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Thursday, June 16, 2011

My Hometown News Feature Story

“Voice of Americana” Speaking from Spring Hill
When you first enter Spring Hill’s Rick Lance Studio, it resembles a fairly typical photography studio - a seamless white backdrop with studio lighting and a suspended black umbrella sets off to the side. Well-composed photographs featuring scenes from Lance's 2004 trip to Asia adorn the opposite wall, along with a plush loveseat.
Rick Lance reads a voice-over script in his Spring Hill studio.
Photo by Sara McManamy-Johnson
The first clue that this might not actually be a typical photography studio is a foam-encased microphone, roughly the size of a brick, that hangs over the large, flat-panel Mac monitor at a desk in the corner. A closer inspection reveals a small, back room boasting just a worktable with a sound board and lamp and a studio-quality microphone suspended over a music stand.

The photography-studio trappings are actually primarily remnants of Rick Lance’s previous incarnation as a professional photographer. Now, Rick Lance Studio is better known as a recording studio and home base to “The Voice of Americana.”

When Lance moved to Nashville from Pennsylvania 28 years ago, he dreamed of breaking-it big in the music business, like so many before him and after.

And for six years, he pursued that dream, working to establish himself as a singer, songwriter, and overall performer while he simultaneously built a successful photography studio in downtown Nashville.

“I primarily did a lot of commercial photography, mainly product photography,” said Lance. “I had a 1,500 square-foot studio in the warehouse district; it was almost like a loft studio in New York - it was pretty cool.”

But the incoming Digital Age began to take its toll on Lance’s photography businesses. Digital cameras with increasingly better resolution and powerful photo-editing software for home computers meant that more and more potential customers were opting for do-it-yourself projects or for less-expensive amateur photographers.

Throughout that time, Lance had continued pursuing his musical ambitions.

One day, while recording in a Nashville music studio, Lance was asked to narrate a commercial for an area prime-rib restaurant.

“‘You want me to just talk?’ I asked, ‘I’m not going to sing anything?’” recalled Lance. “It was just a little radio commercial; I got a meager fee for it, but I was happy, and they were happy - that was in 1993.”

He began doing occasional voice-over work after that, but with his music and his photography studio, Lance did not have time to devote much attention to the voice-over work.

“It took years for me to take it seriously,” said Lance.

But when Lance’s photography business began taking a downward turn, he needed to find a way to replace some of that lost income.

By about 2003, Lance had gotten serious about voice-over work and had set up a recording room in his photography studio; in 2007, he set up his studio in Spring Hill.

Now, voice-overs are his main source of income.

“I treat it as a business,” said Lance. “I treat it like I treated my photography business.”

For Lance, that means constantly educating himself and honing his craft. He has trained with voice coaches, acting coaches, and voice-acting coaches, and he has even studied method-acting techniques.

His rationale is simple.

“I have to interpret people’s words,” said Lance. “I’ve got to convince the audience.”

Lance has done some on-camera acting for commercials and music videos, but he admits that most of his clients approach him for voice-over work. And even his music has taken second-fiddle to his voice-over work.

“I realized that my speaking voice is actually more distinctive than my singing voice,” said Lance.

At 57 years old, Lance boasts a deep, slightly gravelly, voice. Although he is a native of Pennsylvania, Lance’s father is a native Texan, so Lance can easily slip into a Southwestern drawl.

“Now, that’s not like the twang you’ll find in places like Alabama or Georgia,” said Lance. “I’m more of a drawler than a twanger.”

Between the deep, gravelly voice and the deep, Texas drawl, Lance has found a strong market representing industries like construction, agriculture, and what he generally described as “man’s man” markets.

But Lance can drop the drawl as quickly as he can pick it up, so he has no difficulty offering what he calls “straight” delivery, which is essentially an accent-neutral delivery.

Despite a distinctive and marketable voice, Lance still faces intense competition for projects.

“Auditions are kind of a shot in the dark, but I do them every week,” said Lance. “I’ll do 40 to 50 auditions in a week, and I might get 3 jobs out of them.”

Thanks to the miracles of modern technology, Lance can record his audition files at his main work desk and just submit them over the Internet - the process can be completed quickly.

Lance actually records his final projects in the sound room tucked in the back of his studio.

Most of his projects are solo operations in that he just prints his script from an e-mail attachment, runs the sound board while he’s reading the script, and electronically sends the sound file to his client.

“There will be days where I’m just sitting here talking to myself all day,” said Lance. “But I’m having fun.”

To find out more about Rick Lance, visit www.ricklancestudio.com or call (615) 302-2812.

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