You've probably already heard him in commercials for everything from Arby's, to Coors, to the Colorado Lottery. Tom Fry is what's known as a "voiceover artist," one of those basso profundos you hear every day in radio and TV commercials, movie trailers, and documentary films.
But what separates Fry from your run of the mill announcer is that he doesn't just use his own speaking voice in a commercial or video. Instead, he brings into play an arsenal of accents, celebrity impressions, and cartoon voices to create characters appropriate to the venue.
Needless to say, he's good at what he does. Very good. He can switch from one British accent to the next – Liverpool, to Cockney, to Upper-class – without missing a beat. The voices of good ole' boys, surfer dudes, Latinos, East Indians, Russians, and African Americans roll off his tongue. And if the script calls for an old man, or a pirate or for that matter, Ronald Reagan or Yosemite Sam, Tom Fry is on it. Recently, in what has to have been a tour-de-force for a voiceover artist, he played all the male characters on the video game APOX.
Bottom line? The boy can't help it.
"When I hang out around people with accents," he said, "I just find myself imitating them. It's in my blood. My mom was a TV personality and voiceover artist when I was a kid growing up in Detroit. She was the voice you heard when you called Directory Assistance at 555-1212... 'The number is…' The New York Times called her 'the most heard voice in America.'"
Fry may have come by his talent naturally, but he has also honed it through years of study and practice. He majored in Telecommunications and Theatre at Indiana University in Bloomington, and while still a student did a morning drive-time show for a radio station in nearby Evansville.
After a stint as an announcer and production guy at a radio station in Maryland, he moved to LA where he spent 8 years taking intensive voiceover classes from some of the best in the business – guys like audio book narrator Frank Muller, and "Voiceover God" Pat Fraley, best known as the voice of Krang in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
"They taught me the difference between announcing and voiceover acting," Fry said. "The voiceover actor creates a character. Working with these guys, I realized I could do this."
He came to Denver in 2004 and went to work as an on-air personality at 99.5 The Mountain. These days he does a classic rock show on Westwood One that plays in 150 markets nationwide from Hartford, Connecticut to Trinidad, Colorado.
His first love, however, remains voiceover acting. So much so, that in 2011 he built a recording studio in his den and launched his own home-based audio production business. Voiceovers are now his main source of income. He works at it 4 to 8 hours a day, 50 hours a week.
"I probably do ten auditions a day, through leads that come to me via my website and through networking," he said. "I book between three and ten jobs a week. I may do five or six takes. Then I edit out breaths, mouth sounds, and mis-pronunciations. A 15 second tag might take a half hour to produce. Nothing leaves my studio unless it's perfect."
It's a busy life, but Fry loves his work and wouldn't have it any other way.
"This is a job I can do 'til I die," he said. "When I'm 90, as long as I can pull up to a mic in my Rascal Scooter, I'll still be doing this job. I never get bored; it's always something different; different energy, different attitude, different characters. I'm a born entertainer and if I can't entertain a crowd on stage or in front of a camera, I can at least entertain myself."
For More Info:
Tom Fry www.fryonthefly.com
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Don Morreale is assembling a collection of his Examiner stories for publication this Summer. Title: "Cowboys, Yogis, and One-legged Ski Bums"