Photo of a middle-aged man wearing a tee-shirt and baseball cap standing in front of an easel at the top a hill of hayfield and a small apple orchard, with a sweeping vista in the background.
Thor Wickstrom, local painter, at the spot he's been painting one of his favorite Williamstown landscapes for 18 years; photo by Jason Velázquez

Top Left Corner #177: NTRVW X2 — Local Artist, Thor Wickstrom on Green River Farms; Tom Conklin in our Solopreneur Spotlight

And this is Episode Number 177 of the Top Left Corner. I’m your host Jay Velázquez and I do thank you for tuning in as always. Today, at least the day I’m recording this, is Sunday, October 30, 2022, and what a glorious Sunday it is. Brought to you by our new sponsor, climate change, making sure that every November feels like August. Today’s show is truly a confluence of a bunch of great things. We have a couple of conversations that have been in the hopper for a while — One for a couple of weeks, one for over a year.

Links Mentioned on the Show

Thor WickstromThe Happy CurmudgeonsTom ConklinREADY.govBallot Questions

Our first guest is Thor Wickstrom, local painter I literally meant by the side of the road overlooking the view surrounding Green River Farms in Williamstown. I didn’t have any equip equipment with me but I did have my phone and I did my best to try to capture the artists thoughts on that particular stretch of scenery and the importance of open space. Cars went by. The wind picked up. And in the end, I thought that I had erased the conversation when I updated my phone. Fortunately nothing online ever really disappears, and I stumbled across it this week as I search for information about the farm now that it is on the block, so to speak. We learned that Green River Farms is now officially up for sale for approximately 2 1/2 million dollars, which is a piece more than most small farmers can possibly come up with.

Listing for Green River Farms at Burnham Gold Real Estate

The community is concerned about the possibility that the view, which is a quintessential New England landscape, could be marred forever if developers purchase the property and pull some or all of it out of the tax classification that is one way agricultural land is protected. Unlike placing land in indefinite conservation, chapter 61a can be reversed by paying back taxes — a pittance compared to the amount of money builders developers couldn’t realize with bulldozers and blueprints for a community of McMansions.

We speak next with local celebrity of the airwaves, The voice you know and love, Tom Conklin, who has been a fixture on the radio dial for quite some time. He is also the one of the principles of the local band the matchstick architects. We are going to be talking about his transition into professional voice work outside of radio on a full-time basis. He shares a number of tips, and explains a little bit about what it’s like to get a career going invoice work. I think you’ll find it as fascinating as I did. And I’m always a little wary about having him on an episode since his voice is so gold it shows me up every time.

We also have a song from a band I’ve been wanting to introduce you to for a while — the Happy Curmudgeons. Haling from the Detroit music scene, they’ve been nominated for a 2022 W.A.M. Award in the Best Americana category for their song “Rustic Glory.” Winners will be announced November 5. I don’t happen to have that tune available to share on the podcast, but I’ve embedded the Spotify link in the shownotes. I do, however, have a track off their 2019 LP Meant 2 Be, entitled “Scatterbrain”, which is a fair description of me these days. Let’s hear that track right now on the top Left Corner:

[music: track “Scatterbrain,” off 2019 LP Meant 2 Be]

“Rustic Glory,” The Happy Curmudgeons

And with me, by the side of Cold Spring Road, is local artist Thor Wickstrom.

Editor’s Note: The Greylock Glass pays to have rough transcripts of interviews produced. We attempt to remain as faithful as possible to the speakers’ original meaning, and apologize for any errors of transcription. That said, even the imperfect transcription we perform is costly. Please support us financially by becoming a member or making a one-time contribution to help us continue to provide this service.

NTRVW: Thor Wickstrom (click to view)

Top Left Corner: So are you from the area?

Thor Wickstrom: Yeah, I live in North Adams. We’re sort of in two places. North Adams in New York.

Top Left Corner: Okay. Excellent. You are not alone. But that seems to be a very common theme. What draws you to this particular. There’s a lot of beautiful places in the world. What draws you to this particular place? Why did you have this view?

Thor Wickstrom: I’ve been paying this view. I said first painted in about 2003. So what’s that make? Almost ten years?

Top Left Corner: We’ll say ten here coming up here.

Thor Wickstrom: And just that’s just a place I come back to and I like to paint here.

Top Left Corner: What’s changed? What’s changed in 18 years?

Thor Wickstrom: Nothing. Well, the the orchard, they put these apple trees in oak and now it’s kind of gone to seed.

Top Left Corner: It looks like it has not been pruned in at least a couple of years. That is true. What are we listening to, by the way?

Thor Wickstrom: It sounds like Bach.

Top Left Corner: It does, doesn’t it? So the Berkshires then what about the Berkshires in the North Berkshires specifically?

Thor Wickstrom: That’s where I live. So it’s you know, this is this is half an hour and a half or 20 minutes from where I live in North Adams. So it’s I mean, it’s just I like to come here. I often go to Schnell Farms. I have a few favorite spots. I like these big views, lots of trees.

Top Left Corner: These big views are hard to find. I mean, they if you go to upstate New York, Vermont, but it seems like you have to go farther and farther away to get them because developers are hungry for them, never more so than now these days.

Thor Wickstrom: True.

Top Left Corner: Right. The there are a few organizations that try to preserve land, but ultimately it comes down to money. And I suppose that’s why I am interested in what you think about the fact that this farm well, this farm, especially Green River Farms, is for sale. You’ve been coming here painting it for 18 years. What what goes through your mind.

Thor Wickstrom: When you.

Actually had that? I believe that most of the land is part of the land trust.

Thor Wickstrom: But I don’t really know. You know, at least it has been like, Yeah.

Top Left Corner: I’ll have to find that out.

Thor Wickstrom: I really don’t know whether it’s.

Top Left Corner: Yes, it’s now conservation and there’s nothing they can do about it. Right. But the the fear of course.

Thor Wickstrom: Is.

Top Left Corner: Well I mean would you come back here if there were McMansions over and then that field, for example, I mean, would you would you continue to document this view or would it be shot for you?

Thor Wickstrom: Yeah, it’s a good question. I really can’t say. I mean, we just have to I, I play it all by ear, but yeah, I do like to paint. I also do a lot of cityscapes in New York and my. They do tend to to gravitate towards the old stuff and. You know, get it before it goes away.

Top Left Corner: Yeah. People like cityscapes, people like rural landscapes. Not a lot of market for suburban neighborhood paintings, I suppose.

Thor Wickstrom: I don’t know. I don’t. I don’t paint the suburbs a lot.

Top Left Corner: I’ve never seen a I’ve never seen like a retrospective of somebody’s work in the suburbs. You know, strip malls and so forth. But maybe there is, I don’t know. So when you when you look for a scene in in a cityscape, what are you looking for? That’s the same as this. And what’s different?

Thor Wickstrom: I mean, I’m attracted by artistic things. The shapes, big shapes, big, you know, things like that. I don’t. And it’s it’s a little hard to quantify. Hard to say. What am I trying to say? I’ve always been attracted by this view, especially this time of the evening. Look at that light.

Top Left Corner: This is what it is. And you’re doing a splendid job capturing it. I won’t take you because I know that the light is everything.

Thor Wickstrom: Well, I’m done for the day.

Top Left Corner: Yeah, we were probably about 15 minutes ago. Was. Yeah. Found out about New England. I like to take a picture of you, by the way.

Thor Wickstrom: Yeah, sure.

Top Left Corner: I’ll shut this off. Unless you have any other final thoughts on this view or. Or. Or the importance of preservation.

Thor Wickstrom: Or the importance of preservation. I mean, that’s. That’s for sure. I’ve worked closely with the Rural Lands Trust, and, you know, I respect those people, they do good work.

Mid-term Elections 2022; Ballot Questions

Descriptions of Ballot Questions provided by the Secretary of the Commonwealth

Editor’s Note: The Greylock Glass pays to have rough transcripts of interviews produced. We attempt to remain as faithful as possible to the speakers’ original meaning, and apologize for any errors of transcription. That said, even the imperfect transcription we perform is costly. Please support us financially by becoming a member or making a one-time contribution to help us continue to provide this service.

NTRVW: Tom Conklin (click to view)

Top Left Corner: And with me on the line for Solopreneur Spotlight is Tom Conklin. Tom, good afternoon and thanks for being on the show.

Tom Conklin: Oh, thanks a lot, Jason. Happy to be here. I appreciate it.

Top Left Corner: Well, this is a segment that I really enjoy because it gives me the chance to showcase people who are doing basically what I’m doing. I’m kind of bootstrapping it and making my own way. And there are challenges to trying to be in business for yourself, to get, you know, to get things launched up and off the ground. And I like to make sure that we give people who have the the guts to do it a little bit of glory. You know, if you have guts, you should get at least a little bit of glory.

Tom Conklin: Right? Sure.

Top Left Corner: So you you as people are going to hear in if they haven’t already heard, you do have a silky smooth voice and it makes sense that you would put it to use professionally. You already have in a couple of different ways. You have been both a musician in Magic Matchstick Architects and you have been a radio personality. Give us a little bit of a history of how you got started in both.

Tom Conklin: Oh well, I guess I’ll start with the radio. So, you know, back in, I want to say 96 or so, somewhere around there. I got interested in radio. I don’t really know exactly what sparked it, but for some reason I wanted to do it. And I took a, you know, a course in Albany, and it just blossomed from there. You know, I actually got my first job at WBEZ in Pittsfield and actually been with the companies that have owned that station and all the other or the other stations that they now have for Jesus. I want to say about 25, 26 years. So so that’s the radio end of it. And I did news and some different air shifts and things like that. And, you know, it’s it was it was a career, I guess, you know, and and it’s time for that to end. But anyway, as far as the band goes, you know, we’ve been together, Darlene, as we’ve spoken together with Darlene before, her and I have worked together for, oh, gee, since 2010, I want to say. And, you know, we found our members over time and, you know, we’re still together today. This year has been a little slow, but, you know, coming off of COVID, you know, that’s that’s where we’re at. And hopefully next year we’ll be a little more active there. Hmm.

Top Left Corner: Yeah, I hope that I hope the venues continue to to to well, to survive and thrive. And I hope that we get some new ones. I’d love to see a few new performance spaces open up because we’ve lost a few in the Berkshires. You know, we lost it was a Jay Allen’s on a North street in Pittsfield. Is that the name I’m thinking of?

Tom Conklin: I believe so.

Top Left Corner: And and of course, in North Adams for just a brief flash of flash of of gorgeous light there was Halo North Adams which was a great space in a cursed location you said was the crystal hard hat before that. Yeah but I really thought they were beating the curse for a while. They had a great brew in a home, not home brew, but microbrew in there. And they had lots of local acts and some some out of town acts. And it was. It had a good vibe to it.

Tom Conklin: Yeah, it seemed to, yeah.

Top Left Corner: I’m not sure what the ultimate death knell was there, but it is now closed and, and North Adams has not a lot, you know, of performance space. Tell me about the in radio though. I, I had once believed that that would be a career for me too. There was the Connecticut School of Broadcasting and just outside of Hartford. And and I was interested in going there. I toured. They gave me a sound check that said, hey, you should you should consider this. And but there were a lot of things that they discussed were disillusioning about radio. It wasn’t what I thought it was. It was not the radio of the sixties and the seventies. It was the radio of the eighties and the nineties. And a lot of things were becoming very corporate. Were there anything did you see any changes over your tenure in the in the biz that were maybe a little bit distressing or disillusioning?

Tom Conklin: Well, there certainly were a lot. Changes. That’s for sure. As far as the, you know, distressing or whatever, I think, you know, I knew what I was getting into when I was going into it. Radio typically is in a for lack of a better term, great paying gig, you know, unless, of course, you happen to hit it big and get very lucky. But. Local radio, not so much, but a lot of things have changed. You know, we went from splicing tape to recording everything digitally and and doing things, you know, editing digitally, which takes seconds as compared to, you know, minutes and hours. Sometimes when you’re dealing with tape and a lot of stuff, things become automated for a large part. Talent can now, you know, do remote broadcasts. So there’s really been a lot of changes in the radio business for sure.

Top Left Corner: Yeah, Yeah, I know. I always had this this notion that I could be the the holdout, you know, the Dr. Johnny Fever from from W care P playing the things that I thought people should hear and not necessarily the things that the algorithms thought they should hear. But I guess that’s why today I have I have my streaming station, which I don’t know if you know that, but the dial dot net, it’s 24 hour, seven day a week streaming station. And maybe in the green room after this, we can talk about getting you a spot on there because it’s, as you said, things have changed and they have changed so much that anybody who wants a radio station can actually have one and discover how much work they really are.

Tom Conklin: Sure.

Top Left Corner: Yeah. But the the great news is that there are a lot of options that come with the 21st century being that you can do things like. Use your voice to to do commercials, to do instructional videos, to do narrating voiceovers for for video, for documentaries. There’s so many things you can do with the voice today that you really you couldn’t do easily, at least not not even 20 years ago. Tell us about getting into voiceover work, voice, narration and how you did it and and maybe how you’re doing it differently than others do.

Tom Conklin: Well, I guess let me go backwards a little bit here. You know, you mentioned 20 years ago, and I’d say 20 years ago, it was a pretty good number and maybe even sooner than that where voiceover was basically done by getting jobs through your agent and going to studios and auditioning and and everything was done in somebody else’s studio. That’s changed with especially with COVID even before so many, many talents started doing their work out of their homes, building studios, getting whisper rooms and studio breaks to companies that make booths and things like that. So it’s really become a remote job. And as far as me getting into it, it was about 2006 when I first got interested and not so much because I didn’t like radio, but because I wanted to do some other things, you know, with my voice. And I knew they were out there. And, you know, of course, you watch television and listen to the radio, those commercials. And as you said, there’s all kinds of, you know, videos that you’ll see, especially on the Internet, explainers and corporate videos. And there’s just there’s so much. So I started to get interested in that. And of course, I did my research and step by step got involved in it. And when I started doing it, it was kind of a side hustle, turned into a part time kind of a gig, and it was really here and there over the years balancing, you know, my radio job, which took a lot of my time. But but now, you know, here I am and I’m kicking into full time mode and so far, so good. Loving it.

Top Left Corner: Now, what about the services? I know that there are a number of platforms where you can upload your demo reels, as it were, and you can upload, you know, six or seven different demonstrations of your voice talent. And basically you’re putting yourself on the on the market and people can get in touch with you if they like, if they think that your voice matches their project. Did you do any of that sort of that sort of seeking out clients that way, or has it always been through contacts that you’ve known?

Tom Conklin: Well, it’s you’re talking about pay to play sites, I think. And those are basically sites where you, as you said, you upload your demos, your voice samples and you start to get auditions. And of course, there’s a fee for all of that, most most sites anyway, that are paid to plays. That’s why they call it that. So yeah, you start getting auditions and you may get a few here and there, you may get a lot and you basically audition. The thing with those is you’re up against, you know, hundreds, if not thousands of talents, You know, depending on the level of the job, too, You might be up against, you know, the best talent in the country that are on those sites. Sure. Yeah. Yeah. So, I mean, those are I did get into those for a while. I don’t do that so much now, only because it’s it’s really a time killer, you know, I’d rather be putting my time into marketing myself and, you know, auditioning for companies that are looking for something specific. But it has its place. And I do do it a little bit here and there.

Top Left Corner: Yeah, I suppose there are some that are I mean, I’ve seen some that are free, but then again, there’s kind of a you get what you pay for sort of thing, you know, the free, but they’re not really working that hard to get you any work. So as you said, you’re up against hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of people and you hear them online. You hear them on the radio all day, every day. And you know, they’re good. I mean, that’s the wonderful thing about the Internet is that it really democratizes things if you have talent you can with and a little bit of luck you can get found. So it sounds sure it sounds to me like you are really leveraging people, you know, businesses, you know and probably I’m guest starting regionally or. Do have other. So you did some work for Boeing. So that’s not regional. That’s that’s an international brand.

Tom Conklin: Yeah, that was actually done through a casting site, but you know, a few years back. But yeah, the companies like that I reach out on to on my own basically through email marketing. You know, that’s, that’s the way that I do it. And I mean, there’s certainly a lot more to it than that. Of course, there’s social media and there’s all kinds of avenues, but I try to do.

Top Left Corner: My own work. You have a great website and I think that that is a huge that is a huge plus because when you send an email out to a potential client and you say, This is what I can do for you, they’re going to want to not necessarily talk to you right away. They’re going to want to hear something. They’re going to want to see that you’re that you’re for real, that you’re pro. Absolutely. And your website screams pro. And that’s just you know.

Tom Conklin: I appreciate that. Thanks.

Top Left Corner: Well, I mean, putting your you know, putting those samples right up there in front, you don’t have to search for them. They’re right there. This is what I do. Take a listen right now, right here, right now, and get in touch with me. And I think that’s definitely the way to go. And, of course, you know, having the background in radio, they know that you are a you are a known quantity and that you you know, you deliver you know, if you’ve been able to do it for, you know, like you said, two and a half decades, basically with with the same, you know, not accompanied by the same, you know, well sort of company, they know they can count on you. So tell us a little bit about some of the the challenges and some of the things that you have to do to get get ready to do a voiceover.

Tom Conklin: Okay, Just let me just go back forwards for one second. Sure. Just you did you mentioned regionally, locally, national, that type of thing. I just want to touch on that real quick, if that’s okay. Yeah, please. So. Certainly the local market is is something that, you know, a voice over may look to work in. Personally, I have not really done any work locally here. I do work with companies all over the United States and sometimes outside of the United States and just happened to not work with any local companies yet. I certainly am willing to do that if anybody wants to, for sure. But, you know, I have not so just wanted to say that now you were asking about challenges.

Top Left Corner: Yeah. Challenges to doing the voiceover work and getting ready to do to do the actual recording. What do you do to to get yourself your voice all that ready.

Tom Conklin: Well, as far as challenges go, every day is a challenge. I mean, you have to you have to have the mindset to get up and do what you need to do. And, you know, you got to get right in there and start to do the workings of that. Or every day, you know, usually starts the same way. I’ll get in, I’ll do some marketing. Do any auditions that are sitting in the box for heavy client work, take care of that. Maybe move on to some social media stuff later on in the day. But as far as getting ready and physically doing it, I mean, did you ask about the actual process of.

Top Left Corner: Oh, yeah, yeah. I mean, you know, let’s say you’ve got a you’ve got a gig and they’ve given you a script and I assume this is how it works and you’re going to get ready to record it. What is the process that you go through?

Tom Conklin: Okay. So basically I would take the script, whether it’s an audition or an actual job and read it through a couple of times in my mind, first of all, and think about how I would present that if I were reading it, make some notes in my mind, and as I’m going, I’ll make some notes on the paper, I’ll do it. We call it marking up the script and obviously and that’s basically the way it begins. Do a dry read and then try to apply the different techniques that I have learned to bring the story to life, you know, to give it some authenticity and conversational, a conversational sound, rather, and then just launch it from there. A lot of times the first take is the is the best one, or you might do two or three or four or five.

Top Left Corner: Now what about things like having a nice cup of hot tea? Sort of clear the airwaves or, you know, taking a hot shower or not taking a hot shower to clear the pipes. Any of those sorts of physical sort of things that you do?

Tom Conklin: Well, definitely taking a shower just because, you know, gets you woken up and ready to go to work. And so without that, just kind of it’s hard to get into the rhythm of things, but that has nothing to do with the pipes. I do drink coffee first thing in the morning. A lot of people will tell you, our coaches sometimes will tell you it’s not a great thing to do because caffeine will constrict the larynx and think different things like that. And it’s just not the best thing. But, you know, it helps me, as you said, clear my throat, stay awake, keep awake and give me a little bit of a spark. So, you know, I’ve been a coffee drinker forever, so.

Top Left Corner: Yeah, well, I have I have allergies. So if I don’t take a nice hot shower, I just my voice is, you know, I’ve got a lot of a lot of a lot of phlegm, you know, I’ve got a lot of, you know, ick factor that I have to clear away.

Tom Conklin: I get you. It’s more of a mental thing for me. But.

Top Left Corner: Yeah, yeah. Now you say a take, sometimes a two for seven. I’m going to make a confession when I do the voiceovers for my podcasts, the intros, I write them out and two things happen. Number one, I sometimes and I’ve gotten a lot better at this over the last seven or eight years, but I sometimes write the narration and I think it’s going to sound okay, but then I actually speak it and there are phrases that are just impossible to get out sounding right. They’re just not, not unspeakable. Do you ever come across texts that you, you, you mark up and say, Dear client, can I change this that you’ve written that is almost impossible to get out. Can I change it to something that’s easier to say? And you make a suggestion, Does that ever happened?

Tom Conklin: Oh, yeah. I mean, you can make a suggestion here and there, obviously, as long as it doesn’t take away from, you know, what it’s trying to convey. I haven’t really done that so much, but you certainly can do that and making a suggestion because you think it might help their script. Certainly not a bad thing either. And. Yeah, yeah, go ahead.

Top Left Corner: Well, I was going to say that some things are conversational and some bits of copy really are meant to be read, you know, in your read to yourself, read in your mind, then they’re not really meant to be. You know, there’s just some writing that lends itself to to reading rather than speaking.

Tom Conklin: Yeah, well, generally for me, everything is conversational, but there is a place for an announcer type read. Of course, on occasion. But most things today people are looking for the conversational, authentic read. They want the the everyday guy reading it. They don’t want you putting on a voice. They just want you being yourself. That’s pretty much what it is. But what you’re talking about is the actual reading of the copy. And a lot of times, you know, when you’re reading something off a page, it’s it can come over as it’s pretty obvious I’m reading or it sounds like I’m reading, right? So you don’t want that obviously. So a technique there would be to to go off page or off book and it’s sort of it’s what actors do. In other words, you look at the line and you say the line to yourself and then don’t look at it while you’re saying it and just say it from from memory. Now, you can’t do that with big passages, obviously, but at the end of a script, if you have a tag or something like that, you can look at that and, you know, pretend you’re talking to to someone or whatever and just do it without reading it.

Top Left Corner: Yeah, yeah. There are some sentences that are full of compound complex dependent clauses and dependent clauses, and they’re like this, this, this, this sentence is, you know, is a quarter of a page that you never going to make that sound conversational unless you break it up, as you said, and you sort of go off off book and you try to find pauses and breaks where you can. What about what about. The you mentioned most most clients just want, you know, sort of every man, every woman, just conversational person. I do still hear some. Sort of characters in in commercials and so forth these days. I don’t know if you remember. You’re certainly of my vintage, so you’d remember it if it were here.

Tom Conklin: Good way to put it.

Top Left Corner: Yeah. No, we have to try to be polite and and kind when we can. There was a there was a place called Crazy Eddie’s. Yeah. Do you remember? Well, crazy.

Tom Conklin: In New York.

Top Left Corner: Oh, you did? Okay. Excellent. Crazy. Eddie. His prices are insane. You remember that?

Tom Conklin: That commercial we don’t recall? He didn’t end up in a good place. I think he got behind bars, didn’t he?

Top Left Corner: Oh, did he? Okay, that would be. That would explain maybe why he was always so jacked up about his commercials.

Tom Conklin: He got in trouble for something. I can’t remember about that.

Top Left Corner: But. But, you know, there was a lot of there were a lot of sort of characters that that people would do or ask you to do. Less. Less so these days. But do you ever do you see any of those much would you like to to to be hired to to do something kind of fun and kooky?

Tom Conklin: Well, there is certainly lots of that, actually. And, you know, it’s not really my expertise, character voices, but, you know, it is a big thing. And lots of people make very good money doing that. I leave that to them primarily. But, you know, some things I would definitely do. You know, I’ve thought about, you know, different genres when it comes to characters like some animation and video games, things like that. You know, they’re not all crazy voices, you know, especially video games. And there’s a lot of serious dialog these days and games.

Top Left Corner: Yeah, Yeah. Actually, my my kids think that I should do video game voices and cartoon voices.

Tom Conklin: Oh, right. Sure. I bet you could.

Top Left Corner: Because of the because I do a really good mob guy, you know, a crime boss or a thug voice. And they said, you know, if you can keep that thug voice going, you’d have work for the next 20 years because there’s always there’s always those flunkies. You know, there’s there’s sort of. What? What? What’s the word I’m looking for? I guess. Gangster types.

Tom Conklin: Sure. Yeah.

Top Left Corner: I don’t know about that, though, so you never know. But. How would you. How would you respond to something like that? I mean, that could be a a long term thing if you landed the right cartoon, you know?

Tom Conklin: Oh, for sure. That those are good gigs, if you can get them. Mostly if you’re talking about a major networks like, you know, the Cartoon Channel or something with Disney or something like that, Pixar, that kind of stuff. Those are definitely come from your agent. You get auditions for that kind of work and they’re hard to get. And usually something like that will go specifically to people who, you know, do that thing for a living. You’re not going to typically I’m not going to see that come from my agent. I have one agent now and, you know, I get, you know, commercials and narrations, things like that from them a lot a lot of national stuff, which is very hard to get, by the way. But yeah, I tend not to see a lot of that come by way. But yeah, I’ll try anything.

Top Left Corner: Yeah, I have actually heard because I have two mid teenagers now and so I’ve watched a lot of cartoons, a lot of animation over the last decade. And you know, a lot of those voices are they’re just hopping from one project to the next. You can hear it, you can hear they’re doing a DC comics, you know, animation. You know, they have Batman one year and then you hear the same voice doing like a marvel, like a Spider-Man or something, a character. Sure. And so, you know that they have like you said, it’s not easy to break into. I’m guessing they probably have a certain number of slots and a certain number of known voice providers that they that they go to time and time again. But if I ever hear of anything, I will send I will send them your number.

Tom Conklin: Well, I appreciate that. You know, it’s funny, I do know several character actors that are brilliant and they get a lot of that work. I know one that does a lot of video games, in fact, too, that do a lot of video games. And they’re both very talented. And I’m sure that you’ve heard them. If you if you’re a kid, like I say, your kids play video games or whatever, I’m sure that they have heard their voices in there. There’s not like glory with it unless the kids read the credit at the end, but usually they don’t.

Top Left Corner: Well, you’d be surprised how into into the gory details. Some kids are with their they’re like, for example, my son Harvey is into Red Dead redemption and it’s it’s it’s a Western and it has this long story arc and it has a bunch of characters. And not only does it have the main characters, but there are all these just sort of random like people who live in this Wild West world. You know, you’re sort of just riding your horse from one town to the next. And so you stop in and there may be a saloon keeper, right? And it’s a voice. They had to, you know, and you’re you have the opportunity to ask lots of different questions. And the bar in the saloon keeper, the bar keeper will respond differently depending on your questions. That’s right. And so, you know, this probably several pages of of dialog that you have to record. So that’s not too bad.

Tom Conklin: No, no. And it’s fun stuff, too. You know, a lot of that, as I mentioned before, is now done from your home studio. But those guys, you still get in a room together. Yeah. And do it that way.

Top Left Corner: Now, I have heard I wish I had this. I, I wish I’d remembered this. There is a new bit of software. That allows you to feed into. Into it. Audio from one source and then it matches the sound. Of that sauce so that when you record your voice, it sounds like it’s in the same place. In other words, if if the if there’s a. A certain say. It’s supposed to be in a in a parking garage. Right. So they have the acoustics of the parking garage.

Tom Conklin: Oh, okay.

Top Left Corner: And so everybody who records into it, they sound like they’re in that same parking garage, if that makes sense.

Tom Conklin: Yeah. Yeah, it does. That’s interesting. I don’t think I know about that, but it’s.

Top Left Corner: It’s really new. It’s less. I mean, I heard it less than a year, about a less than a year ago when I. When I find it, I will shoot that, that name to you because I was I bookmarked it somewhere. Yeah. But that’s pretty cool. Which allows also, again, people to be working out of their home studios and it really eliminates that sort of awkward way. This doesn’t sound like it has the same qualities as this other thing.

Tom Conklin: Sure.

Top Left Corner: So anyway, well, I guess really the hope here is that that I had finished this interview before the bus came and the dog. That’s that’s the challenge. My home studio is it’s not soundproof. My dog will sleep all day, but she knows that at right about 238 to 242, the school bus is due.

Tom Conklin: Right. Well, I love dogs, so I don’t mind hearing the bark.

Top Left Corner: No, no, I don’t mind. It’s just it’s amazing how. How they can know. Oh, it’s time for the kids. Sure. Unfortunately, the kids are doing theater program after school, so she’s very sad. She has this job to do, But it’s it’s it’s moot. Yeah. So what about Lassie audiobooks? Um hum. I know that you did some reading. That Boeing commercial had some. There was a lot of there was a lot of reading for that. There was a lot of. Would you, would you consider doing an audiobook?

Tom Conklin: Audiobooks for me are challenging in a way that it’s long form audio. In other words, you’ve got to sit there for a couple of hours at a clip and keep the same pacing and the same tonalities going, and you really got to stay in focus and that you can’t get it all done in one shot. So you’ve got to come back later and make sure everything matches. That’s something I don’t do a lot of. You mentioned soundproof. Now, I don’t have a soundproof booth here. I do have a treated room which allows me to, you know, have have a dead space, which is what term we use for a room that’s not reflecting sound and but it’s not soundproof. So a lot of noise will still come from the outside. You know, in airplanes at the airports right down the street from me. So if a plane is flying over, over trucks going by for the mailman is walking by outside and the leaves, you know, I wait I wait a couple of minutes. And that’s just the way it works.

Top Left Corner: You and I, I think, should go in on a. On a complete, deadened, soundproof space that we could we could share the rent on that because. Well, it’s I’m on I’m on Cold Spring Road in Williamstown. That’s Route seven. Yeah. And so most of the time, like this time of day is wonderful. This is my schedule. A lot of interviews for this time because there’s no traffic. But in the summertime, on the weekends, for example, especially, you get the motorcycles coming through because this is like peak and this is peak. And once the leaves start changing, you start seeing motorcycles coming in the dozens. And if I want to record, I really have to record like 4:00 in the morning.

Tom Conklin: Yeah, that’s. Well, I used to get up every day and do that, but, you know, I don’t do that anymore. I’ve tacked on a couple, couple, 3 hours onto that now and I start my day around 730, 8:00.

Top Left Corner: Yeah, well, if you can do it, that’s. That’s great. But like I said, the, the traffic that I have to, I was on when I started the, you know, the Top Left Corner podcast on The Greylock Glass, I was actually on on White Oaks Road, which is basically a dead end where in the middle of nowhere. And it was wonderful. It was silent, but, but not anymore. So let’s, let’s just talk a little bit about the economics of it. I think it’s really probably the last piece to this to this this conversation. You say you have to be consistent. That is the same as any solopreneur. You say that you have to get up with the attitude that you’ve got to do what you gotta do. Any other advice for somebody who is doing not just voiceover, but, you know, sort of similar? It’s creative work. It’s it’s focused, very focused work. Any other any advice that you’d have for people who are looking to. Either take the plunge and take their job. You know, they’re maybe they’re, like you said, your hustle to make it a full time thing or, you know, part time into a full time thing.

Tom Conklin: I guess some advice I can give would be to start slowly to do your research. That’s the most important thing. Make sure it’s something you want to get into. You know, with voiceover, especially since you have to buy some equipment for that, you don’t want to make any giant purchases and then decide, Well, you know what? I don’t think I like this or whatever. So, yeah, start slow, do your research, get training, and whatever it is that you’re looking to do, whether it’s voiceover or another, any type of business where you’re going to have to spend a little money to get somewhere and that’s basically it. Take it slow.

Top Left Corner: What about and this is I know another level of complexity for you. Would you consider like, you know, you’re obviously you have a male voice. What if what if a client came to you and said, gosh, you know, we we love your professionalism. We we trust that you could get the job done. We really want a woman’s voice for this. Could you would you ever consider sort of becoming a a more full service studio where you offer other voices?

Tom Conklin: Okay. I thought you were going to ask me if I would if I was going to be able to do a woman’s voice.

Top Left Corner: I mean, I know the tech is getting better, but it’s not quite there yet. No.

Tom Conklin: Yeah, well, you’d be surprised. I mean, some people can do different genders and different ages, especially women have the ability. A lot of women have the ability to.

Top Left Corner: Do the boys.

Tom Conklin: Yeah. Yes, yes. Young boys specifically. You see a lot of that. But yeah, I mean, that would be something that, you know, I probably wouldn’t be considering anytime soon. But who knows? Down the road, you know, I work out of my home here, so and families around a lot. So I wouldn’t want to be bringing a lot of people in here. But, you know, if I had a studio that, you know, was outside of my home, I suppose that might be something. You know, I have collaborated with with different actors from time to time when I did a male female spot at one time with a friend of mine. So, yeah.

Top Left Corner: Just thinking, you know, if could it be that, you know, Tom Conklin voiceovers is, is a brand that offers, you know, all sorts of voices, ethnicities, ages. You know, I’m just saying.

Tom Conklin: You know, I’ve got I’ve got enough to deal with with just my voice and and, you know, not.

Top Left Corner: Looking to make a vocal empire.

Tom Conklin: Not really an empire.

Top Left Corner: No, no, no, no. So that is that’s probably that’s probably good. I mean, you know, know what your your limitations are of what you feel like getting into. I just know that if a if a client if I were in your shoes and the client says, yeah, we were really thinking of a woman, my my instinct is I can I can find you one, I’ll get you one. But yeah, you have to know your, your limitations I suppose.

Tom Conklin: And, and you know, some voiceovers that will do that. And you know, they’ve done some casting and stuff like that. I generally don’t go out looking for someone to do something if they don’t want me, then, you know, they can, you know, unless I know somebody, somebody specific that fits the bill and I’ll leave that up to them to find them and I’ll give them a read anyway. You know who know? They say they want a woman, but they don’t know until they hear it.

Top Left Corner: That’s true. That’s true. Well, this is exciting. Obviously, we’re going to be putting a link to your website in the show notes to this.

Tom Conklin: I was to say, by the way, that website is Tom Conklin voice dot com.

Top Left Corner: Tom Coughlin voice dot com and we’ll put a link to that. And of course I think you’ve got your socials listed there too.

Tom Conklin: So everything’s there there’s, there’s a ton of ways to find me on every page of that website.

Top Left Corner: Yeah. No that’s, and that’s the way you got to do it these days. Make sure nobody has an excuse not to get in touch with you. So if you happen to have a business, I know that there are plenty of local businesses that do radio spots, not not as many as used to, but they’re still out there. And I hope that they hear this and I hope that they realize that they have an asset right here in the community that they can support and someone who does a heck of a good job, because I’ve heard your work and I’m impressed. I’m always impressed. So thank you. Stick around in the green room after this. But for now, take care and have a fantastic autumn.

Tom Conklin: Jason, I appreciate it. Thanks for having me. I really do appreciate.

And that’s our show for this week — we’ll have so much more for you next week on the Top Left Corner, and at The Greylock Glass, the Berkshires Mightiest Alternative news thing. Until then stay safe, be good to each other, and go easy on yourself. Bye now.

Jason Velázquez

Jason Velázquez has worked in print and digital journalism and publishing for two decades.
Phone: (413) 776-5125

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