And it was going to the studio in Denver live, they were recording it there, I was at a parking lot in McDonalds in Dallas. That’s how crazy the industry is.
Boss Uncaged is a bi weekly podcast that releases the origin stories of business owners as they become Uncaged trailblazers, Unconventional Thinkers, Untethered Trendsetters and Unstoppable Tycoons. We always hear about overnight success stories, never knowing that it took 20 years to become a reality. Our host S. A. Grant Conducts narrative accounts through the voices and stories behind Uncaged Bosses in each episode, guest from a wide range of backgrounds sharing diverse business insights. Learn how to release your primal success through words of wisdom from inspirational entrepreneurs and industry experts as they depict who they are, how they juggle their work life with family life, their successful habits, business expertise, tools and tips of their trade. Release the Uncaged Boss Beast in you. Welcome our host S. A. Grant.
Welcome the Boss Uncaged podcast on today’s show, we have Kelly Stevens, better known as Kelly Stevens. Kelly Stevens was a radio announcer for many years out of Atlanta, but now he’s a voiceover artist. On today’s show, Kelly gave us some great takeaways on how to maximize your education and utilize it to get what you want. Enough of the spoilers. Let’s jump right into the show.
I’m Kelly Stevens, former radio personality here in Atlanta. For years I did the morning show on B98.5 and worked with a couple of great co-host, my longtime partner for many, many years. We traveled the country together, Alpha Trivet. So it was a Kelly and Alpha show from ninety nine until 08 when we got fired and then in 2010 they brought me back and I worked with Vicky Locke, very talented lady, extremely talented. I know now why her and her partner Steve beat us for so many years. She is wickedly talented person. So it was the Vicky and Kelly Show from 2010 to 2013 when I was fired again, so fired twice by the same people.Bastards.
Define yourself in three to five words.
Good hearted person. There you go. Three words. Cool.
So you said you did radio. How did you get into that line of business?
Well, I had no other practical skills in life, so no, I got out of the Coast Guard in 82 in Seattle where I’m from and it’s a long story. But let’s just say my chosen career of law enforcement didn’t pan out. A night of bad decisions. Again, long story. So I was lying at a friend’s house. She was let me stay with her in Seattle. And daytime TV is full of nothing but like ITT Technical schools and this kind of technical school and that kind of commercial. So because they’re advertising to people like me laying on the couch at 2:00 in the afternoon, unemployed, and one was for a radio broadcasting school. And I thought to myself, sure, let’s try that. So called, made an appointment and went down. And next thing you know, I was signing a student loan for nine thousand dollars and that’s how I started my radio career. So nine months later of nighttime school, I’d be a radio person.
You think going to school for what you do was worth it?
For me, it was I think of the ten people that were in my class. I was the only guy that ever made a career out of it. So it’s pretty much of a scam. They prey on a lot of people who have always thought about being on the radio. And for one reason or another, she’s, let’s say one of my classmates was forty years old, mother of three, and who always thought she’d be a fun person on the radio but didn’t realize you’d have to start in Poughkeepsie, Illinois. So a little unrealistic for her to spend nine grand on a career that she probably was never going to get into. So from the side of the business world of starting broadcasting school, that was pretty lucrative. Did it teach me what I needed to know to start radio? Absolutely. Some of the basics of mechanics, editing my technique. I always thought the biggest question was what do you know what to say when a mic comes on? So, yeah, they kind of teach you those things. So for me it was good.
And it’s pretty interesting. You know Several different people about that particular topic. And it’s always fifty fifty. Some people believe in going to college and getting education to kind of find yourself and some people believe they will just come out of school, start a business and figure it out as you go. So I think, like, you’re kind of like in the middle, right? I mean, obviously you learn the basics, but on the other side of it, you run your own business, too so.
Well, and I have absolutely no training or had any experience in running my own business. So for me, radio was what I learned in and again, it was a technical school or vocational school. It wasn’t a college. They just taught me the vocation of radio. And then you bring your personality to it and you watch others and you listen to others in my particular career radio how they did it. You know, what they do to prepare and execute those kinds of things that I don’t know if they’re teachable, but you have to be open to learning those things. I knew I would know I worked with a lot of people that never went to broadcasting school, who got into radio, who did very well. So it’s not necessary. I never did go to formal college. One of my regrets, I wished I had, but i didn’t. Yeah,
that’s a good segue. You said one of your regrets. Is there anything that you could say that you would do differently to get you to where you are currently if you can do it all over again?
I wouldn’t have cheated on Laurie Johnson in the tenth grade. I know that.. Man she was, you know yeah, I wish I hadn’t taken that year off after high school to explore life before I decided to go to college. That was my plan. I’m just going to take a year off and just kind of you know, I’ve been in school for twelve years, so I deserve a little break. Horrible mistake because, you know, one thing led to another. And next thing you know, you’ve got debt and responsibilities and rent and. So college just kind of fell off to the side and I was lost there for a long time, my career path again at that point I didn’t even know about radio other than, you know, it’s in the car. I knew that. So the thought of being on the radio, not one of my options. So but it’s just how it worked out. I didn’t go to college. I went to the service instead. And so that was kind of my path into adulthood.
Did you come from an entrepreneurial background?
No. My father, a longshoreman, was a longshoreman. Nobody in my family amounted to anything. In fact, I was the only guy in my family that graduated from high school. So no experience with being an entrepreneur. I can barely even say the word. I hate it when they put an al at the end and I have to read that entrepreneurial.
Sounds like a jumble of letters.
Yeah, it’s one of my least favorite things to read. Oh, God, it’s got entrepreneurial in the script. Oh..
I’ll make a note of it.
Do you think that was a factor to currently where you are in business and the fact that you didn’t come from Argentino background and you just kind of learn as you went?
if you mean is that why I suck at being a business owner? Yes, it is why I suck at being a business owner, because I didn’t have any experience and I never got any training. So as far as running my VO business, I am awful at it. OK, I’ve got a great voice, which is a double edged sword. If you want. I can explain that to you later. I have rudimentary technical skills enough to be able to record a file, edit and mail it, which is 99% of what I do. Thank God there’s billing systems available online, so I have one of those that I easily fill out invoices. Other than that, I don’t know the first thing about marketing or business owners or operating a business. I thought all I needed to do was have you build my website, which you did a fabulous job, and hang a shingle, say I’m open for business and I’m going to sit back and and my inbox is going to start dinging and I’m good to go. So lo and behold. Oh, you really have to put some work into this. Oh,
but I think you had a couple of successes here. And I mean, you got a couple of big name clients and you recorded audio.
Yeah, I mean, I lucked out. I had while I was on the radio and still in the radio career, still getting a radio paycheck. I had a few clients that I had done voiceover work for and I had for years. So every month I was doing stuff for them. Once I left radio and the paychecks stopped coming in and I was counting solely on voice over income. I had a few people that I knew in the business that gave me some tips. And then every year here in Atlanta and across the country, but here in Atlanta, they have a big voiceover conference. And so the first two or three years that I was starting off, I had made sure I had attended that, which gave me some networking and some tutorial classes on how the business works. And I met some of my very first voiceover coaches that I had worked with. Yes, we have voiceover coaches. And so that’s how I kind of got a grasp of how to get into the business and how to function within that space.
Oh, definitely interesting. How do you juggle your work life with your family life?
Well, it’s easy. I have no family life, so that’s nice. I have a dog, Gracie. So it’s me and Gracie. Actually, it was funny. I had just gotten married toward the end of my radio career, not knowing my radio career was going to end. And just as in she had two kids and I was never thought I’d be a family guy. I never wanted kids. But she had two young boys. Long story short, I thought it would be a great idea to marry her and be a step dad and just as we were getting our family reunited and moved into the house, boom, I lose my job in the radio. So now I’m starting a business. I just got married and I’m a stay at home dad and I’m doing things I had never done before, getting kids up, getting him on a bus, making their lunches, getting them off the bus, getting them home, doing their homework, making them dinner. It was hell. I sucked at it. It was awful and the marriage fell apart for that and other reasons. So that’s how I was starting a business and going through all of that at the same time. So there was a lot of turmoil in there. So in the last three years, it’s just been me and my dog. Makes it much easier. I don’t have to get Gracie off the bus. I don’t have to do Gracie’s homework. I got to play with her once in a while to keep her busy. Other than that, we’re golden.
What’s your morning routine looks like?
I get up, I go to the gym. Actually, I get up around. I still get up early. That’s a hard habit to break after almost thirty years of doing morning shows on the radio. So I still get up at three or three thirty, you know, have my coffee, I catch up on the news and then usually there are some auditions that come in overnight that I know if I get to, I’ll be one of the first ten or twelve people that audition. And so my chances of the client actually listening to my audition I know are greatly increased. You know, the sooner you can get it in, the sooner they’ll listen to it. So I do that and then I’m off to the gym. I know you’re looking at my unspoilt body going, wow, he goes to the gym and I’ll tell you why I go to the gym. It’s certainly not for the working out. Obviously, it’s because what I have found by working for myself from home, which I always thought would be awesome, actually sucks because it’s incredibly isolating. So it’s just me and I mentioned Gracie and she doesn’t talk. I go to the gym just to be around other people and overhearing their conversations about office Politics and it’s like, oh, my God, she said, what, what what did she. And then what happened? Please tell me more. I miss working in an office. I miss being around other people.
So you’re using the gym as a network?
Yeah, that’s just as my chance to actually see other human beings with opposable thumbs. That’s nice. So I go to the gym, I come home. I usually will crawl back into the rack for another hour and get up around eight thirty, take a shower and, you know, check the inbox again.
That’s why you said coffee because I remember i interviewed three other people and they all have morning routines and all of them. Part of it is coffee. I got one that grinds his own coffee beans. I got one that steams our own coffee. And you have your own routine with coffee as well, too. I remember you some of you collect special brand of cream edition. You.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I stock up come October and November on the sugar free pumpkin spice creamer. So yes, I not only embrace, but I lead the charge for pumpkin spice season, but I will get as many bottles of that as I can and I’ll put them in the refrigerator. I think the last count I’m down to eighteen so I’m getting a little anxious. There’s only eighteen bottles left. You know, I start the season, I try and get about sixty bottles of them in there, which is good and bad. It’s good that I get that many, but it’s bad for anybody else in my neighborhood that likes it because I’ll get them all from the public, so I’ll get them from the Kroger, wipe them out. So yeah, that usually they’ll last me till about April
What time does your day usually end?
Again getting up early. I do go to bed early so if I go out on a date I usually tell her there’s a good chance I’ll get her home in time, that if she wants, she’ll be able to go out again with somebody else that night. So sometimes as early as 6:00, sometimes on a rare occasion, I’ll stay up till till six fifteen or six thirty or nine o’clock just appends.
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Back to the show. All right. Besides your voice. I mean obviously you got like the greatest personality.
I don’t know about that.
I’m just saying you have the punch line. Yeah. But the comedy behind it, I mean do you ever want to think about going back to radio?
I would love to go back. I miss the paychecks. I don’t miss where radio ended. It changed. You know, in the eighties when I started in radio, it was fun. It was exciting. It was localized. You know, you had your program director and and that was about it. Now you’ve got maybe five companies own all the radio stations. You’ve got program directors, you’ve got consultants, you’ve got regional vice presidents of programming. You’ve got brand managers. You’ve got it’s just not as fun. And it was it was a hassle again, miss the paychecks. I miss being on the radio, miss Entertaining, miss interacting with listeners and that part. I just don’t miss the politics and the office stuff.
You ever thought about maybe going into XM Radio or starting your own podcast now?
Well, I had a friend who knew one of the programmers from Sirius XM.
And I she had inquired. I said, well, those guys are in their studios from all over the country. And I thought, well, I could do that. Just give me, you know, like, can I do like the 80s channel or the 70s channel? And they hire guys from terrestrial radio that had really big followings, guys that were, you know, the Don Imus bless his heart, he’s passed now. But, you know, guys that were in New York or L.A. for twenty, thirty years that had huge followings, so more named people, they wouldn’t be interested in a schmuck like me. I say that I don’t know if they are… My address is one twenty one. So, yeah.
What do you see yourself in 20 years?
Dead. Dead as a dog. Hopefully.. If I don’t win the lottery, probably behind a microphone praying something hits my inbox again. So probably working for the next 20 years.
This segue to what do you see your company in twenty years.
Well I am my company. It’s, it’s me and my voice. If I ever lose my voice, that’s it. I don’t know what I do. So be the Uber driver.
When that being said, do you think that AI could ever replace voices?
I don’t know. I thought about that the other day. I thought, you guys are talking about automation, taking people’s jobs. And and somebody in the industry said that eventually it’ll happen to us. But I just don’t know how that could be. It could be possible, especially if you listen to any kind of automated like I use YouTube sometimes on how to pronounce words because. I’m not a good pronunciator, and I’ll see a word in a script to go. How do you pronounce that? And then so I go to YouTube and type in the how to pronounce that gives you four or five different pronunciations. And ninety nine percent of them are computer animated voices and they’re awful. It’s like, can’t you get a human to say that I dig the ones that actually have a human saying the word? Because when it’s done through computer voice, there’s no intonation to it, there’s no dialect. It’s hard to understand. So I don’t know if they’ll be able to do that. I hope not, at least not in the next 20 years while I’m working. After that, I don’t care. Screw screw the kids coming up behind me.
Well, they systematically, if you look at like echo dot, for example, and now you can kind of pick different voices for the echo dot. So you could say I think the next one they are going to come out with a Samuel L. Jackson. It’s a bunch of prerecorded words, but AI can’t takes over control based upon the responses and sounds exactly like Samuel L. Jackson.
Well, I hope Samuel L. Jackson is getting a cut of that.
Well, I mean, I had to record his voice. you can get it to the point to where I mean, the reality is that he was in studio for months on end, recording every single word possible.
Right. Read the dictionary. learning it and doing it. I don’t know if they are working on that. Please slow down. I just give me 20 more years and you can do whatever you want. I don’t care. Or unless I win the lottery, those two things.
What would you do if you won the lottery tomorrow?
If I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d hold a press conference and I’d say the following people can kiss my ass. I always thought of that. I’d be a fun press conference, whip out a big scroll of paper. It rolls down the aisle. Oh, no, I if I, you know, listen, the Powerball is up to two hundred and seventy seven million. So my net would be what did I figure the other day? My net was going to be ninety seven million after taxes, you know. Ninety seven million. I think if you cut back on some household expenses here and there, you could probably make a living out of that. I retire immediately. Buy myself a farm at a yacht.
You stop recording?
Yeah, I mean, I don’t understand people that have multi million dollars enough money that they don’t have to worry about paying a bill the rest of their life. Why they continue to work. I just don’t understand it. I’m just not driven that way. If I had 50 million dollars. Hell, if I had five million dollars, I wouldn’t work another day in my life. Not at all.
That’s a pretty interesting concept. I mean, most entrepreneurs, I guess they are devoted to being an entrepreneur in the sense that even if they make a billion dollars, they want to make sure that they’re established to win. That million could become 10 billion or 100 billion.
You got a billion dollars. What else do you need? That’s Nine hundred and ninety nine million dollars. Add another million. But how can you possibly spend that kind of money?
What I don’t think is all about spending I think is more so about.. The only way a person can live forever is to leave a legacy behind.
I don’t want to burden with everybody else. Hey, listen, if I had a billion dollars, I would love being the most generous guy in the world. I mean, I’m talking about going into every Cracker Barrel or Waffle House and Spiffin and everybody there that’s working there. You know, hundred two hundred three hundred thousand bucks. I don’t care. I would be awesome to be able to have that kind of money where you could just help make people’s day brighter. That would be crazy cool.
So this sounds like that’s when your goals I mean, do you do what you do because you want to help people or the most of the money?
Well, I don’t know. If What I do actually helps people, helps me, helps Gracie eat, which is nice. Yeah. But if I had unlimited funds, I would love to be able to make people’s burden a little less. That’d be nice. So, yeah.
Well some tools that you can run your business without.
Well I couldn’t run it without a microphone. I couldn’t run it without recording software. A computer. Obviously those are the big ones that come to my Internet service. Couldn’t do it. You know, it used to be ten years ago, maybe you’d had to go to professional recording studio and there were several good ones in town. And you would go in, you’d use their booth, they’d record you and they’d send it out to the client. And nowadays with the Internet, anybody that’s always been told “hey you got a good voice, you should do voice over” and they buy a USB microphone and some interface. And next thing you know, they’re in a broom closet recording voiceover work. So the Internet and home studios have revolutionized who can have access to the business and where you can do the business from. I can do business anywhere. I’ve driven across the country and had actually a really cool system in the front seat of my car. I had my laptop on one of those articulating holders you see, like on a state trooper has and the laptop sitting right there in front of me. So and I had a microphone on a boom and I used my phone as a hot spot and I would pull off into a parking lot and they record any audition’s, edit them right there and email them out. In fact, at one point I used a source gets called Source connected and Internet broadband voice service. You can send voice quality over the Internet. And I was connected to a studio. I was in my car in a parking lot of McDonald’s in Dallas. Car was running, had the accent not loud, so it wasn’t picking it up. And I had in my headphones the studio in Denver and also on the headphone was the client out in Reno, Nevada. And I was reading her script and it was going to the studio in Denver live. They were recording it there. I was at a parking lot in McDonald’s in Dallas. That’s how crazy the industry is. So you could literally be anywhere and do voice over.
So is recording in the car pretty decent Quality ?
Yeah, actually the cars.. It’s a great soundproof place to record. So not necessarily comfortable, but you’ve got to get it done. You got to get it done.
That’s definitely one of the tricks of the trade right there. Final words of wisdom that you would leave behind for up and coming entrepreneurs behind you. What would that be?
I would say if you were in my profession in radio, what I wished I had done looking back at it now was I wished I had the vision to say, you know. Radio is going to end at some point. I’m going to have to. And again, I’m assuming I’ve not won the lottery at that point, I’m going to have to plan for my future, so. The natural transition for a radio person who, you know, has a decent voice is voice over work. It’s something that, you know, you’ve done. So I would say to them, start doing voice over as much as you can outside of radio, while you still are on the radio, still getting a radio paycheck and get into the business, get your system set up at home, start building a client base before you leave radio or radio leaves you in my case, so that you’re not starting from scratch and having to scramble to get it all set up. So spend the last 10 years of your radio career also doing voiceover work at home.
That’s an interesting. I mean, recommendations for like a startup kit, like what type of microphone or a particular brand or..
There are some fairly good quality USB mics which don’t need phantom power. You can just plug them right into your computer. I know Blue makes a series of them. I think that was the very first one I had. Oddly enough, a radio station paid for that because I was doing some work from home for them and you need a recording software? I use Adobe Audition, but there are half a dozen other ones too. You need a computer, you need a programming, you need a microphone and if it’s not a USB, then you need some sort of interface that gives it some phantom power and you’re off to the races, you know, a quiet space. I turned one of my spare rooms in my house into the whole bedroom is an art, auralex on the walls and so I turned that whole room into a sound booth. I know there’s companies that actually make soundproof booth. I just thought it would be cheaper just to buy a bunch of auralex and put it up on the wall and turn the bedroom into a studio.
Yes, it’s pretty quiet as well. Yeah, definitely sound studio. Bonus question for you.
Oh..Bonus round. It’s like double jeopardy.
Do you remember where we first met?
where we first met..
And when we first met.
I do, I believe it was the.. This is going to sound odd. It was in my basement. Yeah, that sounds really odd. Listen, we had this weird party and I was in the basement. No, as my wife at the time and the kids were in Boy Scouts and your boy was in the same troop. And I was I didn’t but Katie hosted the I don’t know what you called it, the cub pack or whatever down in the basement of the house. And you were there and you and I were talking and I asked you.. Had and.. I was just getting into voiceover work and didn’t really have anything as far as website or anything like that set up and so I thought it was serendipity, kind of a God thing. I’m standing next to you and I ask you what you do and you say, you know, you’re a digital guy, build websites and whatnot. I went, oh, my God, I need to talk to you and so that’s how we met, right?
Oh, good. I’m glad I got that right.
It’s always funny, man, trying to figure out the origins of where people meet and the six degrees of separation.
Yeah. And it’s going to haunt me all day long. Where did you meet? In my basement. It puts the lotion on its skin.
It was a pleasure having you.
Pleasure to have pleasure to have me too. I guess. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
Thank you as well Kelly.
Thanks for tuning into another episode of Boss Uncaged. I hope you got some helpful insight and clarity to the diverse approach on your journey to become an Uncaged Trailblazer. If this podcast helped you, please email me about it. Submit additional questions. You would love to hear me ask our guests and or drop me your thoughts at sagrant.com. Post comments. Share, hit, subscribe and remember, to become a Boss Uncaged, you have to release your inner beast, S.A. Grant signing off.
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