Interview with a Narrator: Shamaan Casey

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Shamaan Casey

I was born in 1996 and raised in Converse, TX. Growing up, I always watched a lot of animation, which gave me a deep appreciation for voice acting, which only grew as the years went on. While initially starting school for culinary arts, I finally yielded to all of the advice I had received over the years and finally embraced getting into the world of voice-over by making audiobooks. In only 3/4 of the year, I started with nothing and have now released 14 audiobooks, with more on the way. I love to watch theater and read engaging stories, often noting how much the voice of the character (be it spoken or in text) adds to the overall story and engages the audience.

How did you become interested in performing audiobooks?

I was at first resistant to the idea of getting into audiobooks! Ever since I was young, people would always tell me that I should get into radio because of my deep distinctive voice. I would always say “maybe” or put it off, and instead pursued a career in culinary arts. All the while, when I would work as a food demonstrator, at least one person everyday would ask me if I had considered a career in radio. Finally, one person I met told me that I should consider audiobooks, as that was something he did himself in the comfort of his own home. While I again put off this idea, the idea slowly took root in my mind until I finally decided to embrace my calling and started last year.

What kind of training did you do to get yourself ready to record audiobooks?

I had thankfully already been an experienced public reader thanks to my religious ministry before I got into audiobooks. That would mean paying special note to pausing, punctuation, tone, warmth, and proper sense stress. When I started getting into audiobooks, I would scour the Internet looking for tips on what narrators do, from mouth exercises to how increase vocal range. I would also take note of some characters from movies or plays, and base my vocal performance or manner of speaking on them.

You have recorded several books on famous basketball players, including Kyrie Irving, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James. Are you a big basketball fan? What did it feel like to record books on such great players?

Believe it or not, I am actually not a sports fan! I was never raised around sports, and could never really get into following these players or games. However, narrating these stories covering the main events of their lives and professional careers did give me a deeper appreciation of what they do and where a lot of them came from.

What are some of the challenges you face as a new narrator?

Being new to the industry, a major challenge is putting out content that is both within means as well as building a portfolio to attract new listeners and become successful in the industry. At first glance, the amount of information available is overwhelming! Another challenge is that info can quickly become outdated as technology and competitors become more advanced and change with the years. For a new person, it can be very easy to lay your foundation of something that continually changes, yet not be able to keep up with the times. One big challenge for me is producing professional quality audio, as well as build a presence on social media. When it comes to audio, so many factors such as the building materials of your house, air flow, sound treatment, room size, mic placement, and more can affect your audio, and that’s before you start recording!

Thankfully I have learned enough from fellow narrators to have my recording booth well handled on the technical side, but learning audio mastering and editing is something that I continue to have to learn (often I feel like a home cook trying to compete with chefs). When it comes to social media, I follow various groups on Facebook full of other narrators and authors, as well as others who focus on DAWs (Digital Audio Workstation) such as Studio One. In all honesty, I probably wouldn’t be where I am now were it not for the knowledge shared in those groups.

How do you approach your preparation for each book that you perform?

For each book I do, I try to research anything I don’t know, as well as look up the pronunciations of people and places I previously would’ve never heard of. Often times, especially in fiction, an author’s work may cause me to dig deeper into a subject to better be able to reflect the feelings and struggles of characters. One book I did was a historical fiction following the struggles of the Quakers in the American Revolution, a topic that is generally overlooked when considering the war. While the author was kind enough to hand me a story bible of the characters, their ages, and a general overview of the plot, I did additional research into how the Quakers’ beliefs would affect their actions during the Civil War (many tried to remain neutral, while some lent their aid through non-violent means such as producing supplies). For other books that are non-fiction, I try to imagine myself telling a friend about the topic I’m covering, or narrating a TV special (a guy can dream) on the subject.

You performed Slow Cooker Cookbook: Quick and Easy Beef Recipes to Lose Weight and Get Into Shape by Francesca Bonheur. How do you make a cookbook easy to follow on audio?

When narrating a cookbook, I try to imagine myself in my kitchen following the recipe just based on what I’m hearing. With that in mind, I try to slow down the narration, and especially make sure ingredients and amounts are said slowly and very clearly. I sometimes imagine a blind person or someone who does not have the book available listening to the recording, and being able to quickly pause or rewind a few seconds back to hear how much vanilla extract is needed, or what temperature to set the oven to. Since I have a degree in Culinary Arts (and my primary job is being a cook), I know how vital correct information is for a recipe, as that is often the difference between a standout meal and a heartbreaking disaster.

What kinds of questions did you have as you started out your audiobook career? How did they get answered?

Besides “What makes the most money” I have had numerous questions come up in my audio career. What is the best sound treatment material? Where should I place my microphone? How do I properly master my files? How can I get audiobooks that pay me fairly (not that $0-50 pfh [per finished hour] crap) or are rewarding as a royalty share deal? How can I build my portfolio and attract a following? What is the best microphone and software to have? Each of these questions I still seek answers to, though I am able to get by well enough through careful research and communicating with other narrators and authors. One thing that amazes me is that while voice over is a competitive field, everyone I have encountered so far has been friendly and more than willing to help new guys like me become like the pros and help elevate the field.

Do you collaborate with your authors? How?

Whenever I get a new project, I immediately strive to develop a reliable means of contact with the author. Sometimes its just a means of ensuring that files are received, questions are answered, and payment is sent. Other times, I build a real collaboration with authors. One such author I’ve worked with, Lars D.H. Hedbor, has been an author I have done multiple projects with, and has been one of the best clients I’ve worked for. We are able to communicate regularly not just on how progress of the audiobooks is going, but also work together on promotion, gathering reviews, and general network building. The both of us were new to audiobooks (his first audiobook release was my first project), and we have since been able to learn from each other and grow in the field.

How long do you record at a time, on average? What is it about a book that will shorten or lengthen this?

Living in San Antonio, Texas, heat is a major concern that affects my recording schedule, especially since most of the year is generally hot. In my recording booth, I often have to turn the air conditioner off to record without the loud buzzing of the conditioner affecting my audio, so I generally only record after midnight when temperatures are cooler. I lower the house to about 75 degrees (for me I consider that almost cold), turn off the AC and get recording. With no air flow within a small confined space, I limit my recordings to one chapter at a time (usually 30 minutes to an hour recording time depending on length) before taking a break. In just that short amount of time, my booth will go from 75 to nearly 82 degrees Fahrenheit. If a chapter is longer than I expected, I will usually go until I can find an appropriate place to stop, then save the recording to return to it later.

What narrators do you listen to for inspiration?

While not necessarily narrators, my biggest inspirations would be VO talent like Mark Hamill, Steve Blum, Nolan North, and Kevin Conroy. Essentially, I’ve spent my whole life listening to these actors bringing characters to live in most of the media I consume, and watching them behind the microphone inspires me to do more and grow as a vocal talent.

To learn more about Shamaan, visit the following sites:

Facebook page
Audible page
Facebook page

Summary
Interview with a Narrator: Shamaan Casey
Article Name
Interview with a Narrator: Shamaan Casey
Description
Shamaan Casey started his career as a culinary artist before switching to performing audiobooks, so he shares with us about his career and life.
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Fangirl Nation Magazine
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One Response

  1. Anita Dow October 9, 2018 Reply

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