YOU may not have met him, but you might just find his voice familiar.
Mr Hagen Valerio is the voice behind countless television and radio commercials, corporate videos and campaigns for companies like SingTel, Duracell and American Express.
Almost five years ago, Mr Valerio was working 12-hour shifts in a cryogenic gas production plant as an operations technician.
This earnest-looking Singaporean had a quirk — he loved entertaining people with his voice.
“I would imitate family members, friends or teachers in jest, and my friends used to tell me how spot-on I was,” says the 32-year-old.
He was so compelling at mimicking local and foreign accents that his wife Yulia was convinced he should use his voice to make a living.
It started with a book
However, he didn’t think much of it until he chanced on the book How To Make A Million Dollars With Your Voice, by Jeff Lenburg and Gary Owens, at a public library.
The book gave him ideas of what he could do with his voice, such as emceeing and voiceovers.
“I began recording myself reading articles from magazines and websites with a $6 desktop computer microphone and sent the recordings to local production companies and recording studios,” he recalls.
Within a month, he got his first voiceover job with an engineering company that wanted to make a corporate video.
He remembers his voice quivering while reading the five-page script aloud.
“The microphone was so sensitive that it picked up all my nuances and speech habits,” he says, revealing that it took him several attempts and a few hours to get it right.
In the next two years, he continued doing voiceovers part-time during his days off to make some extra income.
In his free time, he trained himself by listening to documentary voiceovers and audio books, and recording himself and listening to the playback.
From part-time to full-time
In mid-2011, when he started making almost as much from this sideline as from his full-time job, he decided to become a professional voice actor.
Today, he is widely used across Asia, doing an average of 15 to 25 voiceovers a month, and has even started doing minor on-screen acting.
He also intends to go into writing, audio production and more on-screen work.
Mr Valerio is often called on for professional deliveries in corporate videos and in TV and radio commercials because of his strength — his “friendly yet informative, voice-next-door” kind of vocals.
His versatile mid-tone voice has also given him opportunities to take on the voice of a teenager, an old man and even a German.
At the start, practice and preparation were crucial to get him into the swing of things.
He recalls how being nervous made his voice sound “awkward and stiff”.
“I had to consciously let go of my inner self-critique to get a good read in the studio,” he says.
He started paying attention to various kinds of voices, discovering the unique and common traits of each.
He also got some of his voiceover samples recorded professionally at a studio.
“Proper voice samples are important, as they demonstrate your voice type and what you can do with your voice in terms of expression and delivery to the client,” he says.
Mind over matter
When asked about his most challenging experience, he relates a physically demanding incident where he had to do a voiceover in a poorly ventilated booth for several hours.
“Voiceovers aren’t as easy as it sounds. It is really mind over matter, whether you are unwell or not in the mood, you still have to conjure up the actual mood of the script.”
What he loves most about his work is the synergy he feels with directors, producers, creatives, audio engineers and even other voice actors when he is on a project.
“Although I control the instrument, I ride on their vision, creative direction and energy to deliver the message,” he says.
When asked what a voice actor should do to “deliver the message”, he advises: “Have an open mind, be flexible and spontaneous.”