A couple of weeks into the UK’s pandemic lockdown, actor, director, and narrator Matthew Lloyd Davies had two revelations. Watching news about how depressed people were reeling under the weight of lifestyle changes and stay-at-home sacrifices, he realized, “My life really hasn’t changed at all! I get up in the morning, have a coffee, then start work, finish recording in my booth, go downstairs and play with Roxie [his daughter], and start reading and researching my next book. . . .”
He also realized that despite its potential for burnout-- “it’s a lot of time on your own, a lot of intense focus”--he has “the best job in the world.”
Davies describes his entry into the world of narration as “hard work meets opportunity.” He saw an ad from a publisher that was looking for narrators. So he sent in a demo. “I love geeky bits and pieces! I can tell a story. I’m an actor!” He admits he may have recorded it on Garage Band. The response was immediate: “You tell a great story. Now we need to work on the tech stuff.” He laughs, remembering those early days using a duvet over his head to muffle sounds and taking a leisurely three months to narrate each book.
Now he’s updated his equipment and streamlined his approach, but what hasn’t changed is his unwavering commitment to getting the story right for each book. “As a narrator, you can destroy a book. New people need to understand that. You need to give the characters their due. You’re being entrusted. You create this world. Otherwise, don’t do it!”
The key, he says, is to enjoy the job, “the making of it. Enjoy telling that story regardless of what the story is. Commit to it. You don’t have to like the writing. I’ve found books that made me wish they’d learned how to use a comma! But enjoy that, the creative process of putting the commas where they’re meant to be, if it comes to it. If you commit to every single word on the page, you don’t have to love the writing. You love the part--you love what you have to do to play that character.”
Davies is consistently praised for his storytelling abilities, his facility with accents, his deep insight into the characters he creates--“I don’t do voices, I do characters!”--and his humor. All have won him a steady celebration of Earphones Awards and a coveted Audie Award for humor in CARPET DIEM.
He savors the joyful memory of receiving that Audie-- made sweeter by sharing it with his friends at the awards ceremony. He misses those gatherings with fellow narrators and looks forward to reconnecting when times are better.
Until then, he commits to each day’s process. “I just have a little listen to what I did yesterday. And a little look at what’s coming up, and I try to find that world. That atmosphere, that untouchable thing that is the book. That’s part of my daily routine, to find that book’s world, and to narrate it from there.”--Jessie C. Grearson
©AudioFile 2020, Portland, Maine
Photo courtesy of Ruth Crafer
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