That’s Kay Long’s voice on Sun Tran buses.
“Approaching … Oracle,” she recites, with attention to cadence. It’s not “Approaching Oracle.” Nor is it “Approaching ……….. Oracle.”
Long’s bus voice is “a bright sound, but not a perky sound,” the Dove Mountain voice professional said. She asked herself “‘what would I like to hear?’” as a bus passenger. “Who am I speaking to? Who am I, in relation to the listener?”
The tone, then, is “fluid, melodic, a little higher pitched than the drone of the traffic. There’s not a lot of inflection, but authority.”
From scripts, Long has twice read thousands of greater Tucson street intersections with the same inflection, the same level of volume. Such is the work of a voice actor, Long’s new work after a career in the broadcasting industry.
There’s more to it than meets the ear, said Long, who operates Special Kay Productions from a small home studio.
She’d had to learn about increasingly powerful technology, with the aid of husband Keith. Her studio has a microphone, a “wind screen” used to “protect from popping ‘p’s,” digital equipment, dedicated phone lines, an amplifier, a computer and a clock for timing.
It’s about marketing, too. Even after a short stint, Long’s voice can be heard in more than 2,000 American hospitals, via recordings for a company that provides translation services to health care providers.
She’s been the voice of a pull-string doll.
She’s the TV voice for Precision Toyota, “that pushy, driving voice,” pulled from the diaphragm, “that hopefully sells cars.” Tucson Heart Hospital, the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau, an interactive trivia game — “That’s right! Good job!” — Safeco Insurance, and numerous malls — “Looking for that special gift?” — have put Long’s voice all over the country.
Not long ago, the broadcast journalism graduate was with 1290 AM KCUB, doing traffic in the morning, every 10 minutes from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., working from home.
Then that job ended.
“After all these years, when I lost that job, I asked ‘what is it I’ve always liked to do?’”
She knew the answer. Since the second grade, Long has done voiceovers.
They started with pretend shampoo commercials for Prell in the privacy of her shower, with the showerhead as her microphone. “Wet. Lather. Repeat,” she’d say. “Smooth, silky, shiny hair.”
Kay’s plastic pearls never got through that goopy shampoo. But her dream work was never washed up, either.
“If I could do anything with my eight-hour day, this is what I’d prefer to do,” she said.
Long started doing her homework, made contact with people she knows in the industry, and spoke up.
“I had to unlearn radio,” Long said. “I’m not an ‘announcer,’ I’m a ‘voice actor.’ I call it transparency. The listener can listen through your voice to the message. I had to change my delivery.”
In telephone voice work — “Thank you for holding, we apologize for the delay” – Long imagines herself on the other end of the line.
“I don’t want to hear a phone voice that’s perky and fake,” she said. “I try not to go over the top.”
She spent part of her Christmas holiday providing voice to Department of Defense e-learning scripts for military satellite communications programs.
In that role, she’s speaking to “a no-nonsense, techy person” as an instructor.
So much of voiceover work is non-broadcast, for industry, the telephone business, power point presentations, promotional clips, books on tape, e-learning and more.
“You develop a niche,” she said. “I have the stamina to do that 36-page thing in an even tone, and to inform and persuade in a pleasant manner.”
She focuses on relaxing, knowing the copy well, keeping water at hand, practicing tricky diction. “Red letter, yellow leather. Unique New York.” And “what time of day I’m at my best,” usually late afternoons and evenings.
Long has found the work can be financially rewarding, if not always steady.
Twenty minutes of work for a national cellular phone company’s voice prompt – “You have messages,” she said — yielded a terrific check.
“People realize the importance of a good voice,” said Long, who attended a voice seminar in Los Angeles, and has a voice coach.
Her objective in the new year is to expand her marketing, with a web site and more demonstration recordings.
“It’s using my gifts and talents, and not, in a sense, hiding under a bushel,” she said. “To not be afraid to make those calls. My voice is unique, just to me. I can deliver things in a way that I own it.”
Voice over victory
Kay Lindley Long of Special Kay Productions received the year-end 2008 Voice Over Victory Award from the Great Voice Company in New York City.
Long won the award because of “her talent, ingenuity, self promotion skills, and ability to never miss a beat no matter what the circumstances,” a release said.
Long told a story about her biggest marketing blunder and her most surprising marketing success story of 2008. She landed a narration job for a Tucson doctor’s national software venture … while she was sitting in his examination room dressed only in a hospital gown and goose bumps.
More information is available at www.SpecialKay.com. Kay Long can be reached at 323-0091.