Hitting my stride with Episode 10

Episode 10 of the podcast went up yesterday. It’s been two and a half months of learning and tweeking, but it feels like it’s settling into a good groove now. Listeners and downloads have been growing by 50 - 100% week over week and tomorrow it should hit 2000 downloads, with almost half of those coming in the last two weeks alone.

Spotify is where over 50% of the audience is coming from, which I hadn’t expected. So far, it hasn’t been featured anywhere that I can tell. It’s all been word of mouth, so I’m hoping this growth rate will continue punctuated by some features or reviews on other sites. I’m thrilled with how it’s going, and the feedback so far has been great. Almost 100% of listeners are listening all the way through to the end and everyone who has subscribed is staying subscribed, so I’m taking that to mean people are falling asleep when they listen.

I bought a Creative Live course on podcasting that was too cheap to pass up. It was a few years old, but had a module on promotion and another on story telling and it only cost $17. Well worth the investment, and I had never heard of Lewis Howes before. His module on promotion was worth the price alone.

Also, I’ve started an email list for the podcast. I’ll be recording bonus episodes in the coming months and will send emails about these episodes and special promotions. You can get a free extended episode download if you sign up.

Timing

I want to write down some of the things I’ve learned about voice acting so I can have a place where I can share them. I get people asking me every once in a while how I became a voice actor. (It started with a career in rock radio and a BA in theater.) The next thing they say is usually that they have a friend who makes lots of voices and would be a great voice actor. Then I have to tell them that most of the jobs out there don’t need funny voices. They need people who can sound comfortable and natural while saying the same thing over and over again into a microphone with a few people watching them do it through a pane of very thick glass. After each time, those people talk about what you just did (which you can’t hear) and then press a button and tell you that it was great and could you please do it again, but with a pause here and a go down in tone at the end of the second line and can we add back that half second we just tried to knock off for the last take?

When you have a 15 second TV commercial that is already cut and the voice has to match the video, there really isn’t any room for error. The ability to shave off or add a half second of time is something that can decide whether or not you’ll be called back for the next job, and there’s no way to learn how to do it other than practice. It’s one of those 10,000 hours things, because you just have to ‘feel’ it. You can’t watch a timer and read a script at the same time and even if you could, you wouldn’t be able to make it work that way.

I liken it to recording a pop song. TV and radio commercials have a rhythm that is unnatural to perform but sounds natural when it’s done right. So if you want more commercial work, along with practicing breathing and finding your ‘natural’ sound, don’t forget to work on timing.

Road Trip

And I’m back. Just finished up a week long road trip up the coast to visit friends and family. It was a week away without a single hotel stay, lots of detours, and lots of quality time. Nothing beats a road trip and I think I probably don’t take anough of them.

I had a lot of time to think about things in over 20 hours on the road so I’ll be posting some of that stuff in the next few days. For now, it’s nice to be back home and back to work.

Oregon coast

Compost

There are two poles that define the globe of my life in the country. One is the Internet and all that goes with troubleshooting and maintaining the satellite and wifi installations for myself (and, since I worked in tech 10 years ago) most of my neighbors. The other is trash. Not the “you’re trash, get out of here” kind of trash: the bags and buckets kind.

We are far enough from the rest of civilization that no services are delivered here. No electricity, no mail or delivery of any kind, no garbage, no propane. It all needs to be coordinated and handled by us. I love it. Not just for the conspicuous lack of 4 or 5 monthly bills, but for the self-reliance it’s taught me. My favorite systems are the hydro power set up and the compost pile, but only the compost pile turns trash into food. When we first started, the whole concept of a compost pile felt like alchemy. It’s mostly just about consistency and some yearly maintenance, which my neighbor does for me as trade for the above mentioned tech support. It really does take a village. :)

We’ve had this pile going for over ten years and it’s not just a reliable producer of great compost for the garden. This year, it’s an extension of it. A couple weeks ago, this started growing out of the bottom of the pile. I figure it’s from some kind of squash or pumpkin we composted last year, but I won’t know for another week or two. It’s huge and flowering now, so I’ll keep you posted on what it turns out to be.

compost pile

Episode 4! Ruminations on the first month of L2S

L2S is the acronym my friend gave the Listen To Sleep podcast, and I kinda love it. It sounds like it’s maybe the name of a collaboration project between a Central American gang and the Mormon church? Which has absolutely nothing to do with a podcast that helps people fall asleep, but I’m a big fan of acronyms and randomness, so there ya go.

The trailers for Episode 4 went up today and the episode comes out tomorrow. I’m enjoying the process of honing this idea as I create new episodes. This week, I used the recording of the first story I recorded for this project almost 2 years ago. It’s topical and it’s a story I really love. It makes a great bedtime story too. It was the “proof of concept” I needed to see if this podcast idea would work, so I’m happy to be able to use it in the final product.

The routine of the process has turned into a great hook to hang my weekdays on. Normally, I do auditions for my work as a voice actor in the mornings and schedule gigs for later in the day. This leaves good chunks that I previously kept unscheduled. Now these blocks are filled with researching stories, recording them, recording natural audio (like the creek) for the premium editions, and making the video trailers. The routine has both upped my overall productivity and my mood. It’s nice to have a passion project, and this is that for me.

I also love having something to work on and polish. This idea started so roughly and was very seat-of-the-pants. Each week, it gets more polished and that process is both challenging and satisfying. And collaborative. Like, I hadn’t thought much about doing poetry, but in talking with a friend this week, he suggested a few poems for me to check out and now, episode 6 will be a 30 minute poem from the 1800s.

All in all, I’m so happy to be one day away from releasing the fourth episode and I’m hoping the 52nd and beyond are just as fun and satisfying.

Bodhi and Pillows

How did I get over a week into blogging again without a picture of Bodhi?

Bodhi is my 3 1/2 year old Shepard/Boxer dog. He’s been with me since he was 11 weeks old and is either all business (guard dog with big bark) or all lover (ears back and kisses). There are times when he’s somewhere in the middle, but these moments leave him feeling uncomfortable I think. This is also when his pillow game is really on point. Nap? Bark? Nap? Bar… zzzzzzz.

He is the best boy. Such a good dog. For more pictures of him and his life on the mountain and the boat, follow along on Instagram.

Bark or to sleep? Sometimes he just can’t be sure, but the pillow helps him decide.

Bark or to sleep? Sometimes he just can’t be sure, but the pillow helps him decide.

Zoom H6 Handy Recorder Review

Last week, after years of letting my finger hover over the buy button, I finally bought a Zoom H6 Handy Recorder for the podcast, and am I ever glad that I did. I spent the morning with it yesterday putting it through its paces, and it is a real champ. It comes with two mics, an XY and an MS. They are both great for the $400 price. The XY has two crossing directional mics that are adjustable so that you can switch the width of the recording field to 90 or 120 degrees in front of the mic. The MS mic also has two mics, but they are under the round metal cover. One picks up sound from the front and the other picks up sound front the sides. You can adjust the mix while you are recording or just record in MS Raw and adjust the front/side mix in post.

I wasn’t really expecting this level of build quality. 8 years ago, I was using an H5 for a podcast I was working on and it worked fine, but had its issues. One of them was build quality. It always felt like I was going to break it. The H6 does not. It’s solid and mostly made of metal parts, even the mics. The form factor works too. Easy to hold, use and with the angled screen, probably great on top of a camera.

It comes with 4 AA batteries, a sturdy plastic padded case for the mics and the recorder that also includes a USB cord for connecting it to your computer or power. The USB cord allows it to act as a card reader for the SD card or as a kick ass audio interface. The one upgrade I would recommend is the fuzzy wind screen. The wind screen that comes with it is the standard foam type and they just don’t work as well. The upgraded version is worth the extra $25, These mics are pretty sensitive and if you use them outdoors, you’re going to get wind rumble without some kind of extra protection.

It’s got 4 XLR connectors which can record to their own channels with phantom power and pad switches and a line in/plug-in power jack on the side of the XY mic, making it great for recording multiple mics. I took my new binaural mics down to the creek yesterday and walked around in the water while recording a WAV file onto the H6. It’s like you’re right there when you listen to it with headphones.

This is going to be replacing the Røde USB mic I’ve been using on the road to record auditions or client work. It’s also going to be great to throw in a backpack and take along on outdoor trips to record ambient noise and nature sounds. Five stars. Super happy with the H6.

What do you use to record when you’re on the road or away from the studio? Let me know on Twitter. I’m always up for geeking out on audio gear.

Binaural

I’ve been working with audio in one form or another since I started recording songs off the radio on my cassette deck in the 70s. Last week, I heard a type of audio recording that’s been around forever that I knew nothing about. A friend sent me a link to a binaural recording and it blew me away. If you listen with headphones, you hear a soundscape that is just like being there. I was instantly intrigued. This week, I’ll be creating some binaural audio of my own and I’m super excited about it. Listen for it in upcoming podcast episodes.

Today, I’m off to the creek to make stuff with some new recording gear. 👂🏼🎤

Mornings

Mornings at the cabin in the summer are cool and still. It’s the time of day when I do my best writing and I’m pretty good at getting up early. Most days, however, I don’t take advantage of the first hours of the day to write. It’s coffee, news and social media time—even though I know better. On the days that I don’t write in the mornings, I’m resolving to get outside and work on things that would be much more unpleasant in the heat of the day, like weed whacking or working in the garden. But even those I could do after an hour of writing. So this is my reminder to write first thing in the morning. And now that I’ve written this, it’s time to get at that tall grass next to the driveway.

Forever Chords. Or how I learned to stop procrastinating and start making.

This morning episode 3 of the podcast went out and I was thinking back on how I got here. The idea came to me last year when I was thinking of ways to help my mom get to sleep. She’s had on and off, but mostly on, insomnia for a while now. At the time, I was also reading a lot of old books that are in the public domain that fewer and fewer people seem to be reading. Since I read things for a living as a voice actor, I thought I might be able to bring these things together and create something. I recorded one story, which is actually going to be next week’s podcast episode, and that was pretty much that. My mom and my friends loved it, but my mom loves everything I do. (She’s a great mom.) Then I got busy with other things and nothing else happened with that idea.

Fast forward ahead one year, and one of my favorite bands, Strand of Oaks, released the album Eraserland. Tim Showalter, the singer and writer, asked fans to cover a song on it called Forever Chords. I spent an afternoon knocking out a simple tune on the synth and doing a spoken-word version of the song, then threw it on some video I had recorded but never used, and voila! I was super happy with both the process and the result. So, Listen To Sleep is basically a continuation of a failed idea reborn after the fun I had making this video. I hope you like it too.

Squarespace

You are reading this on Squarespace. It was kind of a big deal for me to choose them for my new web site. I have been building and administering my own web site since the 90s, but recently I realized that this isn’t the best way to do it anymore. A friend had been hosting my site on his business server and it was slowly falling apart in all manner of ways because I just didn’t want to deal with it. He suggested Squarespace and I love it. $12 a month for a clean web site that just works with no IT hassles? Yes, please. I’m a convert and a fan. (I wrote this post in the Squarespace iPhone app which is also pretty slick.)

Purple

The purps. Purple has always been a color I’ve overlooked. I didn’t have the same aversion to it that I have to teal or dusty rose, but I never really LOVED it. Until now. In mulling over ideas for branding the podcast, one of my very best friends and my go-to design guru, Chris Glass, suggested purple. He also had the idea to make the podcast art look more like a book and less like a web thing. I love what he’s done and it works so nicely across my social channels. It’s calming and gives off just the vibe I was hoping for. A big bonus? It really stands out for it’s simplicity among other podcast logos and in the Apple Podcasts app, and it complements the text and player controls so nicely. I’m really thrilled. What do you think? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know.

The podbean site for Listen To Sleep

The podbean site for Listen To Sleep

Listen To Sleep in the Apple Podcasts app

Listen To Sleep in the Apple Podcasts app

Premium Content?

There is something about that phrase that I’ve just never really liked. I guess it sounds a little “salesy?” I’m experimenting with offering some additional stuff on the podcast for people who would like some nature sounds in the background of the story and a longer file to fall asleep to. So, I knuckled under, and for the sake of simplicity, used the current vernacular for something you pay for online, “premium” content. I’m hoping that as this experiment all comes together, it’ll make more sense and not seem disjointed. It’s also fun to just be able to try things and see how they go. Bonus? Gives me a reason to bring recording equipment outside and record some cool nature sounds every week. So yay for that. 🎤🌳

Here’s a link if you’re curious.

Episode 2. It feels real.

When I launched the new podcast, I put up Episodes 1 & 2 right away but I’m planning on releasing a new episode once a week. The first three are done and Episode 3 will be out on 7/20/19. It feels great to have the ball rolling on this now. Web site’s up! Twitter, Instagram and the blog you are reading—all up and running. I’m excited to see where it all goes. Next week, I’ll have some new audio gear to make more outdoor and binaural recordings and may throw those into the mix here at some point. Mostly, it feels really good to be creating something I’m excited about and people seem to like. Now, I believe a celebratory cocktail is in order. 😁🥂

Here’s the trailer for Episode 2 that I made today for the YouTube channel.

Listen To Sleep

Last Saturday I launched my new podcast, Listen To Sleep. It started as an idea I had last year to record bedtime stories in my spare time to help my mom and my friends fall asleep. They all seemed to like it, so I started dreaming a little bigger. (Get it? Huh? I know…) Now I’ve got two episodes released and two more in the can ready to go out. My goal is to make it weekly and to find writers to partner with for new stories. For now, I’ll be reading stuff from the public domain. It feels like a good way for me to help some people doing something I love. I’m very excited to be starting this journey. You can listen and get more information at https://www.listentosleep.com or wherever you usually get your podcasts.