What do you do when you don’t sound like “you” anymore?
Could it be that your career is in a rut because you’re out of sync with the needs of the industry, or your own voice for that matter?
When you find your identity in a voice that isn’t yours, you lose yourself.
Finding that voice required Canadian voice actor and coach Christian Potenza to go deep within himself, to hit rock bottom as a voice artist, as it were. But there is hope! Find that voice and you’re not that far off from working.
“That’s Not Me”
After a decade of performing his Santa Monica-inspired “dude” voice to great success, Christian Potenza came to a crossroads and needed to discover who he was, embrace his true sound and reinvent himself.
Ten years earlier, Christian was at the top of his game. He was at conventions, voicing a plethora of cartoons, had his own YouTube channel and the list goes on. After living in Los Angeles, Christian adopted the Santa Monica sound. When he came home to Canada, he says that, “Everyone wanted to know why I sounded like part surfer dude, part [jerk].”
It was then that he got an audition for Trevor Troublemeyer on Sidekick, a role where he applied his newly adopted attitude with a side of surfer. Following that, Christian landed the roles of Jude Lizowski on 6teen and Chris McLean on Total Drama.
Casting folk likened the voice direction to “Ashton Kutcher meets Jeff Probst.”
Christian thought he sounded like that. He thought it was him, but later realized, “That’s not me, it’s just something that I’d been given a lot of money and fame to do.”
The Dude is Dead
The voicing style he had been paid handsomely for – referred to as ‘The Dude’ – had a shelf life. Trends in voice acting come and go, even the one that had made Christian famous. His agent broke the news to him, saying, “The dude is dead. You’ve got to get rid of it.”
The roles he found himself going for all appeared to be calling for him. Breakdown after breakdown asked for, “A Christian Potenza type,” “Think Christian Potenza,” and so on.
Christian a lot of trouble reconciling the difference between the voice that he had used to book so much work previously, with who he actually was. During a particularly arduous session, he found himself trying to find his authentic voice. He was frustrated, in tears and feeling depressed. He couldn’t even make a demo.
Getting Out of the Pit
Simply put, he felt awful and got really quiet and sad.
His takes just weren’t taking.
All the while, the session was still in play, as he’d not hit stop on the recording. Christian started talking it out. He was venting to himself, and at a certain point, he said, “This sucks” in his normal voice. Yes, in his normal voice! It was then that he knew what his voice was.
Once Christian found his voice, he got working again.
Do You Know What You Sound Like, Really?
Everyone thinks they know what they sound like, but in actuality, Christian Potenza says one of three things are going on:
- What you think like you sound like: This is always off and affected by ego, mood, etc.
- What you think you sound like to other people: Another guessing game, where insecurities and fears can influence your perception.
- Then, there’s the truth: What you actually sound like.
Getting Past What You Think You Sound Like to the Truth
Not sure what your real sound is?
Something you can do is consult an unbiased professional from the industry.
Studying with a coach already? Ask them to help you find your voice.
If you’ve been in the business for a long time and believe that you’re ready to go on this journey of self-discovery as Christian Potenza did, it would be helpful to enlist a team of people to support you in this rebranding exercise.