First, let’s meet Jake Urry!
Jake Urry is a British narrator and actor that I luckily stumbled across right as I began to enjoy suspense and mysteries. In fact, he was one of the reasons I gave thrillers a chance. I had gone all this time believing that thrillers were like horror stories and that honestly is a little too gory for me. However, I saw Jake on Twitter and he offered to share an audiobook for new listeners. I love to review new things so I was intrigued. I had only done a handful of audiobooks and they were all romances. After listening to the John Nicholl’s White is the Coldest Colour, I was hooked. I raced around trying to find out about this amazing voice. I located an online interview with Jake so I knew that he has a history of live theater and co-founded and performs in his own company. He, with his talent for voices, is perfect for the audiobook industry. I believe his face is perfect for the stage, so he is one complete package of talent and skill.
Jake was one of the first people that I invited to join in Mystery Thriller Week. It just seemed perfect to have him involved. After a bit of a timid month, I finally asked if I might interview him. I was delighted that he agreed even after I shared that this is my first interview so it might be a bit mundane and boring. I hope he didn’t mind putting up with my questions.
Thank you, Jake, for answering my questions and agreeing to be on the blog for Mystery Thriller Week. I understand you work alone while producing an audiobook, does that free you to be more creative with your voices and inflections?
It can be a blessing and a curse to work alone on an audiobook. In one respect it’s good because as you say I have complete creative freedom, but it also means if something doesn’t work it’s all my fault! I think the most challenging thing is getting the right character voices, and making sure they are all distinctive without overdoing it because one badly voiced character can take a listener right out of the story. When listening back to my audiobooks I sometimes re-record things that stand out for me as being ‘too much’, but soon I’ll be working on projects with a director present in the studio.
Audiobooks are a pretty new industry. What lit the idea of narration for the first time in you and how did you take it to the next step?
I’ve been acting for about 10 years, since my final years of school, and for most of that time I’ve listened to audiobooks and always wished I could work in the industry. But it wasn’t until I discovered ACX (Audible’s audiobook creation exchange) in early 2016 that I thought it a real possibility. I thought you’d have to be a well known actor and be asked to record the books, but with ACX you can audition for as many titles as you want, and I was lucky enough to get 15 books from audition to on sale in a year!
I have seen your bio and I know that you are very active on the stage both on stage and behind the scenes. How do you compare your character’s evolution during the narration process to character acting on the stage?
We spend a lot of time in our theatre shows thinking about how to portray our characters physically on stage, but that’s obviously not an issue with audiobooks! Also, a lot of character development on stage comes when you get in costume and inhabit the world of the play, but with audiobooks, all you have to get your character across is what they sound like. I start with an accent which is usually obvious in the text, and build from there, trying different things before hitting record.
Do you read the book first and make notes of how you will best portray each character? I notice that they are all unique and individual from story to story, and just as varied from character to character. How do you remember all the voices you will be using?
I tend to skim through to get a good idea of each character and how they might sound, try out a few different things and then start recording and see how the voices sound alongside the narrative. I know a lot of narrators who record snippets of each character so they can remember what they sound like but I honestly never have trouble remembering. Maybe if I get something with a hundred characters in it I’ll have to keep track!
Finally, I have to say, You do an amazing old woman and old man’s voice, yet you look so young. What is the most difficult voice to maintain?
Thank you! I don’t know why but I find it harder to voice younger characters, maybe because I was always cast as old men in school plays! I would say the most difficult voices to maintain for me are anyone with a very specific accent like the Welsh characters in John Nicholl’s books or some of the American horror characters I’ve done. It can be hard voicing the main protagonists sometimes because you want them to sound engaging but not so eccentric that they become a chore to listen to. It’s a nice treat for me when a small character turns up and I can try something a bit braver with their voice because they’re only there for a few minutes!
To Jake, I want to say: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. I am not just a reviewer and interviewer, I am a huge fan of your work.
Visit Jake Urry at his new website and see what new projects he has going on.
For your listening pleasure, you can hear a few clips from his work on Portraits of the Dead Audio sample
and Cryptic Lines. Audio sample