Pay Attention to That Man Behind the Microphone
Voice-over artist Justin Hibbard, a native of the Kansas City area, lives with his partner of 10 years in sunny Venice Beach, Calif., and by all reports, things couldn’t be better.
“I’m really blessed that all these pieces have come together in my life in the last few years,” he said, referring to his business, which he said was thriving, and his clients, whom he called wonderful.
Hibbard has an in-home recording studio at his house for his company, called Just the Voice: Imaging Productions. Consequently, he has a flexible schedule and can work from home most of the time.
Another benefit of Hibbard’s craft, he said, is that it puts him in contact with people around the world.
“I have lots of European and Asian clients,” he said. “I mean, it’s pretty cool to get to speak with people on a daily basis in London or Paris … and I don’t know of very many other jobs where you can do that and be creative while you’re doing it.”
Along the way, he volunteered for a world hunger public service announcement in Africa, which placed him among a group of like-minded voice performers. “That was pretty rewarding to get to contribute my talents to that project,” Hibbard said.
He’s also started working on a new reality TV series called Italian Pickers, which was based on the antique-collectibles show American Pickers, on the History Channel.
“I’m dubbing the voice of the Italian host, which is definitely stretching my chops a bit,” he said. “It’s not easy being the voice of an Italian with an American accent because they speak very quickly, but it’s been a lot of fun.”
He enjoys doing promos as well, “because they are basically short stories, which are generally very upbeat.”
From an early age, Hibbard was interested in broadcasting. He recalls watching the news in Kansas City as a boy and being impressed, particularly by NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw.
“I always wanted to be the next Tom Brokaw,” Hibbard said, laughing. “I was probably 8 or 9 at the time, and I would build these little TV studios in our basement in Overland Park and I would pretend.”
Even so, Hibbard stresses that his greatest source of inspiration has been his father, a successful microbiologist.
“He was a brilliant, brilliant man,” Hibbard said. “He really had an entrepreneurial spirit, which he instilled in me, and was the same character and personality type as me. We had the same dreams. He really inspired me to never give up.”
Hibbard said that his family and friends were all very supportive when he came out years ago. “I came out in Kansas City back when I was 24,” Hibbard said. “I thought it was a great place to do it. I had a lot of friends there ― and I still do ― and I found it to be pretty vibrant gay community.”
Hibbard started out as a broadcast journalist. “That was really my passion up until my mid-20s,” he said. “And then I went back to graduate school and got my MBA, and then ultimately ended up moving to Los Angeles in 2000 to build a voice-over career.”
He credits his broadcasting background for teaching him to articulate, giving him a sense of timing (including how to meet deadlines) and a sense of how to tell a story well. He also received advice there for the next step in his career.
“One of my TV news directors once said, ‘If you ever leave TV news, you should do voice-over,’ so he planted the seed. But it was kind of a gradual transition,” he said.
Hibbard left the industry for a few years, but around the time that he turned 30, he had what he calls “an epiphany” and realized that he really wasn’t doing what he wanted to do and that he should change his career and location.
“I realized that I needed to pursue that creative aspect. It was really a leap of faith,” he said. “I moved to L.A. really not having any connections at all, and it was just like that philosophy ‘leap and the net will catch you’ and it did.”
Hibbard’s strong voice and natural talent for phrasing have helped him go far in the career path he has chosen.
“I have a very youthful sound, which I’m very grateful for, because that’s very marketable these days. And having grown up in Kansas City, it’s nice to have that Midwestern accent. I didn’t have to get rid of any accents. It’s that real down-to-earth, All-American sound that clients really seem to love.”
“Today the trend is toward much more natural delivery. The days of ‘the announcer’ are long gone. I just like to inform.”
Hibbard said that when talking about voice-over work, one has to consider both “particulars” — questions that may only apply to a certain job — and “universals.” “An example of a universal is ‘who is my audience?’ Who am I talking to? As well as, ‘why should I care about this person?’”
The overall mood of the piece and where the action is supposed to be taking place also have to be considered. “A particular would be ‘where do I put my inflection?’ or ‘what words do I emphasize?’” he said. “It’s really more about the universals first. Then the particulars are later.”
Looking at his career as a whole, he said, “My greatest triumph, I would say, is overcoming that fear and doubt everyone has at some point in their lives, and gaining an overwhelming sense of control over my success or failure. Ultimately, I know in my life I’ve succeeded and I’m running a successful business — and I have a family, a partner and very good friends who are very supportive. And I think we have a lot of fun doing it!”
To learn more about Hibbard and Just the Voice, and hear audio samples of his work, go to Justin Hibbard."