Top of his Voice

Published on 26 November 2017

Connecting with audiences and constant self-improvement make Paul Carr a sought-after voiceover artist.

By Jo Tan

Some people think voiceover work is easy. After all, it’s just talking over music, or an onscreen scene where the speaker doesn’t even have to reveal his face. However, leading voiceover artist Paul Carr might beg to differ.

Carr has been a teacher, broadcast journalist and radio deejay, professions which have given him ample experience in speaking to an audience. Yet he signed up for voice classes to take his skills up a notch. “When I got a job in journalism with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, my boss said, ‘You’re a good kid but we can’t have you talking through your nose about conflict in Kosovo,’ ” he says, hamming up a particularly nasal Australian accent to mimic his speech of yore.

After his newfound sonorous tones scored him a gig voicing a series of promotional videos for the Sydney Olympics, he began private classes with a voiceover artist. “My previous classes were in news-reading and learning ways to modify my voice, but the lady who conducted the private classes told me to stop reading off the script and start talking to the person listening to me on the radio. She said to imagine myself talking intimately to just one person.

“For the news, you need to sound almost detached — it’s not supposed to be coloured by emotion and adjectives. For voiceovers — especially for advertisements — it’s all adjectives. She freed up the playful, sincere, and basically, human side of my voice, precisely what I was not allowed to share reading the news. I realised doing voiceovers is a craft, often very much like acting.”

Since then, Carr has been the voice behind everything from banks, jewellery and luxury cars, to fast food and supermarkets. “I’ve also been the voice of death and dying, telling listeners about dengue and death tolls on the roads,” he offers. However, he admits he can’t do everything. “I rarely get cast as a character voice — I was quite frustrated when I failed auditions to voice an old wombat.”

On the flipside, there are jobs he gets cast for which he is unsure of. “It used to do my head in when I was in Singapore recording studios — the copy didn’t reflect how Singaporeans spoke — and they got people like me to come in and record instead of artists with a Singaporean accent. I wouldn’t have thought that was the best way to make an emotional connection with a local audience. I think it’s similar to Australia, where we were going through a cultural cringe and took many decades to let go of the Queen’s English. “Things are changing here, when you look at the ads allowed now that didn’t use to be. Even if it means less work for me, I think it’s a good sign.”

Paul Carr’s work can be heard in cinemas, on TV and radio, and at voiceovers.asia.

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