Divine Magazine are thrilled to welcome Jason Frazier – Emmy Award-winning voice actor, performer and casting director to the blog today.
Jason has a host of accreditations to his name, is hugely successful in a number of digital and film mediums and in 2015 he won the Gold award for being Narrator of the Year in the Readers’ Choice Awards.
We normally like to ask our guests some silly questions to get to know them before we push on with the more serious stuff, so we asked Jason to give us his answers to these rather quirky ones first…
If you were a superhero, what power would you want?
If I were a superhero, without question, I would want my superpower to be to heal all sickness and disease, whether in human beings, animals, or any other life on this planet. It is NUTS we have the number of annoying medical maladies we do in this life, some with cures, some benefitted through various coping mechanisms and other forms of treatment. But, if superhero Jason had his way, I’d be able to eradicate all that crap from the face of the planet. We need more time with family, laughing and celebrating the good times, in good health. Drinking coffee and eating cake, too.
Boxers or briefs – or none of the above?
Briefs!!! Trunks, specifically! Huge fan of Calvin Klein CK One Men’s Micro Low-Rise Trunk in Black, if you want to get down to the nitty-gritty (and get a peek inside my underwear drawer!) Also, I’m partial to some Andrew Christian and some others that “pop” out at me 🙂
If you were able to change one thing in the world, what would it be?
If I could change one thing in the world, it would have to absolutely tie into my answer to question number one: removing any trace of sickness and disease from this planet, it’s people, it’s creatures and any other living organism. Those things just get in the way, don’t they? Stupid maladies!
What’s your favorite song to sing in the shower?
I don’t actually have a favorite song that I sing in the shower. Though I DO sing in the shower at times, and that enchanting playlist has been known to include pop songs, Broadway tunes, and songs from Disney animated features. (I’ll be happy to put out a CD if your readers fund it. Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and direct bank transfers are all acceptable — and highly recommended!)
What’s your least favorite word?
There’s a lot of words I hate and find counterproductive. But if I had to pick only one, it would have to be “can’t,” even though I know that’s on many people’s lists. It’s on mine because the word “can’t” is a lexicological THIEF in our English language. Depending on where and how it’s used, it can unnecessarily rob us of our opportunities, our dreams, or our potential. It’s a word that often steals from us our motivation or our larger picture perspective. This word puts the focus on the wrong thing. Life is not without its hardships, and we are strongest, move the farthest, and progress the most by realizing and manifesting that which we CAN do.
As a kid was you ever scared of a monster in the cupboard or under the bed?
YES! Although, the creature didn’t live in the cupboard or under the bed. I very vividly remember being afraid of some strange figure outside my bedroom window when I would go to sleep at night. At the time, I was very little and shared the room with my twin brother, Eric. Not sure if he saw the same thing I did (or if he saw anything at all, for that matter). I think this creature was pretty much of my own making. But regardless, it made me want to shit the bed enough that I asked my Mom and Dad to hang up a sheet over the window so that I would be spared the creature’s scary night time gaze. You know, the whole thing of, if I can’t see you, you can’t see me? That was the idea behind this somewhat theatrical bedsheet setup. But, it worked! It’s amazing the lengths parents will go to make sure their kids get a good night’s sleep! Sometimes all it takes is a cotton sheet and clothespins to vanquish a creepy, imaginary haunt. (PS, I encourage all kids to have at least ONE of these experiences, as it ensures your imagination is active and working properly!)
Right, now we have the silly stuff out of the way, here’s the rest of the interview with Jason. We confess we rather like the idea of his superhero power. Someone should have it and we think he’d be a great candidate.
You have had huge success in getting where you are today. You’ve built a business, become a name within your industry and been in the forefront of it for some time. What do you attribute this to- hard work, luck, right place, right time – a combination of all of it?
Well, first of all, thank you for your kind and generous comment; that means a lot to me and I’m sure to my family. To whatever degree I’ve achieved my own personal goals and various “successes” here and there, I know it can be attributed only to the following:
A) A good childhood. My twin brother, Eric, and I were raised incredibly well by our Mom, Lynda, and our Dad, Robin. They brought two creative, artistic, blue-eyed boys (who looked remarkably alike!!!) into this world on February 22, 1984 — a tremendous responsibility considering we were a few months premature, and they rose to that obligation with unfathomable love, caring and encouragement — qualities they still shower us, and our sister, Kristi, with to this day. Childhood years are the most important, in my opinion, and they set a precedent for everything that is to follow. Those formative years were a launching pad, filled with wonderful memories (many caught on home video!) and set the lathe spinning that would craft and shape the caring, loving and creative adults we would become. In short, they were then — and are now — model parents. (Thanks, Mom & Dad!)
B) Realizing what moves and inspires you — innately, creatively, personally and passionately — and setting goals for your own life based on those realizations and discoveries. Along the way, you’ll have gut reactions and attractions to things that fascinate you and motivate you. People, places or things that compel you to dream, to create, to fantasize. Seemingly, without knowing, you reach further, exploring your own unique set of talents — those natural and obvious (“You were MEANT to do that!!!!”), and those hidden (“Wow, I didn’t KNOW I could do that!!!!”). I personally feel that, while this doesn’t always have to be the case, we often derive a very strong sense of purpose, or calling, from these childhood discoveries that last well into adulthood. I’m grateful for that.
C) NEVER GIVING UP! If childhood is the playground where dreams are created, then adulthood is the foundry where they are forged amidst the forces of fate. Powerful and inspiring as our dreams are, they will be unquestionably, and indeed, most assuredly, tested. We will second-guess ourselves, our decisions, or our abilities. We will even wonder (often more than once!) about the surety of our purpose, something which was at one point crystal-clear to us. A variety of factors will come into play that makes the road to our goals seem less achievable. More complicated. Or in the most strained of scenarios, not worth fighting for at all. And that’s why the most important life lesson anyone can learn is to NEVER GIVE UP!
Divine- a truly powerful message to send to anyone. Too often people, creative ones, in particular, are hounded by their lack of success and this messages -just keep going – encapsulates the need to do just that.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give a younger, unknown you trying to start out in this business?
The best piece of advice I’d give, really to anyone starting in the entertainment / acting / performing / voiceover business — and this has been said before, but I’ll put my own spin on it — is to realize that results don’t happen overnight. When first starting down ANY life or career path, the results of your effort will often not be immediately apparent to you. But that doesn’t mean you’re not progressing or taking the right steps. It’s just the nature of things. Things take time. I would say that it’s unwise to enter this business with the idea that you’ll “be famous” or “a star.” Those are external labels that are generally qualified by the press or media. Determine your own barometer for what “success” means to YOU, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Be driven, but also forgiving of yourself! Hey! Sometimes we’re goin’ a long way and the car decides to run outta gas! That’s ok, welcome to being human! Luckily, we can make “pit stops” at any point along our journey to refuel. And we can do that in any way that is meaningful and fulfilling to us — before we tackle that next stretch of road.
As a voice over artist, how do you assess how your customers want you to sound like – as an author I had a very specific voice in mind for the characters in my audio books. How do you meet this need and interpret what people want? Could you tell us a bit about the process?
In terms of audiobooks, specifically, my ultimate assessment of what I should sound like (and what the overall tone of the recording should be), comes from a combination of things. Initially, there’s a consult with the author or publisher, usually by email. Since the characters and words are their creation, their work, I trust them to know the ins-and-outs of their cast’s dispositions, quirks, and eccentricities first-hand. They are the craftsmen of the piece, the place and setting, and the resulting arc of the story — where characters are placed emotionally at the outset, where they end up, and to what degree they are changed by the events that take place. Once I know the author’s point of view on the characters and subject matter, I then use my skills as an actor and voice performer to successfully tune into each character’s identity and sound, to the best of my ability. Instinct has a big role to play, too. I think it’s advantageous to go with a trained, experienced performer, such as myself, for these recordings, as my 12+ years of experience allow me to pull from a variety of emotions, vocal characterizations, and most importantly, my gut instinct, to efficiently translate words on a page into an entertaining listening experience. Believability is also a huge thing for me, as a performer in any medium, but certainly in audiobooks. For listeners to truly be moved by what they’re hearing, they have to believe it’s happening. And creating palpable, memorable recordings is something I pride myself on. I want an audiobook to be more than an MP3 download for listeners; I want it to be a captivating, immersive, “3-D” listening experience for them. And when that happens, a domino effect is created that’s beneficial for the author, the publisher, their readers, and listeners. It goes without saying, I take my work seriously, and consider it a personal mandate to sprinkle a little bit of my Emmy Award-winning magic onto every project I’m fortunate enough to be a part of.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever been asked to do – anything within the mediums you work with would be great. A really challenging voice, or accent perhaps?
Voiceover, specifically — and entertainment, generally — are weird beasts, PERIOD! Ha-ha. Therefore, I can’t really say I can single out any one weird moment in particular. But, rest assured, there have been several occasions over the years, where I’ve stopped and said, “This is weird,” or “WOW…,” or sometimes just laughed at myself with the absurdity of what I was asked to do (or what I ended up doing instead). I’m sure some of your readers are familiar with the process of voiceover, but for those that aren’t, the work largely takes places in recording studios or in vocal booths of various sizes. I affectionately call my home studio vocal booth my “Crazy Box.” Weird things happen in there. I *do* weird things in there. I sweat a lot in there. Sometimes I’m screaming at the top of my lungs. Sometimes I’m living, sometimes I’m dying. Sometimes I’m a tough high school jock and sometimes I have a vagina. I’m funny, I’m serious, I’m insane, I’m conflicted, I’m joyous, I’m sad or I’m happy. (Sometimes I’m even all of that in ONE SCENE!!!!) Believe me, most “normal” people would begin to feel very self-conscious behaving this way in front of nothing but a microphone, with no one else in the room. Thankfully, I appreciate my eccentricities and my being a VO performer allows me to throw caution to the wind and just act a fool. (Hehe.) In terms of the most challenging stuff, it’s always a great challenge when I have to play very diverse characters back to back, whether their vocal placement and pitches are completely in contrast, or I’m voicing a man, a boy, a woman, a girl, a child, or an entire family. Oh, or a ghost. Or a vampire! (You get the idea). Very emotional scenes and storylines are also challenging, but great fun, and very cathartic for me as an actor and human being. I will say, I give those moments my all, and sometimes, to a degree, it’s exhausting. But I love knowing that the emotion, energy, tears and sweat gets put right through that microphone, onto the recording, and into the listener’s ears. That’s a very exciting thing for me.
You say you have a real fondness for stepping up to the microphone, as you feel you’re an ‘old soul’ and love feeling as if you’re in a radio play. This seems to have become a thing of the past, being replaced by other mediums. How do you feel about this – would you like to see more of the old fashioned way of doing things or do the new outlets meet this need?
I absolutely love the “old-time radio play” aspect to voiceover and audiobooks. Yes, I’ve said that I’m an old soul… I think my brother is, too. I don’t know. But part of me loves that movie “Pleasantville” because it makes me wish I could go back in time and live in the 50’s myself. Or even the 30’s and 40’s and experience those after-dinner, sit-down-in-the-living-room-with-your-family radio comedies and dramas that would air. LUX Radio Theatre (1934 – 1955) is a good example. I think it’s so cool that these performances — these experiences — can be recorded and then saved and played back for the enjoyment of generation after generation. Even though recordings are a product of their time, they are inherently timeless. You can be a kid, sitting on the floor with your family listening to Judy Garland recreate her role for “The Wizard of Oz” on radio, and then fast forward 80 years and be reclining in your comfy chair listening to the exact same recording and feel like you’ve never aged a day. The recording takes you immediately back to that place, that time. I love that recordings (audio, video, etc.) are transportational in that way. Yes, modern technology has changed the way we experience our recordings in the world of today. Downloadable MP3s have long supplanted CDs, cassettes, and certainly records and the delicate wax cylinders of old. We no longer have to lug around a heavy, often unwieldy Edison phonograph to listen to our radio, music or other recordings. We don’t have to listen to the crackling and hiss of records on a turntable that has a relatively short lifespan. We are now fully immersed in the age of instant downloads, worldwide availability, mobile portability and sonic digital clarity. It’s amazing to think how quickly these advancements were made in audio recording and playback technology, and I think they’re really for the better. As things relate to audiobooks, the production of titles today has been irrevocably and incontrovertibly streamlined: casts can be assembled and recorded from all over the world via ISDN or Source Connect; productions can record casts together, or individually — and in the latter case, combine the ensemble together later in post-production. The “perfect” take can be assembled from multiple performances or readings of a line. A single WORD can be changed without you ever knowing. (Hehe.) I think for me, personally, one of the coolest things about this industry is that something recorded in a studio in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California can be heard all over the world now, instantly via download, in Spain, Germany, China — you name it. The worldwide reach of digital recording technology is one of the coolest advancements, in my mind, of the medium. Two people can be 3,000 miles apart — and yet, be united by sharing the same listening experience. (Cool!!!!!!)
Which do you prefer – narrating in a studio with other voice over actors, or being solo when you do the audio books, as I believe you do this at home in your own studio?
I prefer different recording setups for different types of projects. For the audiobooks I record, if I’m charged with handling the full production of the title (i.e., recording, performing, editing, mixing, mastering, delivery), I prefer to work alone in my studio because it allows me to more fully connect and explore the characters and scenes I’m recording (without worrying about paying for studio time, for instance). But for projects where a cast is involved and it’s NOT an audiobook production, I prefer the TRUE “radio play” setup in the session: that is, the ensemble of performer (say 7 or 10) are all lined up in the recording studio, each with their own scripts, stands, and microphones. They perform the scenes in real-time, each actor going off the energy of the other, in the sequence of the script — which is more akin to other forms of acting, like film, television and stage. While I certainly pride myself on creating dynamic, entertaining performances when recording alone, there is absolutely a unique energy put down on a track when recording live as a group. Love both ways of doing things, and it’s fun to mix it up from time to time!
Jason, thanks so much for this entertaining and inspiring interview. It’s been wonderful having you here with us. I think the messages of ‘keep going’ and ‘be patient’ are key and something we can certainly apply in everyday life. Thanks for sharing your insight with us today.
If you want to read another interview with Jason, that Divine enjoyed a lot, and where you can learn more about him, you can read it here: