One of the fast rising talents in the Radio Imaging Voiceover world also happens to be female but they are certainly not mutually exclusive. Rachel McGrath was first given a spotlight a few years back when she was in the CCM+E building in Atlanta using her production and subsequent VO skills on The Bull among others. I will be completely honest that I think the first time I read about her it was not in the best light or simply she didn’t come off great. (Believe it or not, I think at times the printed form of media can be taken out of context. Can you believe that!?!) Never on this site though, which is why I am getting her updated perspective on the industry and her place in it today.
Anyway, she eventually went off on her own to become one the lucky pros who sits in a small room all day talking to herself. She is working at the top of her game now with stations everywhere and commercial work heard at the highest levels. Her site is here so you can get a feel for what she does. Very unique. I also grabbed some pics from her studio and posted them below. She actually sent me a video. If I figure out how to embed it you will also see that. For now sit back and prepare to READ the tales of Rachel McGrath
Rachel, thanks for taking time out to check in! As we discussed you WILL be a guest on the podcast but that list is so long. I want to make sure people know who you are and what you do. SO, uh, what do you do?
Hi Ryan! Thanks for existing and doing your blog. I say things, send them off to people, and hope they enjoy them. Also known as being a Voice Over Artist. I voice TV commercials, On Hold Messages, Audiobooks, Videos, and do a ton of Radio Imaging. I can’t remember the exact number of stations I have now- I have to go look at my map on my kitchen wall. (I’ll attach a picture) I have little flags with the stations calls so I can keep track, because my memory is so awful! Probably from all the water I drink.
Background: How did you get your start in radio?
I went to The Illinois Center for Broadcasting in 2002. The only reason I went to the school was to study to be on TV – I wanted to be a news reporter. But then- ready for some brutal honesty??- I saw myself in front of the camera and flipped out because I thought I looked horrendous. That’s right. Goodness I had some issues back in the day. Now , thankfully, I’m completely and totally issue free- a specimen of pure perfection.
Ultimately I decided to be on the radio instead. My goal was to be a jock.
How did you get your start in front of the DAW? BTW – Not too many women display a proclivity towards the production side (as I’ve mentioned is a shame) Can you shed light as to why that may be OR tell me why I am wrong and there are actually a ton of them out there?
You’re not wrong. I have a hypothesis- if a woman enjoys video games, she’s predisposed to having some solid skills on a DAW. Take the number of women who actually like video games – and think about how many of those will be exposed to any kind of DAW in their lifetime. That number is pretty miniscule.
I’m a video game lover (I actually don’t own a system because I dream about playing GTA 5 – and I would play it- forever- without stopping- rendering me useless at life) . When Cool Edit was being taught in school, I announced that I wanted no part of it. Little did I know , once I got my hands on it, I’d fall madly in love, and having production skills would be what led me to where I am now. Without the ability to produce, I’d have never landed the gig at CC Atl- and more importantly, Id have been at the mercy of someone else when it came to producing my own voice- and I just don’t believe I’d have gotten as far. Or it would’ve taken me much, much longer.
And now Voiceover: You have experienced a marked (complete?) transition to voiceover, especially since you left CCM+E, correct? What precipitated your transition to “being out on your own?”
I like the word “Precipitated” . Thank you for selecting it.
First, let me talk about my time at Clear Channel. I really, really enjoyed my time there. I know there are a ton of people with dissimilar stories, but my experience with CC was pretty awesome. How lucky was I to be in the same building as the Creative Services Group? Those guys would coach me and help me make my reads way, way better. They used me on all kinds of spots that I normally wouldn’t have had a chance to do- and I grew so, so much as an artist in that time. Then freaking Eric Chase finds me asks me to be on Chase Cuts. Are you kidding me? Its 2013 and I still can’t believe that happened. Then, the station I image (94 9 The Bull) has an absolutely brilliant Writer/PD/OM named Scott Lindy – so I learn what really, really tremendous imaging should look/sound like- and on top of that, Deke and Ann are the voices. So Im listening to their reads going, “HOLY WOW- these people are outstanding- and they go off the script!!! They just say whatever they feel like- and I always end up using those takes. I want to be just like them!” Oh- and- let’s not forget the enormous production network of outstanding people I got to meet and am still friends with to this day. Im the voice of 3 PD’s stations I met at CC Atl, and none of that ever would have happened without Clear Channel.
How did I know it was time to go?
This is tricky to answer without hurting anyones feelings, but here goes: In my first 4 years there, I was on a cloud- absorbing everything, meeting people, learning production and voice techniques, playing – it was just a magical experience. But then, the last half year, I felt like , instead of helping me grow, it was beginning to hold me back. I think I only had a few stations I was voicing at the time, and I was certainly going to take an enormous monetary hit. But I’m a super emotional person- yes, even when it comes to work- and although logic dictated that staying there with my security blankey (a salary)was the correct course of action, my heart told me it was time to take a leap of faith. I loved the creative side, but dubbing spots into the computer was something I was just over. I wanted to stop producing and only do voice work. I knew I’d never be happy if I didn’t at least try. Ill never forget this- I went on vacation, and when I came back, I actually felt like I didn’t belong in the building. it was a creepy, eerie, sad feeling I never want to experience again. This place that was once my beloved home now felt so empty and meaningless to me. So I packed up my studio and waited to say goodbye. Within a few weeks, I did. That first year was frightening- I had no idea whether or not I’d make it. And since I define myself by my career (not good, but the truth) , failing would have sent me into a tailspin. Obviously I didn’t fail- but- thats because I worked really, really hard. And exceptionally kind people gave me chances. I went to VO weekends with amazing VO people and absorbed as much as possible. I wrote to all my friends and begged them to please put me on their stations (no shame) . Benztown was pimping me out and got me tons of exposure- thank god for them. I signed with Star 94 as their station voice. My boys at Evanov in Canada threw me on THREE of their stations . And then I signed with Atlas last year- a total dream come true. My stations mean everything to me- I adore the waves on which they broadcast, and I’d do anything for them.
Do you still dabble on the production side or are you 100% VO? And if you don’t dabble, do you miss it?
I’m 99.5 percent VO. I still have one station I occasionally produce things for- just so I don’t forget how! I miss that feeling of accomplishment it brings- you know- like when you take a zillion parts, line them up all pretty and on top of each other so they’re all safe and happy, and sound amazing? And you play what you made like 7896 times, because you’re just so proud of yourself? And then you listen in the car on the way home, because you just need to make sure it sounds good when it actually airs? That.
But I wouldn’t change it. VO is my first love.
What are the keys to going on your own? Whether it is by choice or by circumstance can you tell us a few things one should consider when they make the leap?
Not that I know anything, but my number one tip for making the decision to go on your own would be to first look in the mirror and really give yourself a thorough evaluation of your psyche. Ask yourself: “Am I self motivated? Am I ready to have zero interaction with human beings from 9 to 5? Am I ready to give up my current lifestyle and possibly be broke for the first year? When I audition for six thousand things- and land nothing- will I still want to audition for the six thousand and first thing- with a smile on my face? Do I have a studio or a booth with all the necessary equipment and soundproofing to compete with pros who will be auditioning for the same things as me- ready to go? ”
After you’ve answered those questions, you should know whether or not you’re ready.
Agents/Managers: Have ’em? How important are they? How much of your income comes from your own hustling?
I’m with Atlas Talent in NY/LA. I had to stalk Hoss to get him to sign me. Now that the stalking part is over- Atlas is an absolutely phenomenal agency – the auditions I get are things I only used to dream of. Major TV stuff- they definitely know what they’re doing! And here’s why having an agent is so, SO important for me:
Remember how I said that I’m a super emotional person, even when it comes to work?
Yeah. When dealing with money matters, thats a very, very, very bad thing. I NEVER used to ask for what I was worth. Now, everything goes through Hoss- and he’s spectacular, smart, and savvy. He’s unbelievably fair to everyone- people have this notion that agents just want to gouge everyone- but nope, they’re there to make sure the talent isn’t getting used or abused. In addition to getting sweet auditions – for both radio and T.V.- I also don’t have to waste a day of every month sending out invoices or chasing down money. Atlas takes care of all if that, so I can focus on being super fast for my clients.
How do you typically gain new clients (Agents/3rd party vs YOU)? Would you say there are major differences in building a client list from Commercial to Imaging to Promo to Industrial? From Women to Men?
Actually, although those for genres you names are immensely different, Id say building a client list for all of them is done in a very similar way: Networking. Yep- there’s that word! (I believe “Networking” is to the VO interview as “Conversational” is to the Commercial script- both words always make an appearance, and people are sick of seeing them! )
The national or large regional commercial spots Ive done have been landed through both auditions through agents and knowing people at prod houses. And hopefully, a bit of knowing what I’m doing. Hopefully. Radio is exactly the same- I’ve booked gigs through auditions , but predominately- through word of mouth from other stations. Or from knowing an imaging guy or PD , and having them recommend or just use me. Sometimes, a station signs me without even having me audition- and I’m over here looking at the contract jumping up and down going “Seriously??? Did that just happen?? How is this my life???” I think other stations must tell them nice things about me, which is flattering beyond words. Industrial clients will use you over and over again if they like you, too. I can’t speak for Promo- yet. Notice I said “Yet”? Stand by for that one. As far as the women to men thing, I’ve always had the opinion that being a woman in the industry has only ever helped me. I know that irritates some other women- but it’s my truth.
We will have you on a podcast at some point (next year for sure)…between now and then what would you say is the biggest professional goal or endeavor you want to accomplish? Cuz I’ll check in on that…
You will? I’m excited! Wait- you’ll check on it too? Thats a lot of pressure! But a dreamer I am- so- I currently dream about being a promo voice for a TV network. I really enjoy doing promos, so that would certainly be something that would elicit some sort of dance or celebration from me. I promise to take a picture and send it to you if said dance occurs. OK?
1/2: Where you live….Tell me the biggest (or a big) secret tourists wouldn’t know about but you think everyone should see or do?
I live in Atlanta. This city is absolutely fantastic. OK- come close- closer, right up to my lips – ready for the secret? This city really has nothing to do with what people perceive to be the “South”. Atlanta is progressive, tolerant, fashionable, diverse, energetic, and full of opportunity- especially for young entrepreneurs. Do not come here thinking you will see trucks and cowboy boots- instead, you’ll find a whole bunch of interesting, friendly people- a lot of them driving BMWs and wearing 6 inch heels. Go to Little 5 Points for tattoos, dreamers, sexy bearded hipsters, unique boutiques, and not so dive bars with great food and lots of yummy draft beers. Stop by The Porter to get the full flavor. Go to Buckhead for Lamborghinis, cocktails from master mixologists, Botox, stunning women, spendy shopping, and innovative, five star food. Head to King+Duke to get your glitz fix. And whatever you do- DON’T call it “Hotlanta”. I’ll find you, and it won’t be pretty.
The exclusive ROTR Rachel McGrath Studio Tour….its an MOV so I don’t know what will happen when you click it…