Yes. You don’t want to do this because if you do, you may end up getting a book I’d be perfect for. So please. Don’t become a narrator.
What has been your favorite project and why?
Every book is my favorite project.
Do you believe that listening to an audiobook should be considered reading? Why or why not?
Yes, and beyond. There’s SO much more to be gotten from an audiobook. When reading (eyes to page) it’s so easy to gloss over things quickly without even realizing it. It seems the eyes can’t keep up with how quickly the mind wants to “get to what happens next!!!” While listening to an audiobook, you have to listen at the pace the narrator has dictated as well as the emotion a reader may have, again, glossed over to keep the story moving.
How do you view audiobook narration/production: Art or Science?
Both. There’s a science to the software used and the post production, but you still have to finesse the audio a bit with pacing, dove-tailing, and the like in the final editing. As for the performance aspect, art is obvious. You have to perform. But, as with post, you have to remember that you’re doing something where different people will be listening in different situations: in the car, exercising, doing household chores, or simply sitting in a chair or lying in bed. You have to balance all of that so even if they miss something because of a distraction of any kind, you’re able to keep them engaged without having really missed anything at all.
I have heard that many in the industry dislike the term narrator. What do you prefer and why?
I don’t mind it at all, but it does bother me when someone asks what I do.. I say narrator… and they say, what? Then I have to go into an explanation about what a narrator does, but often times what an audiobook is. Book on Tape usually clears it up.
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