‘The Fabulous Life’: Chris Flockton of Hartford’s Voice Goes Around the Globe
Voice-over actor Chris Flockton poses for a portrait outside his home in Quechee, Vt. on November 20, 2013. Flockton set up a studio in his home where he records work for clients from all over the world. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
Voice-over actor Chris Flockton records a take of a promo ad for a radio station in his studio in his home in Quechee, Vt. on November 20, 2013. Flockton records work for clients from all over the world. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
When Chris Flockton speaks into a microphone, to an audience of none, he moves his hand sharply. It moves with the changes in the pitch of his voice, like a conductor pushing an orchestra through a staccato passage or a singer showing the musical scale he’s ascending.
Flockton is in the recording studio he built in his home, located in Hartford, near the Pomfret line. A recording program shows the waveforms created when Flockton says:
“You’ve always heard, ‘reach for the stars’ — we just bring them a heck of a lot closer.” He adds a chuckle. “You’re welcome. The new 93.7 Sky FM.”
His voice, bigger and brassier than it is in conversation, glides along the syllables. “The result you get when all the stars in a Utah sky align — flawless,” he continues. “The new sound of 93.7 Sky FM. Trust the music.”
Those vocal tracks, soon after, would be transmitted across the country to a Utah radio station. It was just another bit of work for Flockton, who has made a career as a voiceover artist for nearly two dozen years, providing a British sound that has found its way into ESPN commercials, Jimmy Kimmel Live bits and every episode of VH1’s celebration of absurd wealth, as narrator of The Fabulous Life Of , which ran from 2003 to 2008.
For those who watched the VH1 show, Flockton’s voice — a deeper, back-of-the-throat version of it — was as encoded into the show’s DNA as ultra-rich celebrities. His voice, which in context sounded like it was delivered from atop a diamond-encrusted throne, gave the show its unctuous charm.
Flockton, 46, promotes his services as “British Voiceover.” His accent serves him well.
“I’ve lived in this country for quite a long time, so I don’t have a sort of fresh off the boat ‘Allo, gov’nuh’ sort of British accent,” he said.
He’s from Liverpool, England, but years on this side of the pond have evened out his natural dialect. He doesn’t sound like he’s from the north of England, or the south of England, or the Midlands of England, places with regional accents. He sounds like what an American might think of as “British.”
It’s a marketable sound, and Flockton isn’t the only one to capitalize on it.
“When U.S. companies are looking to sell overseas a neutral Brit accent is sometimes seen as having an international dimension that many countries are comfortable listening to,” Alex Warner, who bills himself as a “British Voiceover Guy,” wrote in an email from Spain, where he lives and works.
When he was young, Flockton bounced around England before landing in Boston and then New York. He acted in television and plays — his passion is theater — and participated in sketch comedy groups in New York. At one point, a colleague told him his voice would be good for voiceover. He made a demo.
That was in the early 1990s. Flockton’s voice work existed alongside his acting work until the early 2000s, when he realized that interest was tipping toward voiceover.
“You go with what’s showing you the most love,” he said.
For years, Flockton recorded his voiceovers in New York studios, whether for established clients or for auditions. Eventually, he moved to the suburbs north of the city, where he built his first home studio. He still has the little stool from that studio, its wooden legs cut short due to the studio’s lack of head room.
In 2010, he guest starred as an oil company CEO on an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. It was just before he left New York. He had the opportunity to tell Mariska Hargitay’s character to “bugger off,” a moment he looks back on with pride.
Then, Vermont. Flockton’s wife, Amy, grew up in the Green Mountain State, and the two would often head there to get away from city life. Now Flockton is more or less a picture of rural Vermont life. He has three cats, five chickens and a horse (and a 6-year-old son). Two more horses live on the property, and have free rein to move from their pen to a sloping backyard with views of ponds and, farther, mountains.
“You make some sacrifices, career-wise, but it’s more than perfect to live in a place you really love,” he said.
His Vermont studio is not showy, nor does it approach the stereotypical picture of a recording studio, with scores of knobs and the sequestered recording booth. Flockton’s studio is a small, sound-dampened room with a desk, three monitors and two microphones that stretch over the screens. Other than the required equipment — a pre-amp, an ISDN box for digital transmission and so on — there’s not much flourish.
Not that there needs to be, for Flockton’s purposes. There are very few studio tricks necessary when it comes to voiceover. If he wants to sound good, he has to do it himself.
And he has to do it on tight deadlines. Many days present a backlog of work, and every day Flockton remotely auditions for new jobs. But any day could see a call from a client who needs something right away. It’s not uncommon for him to get a call from Jimmy Kimmel Live at 6:30 p.m. The show might need narration for a bit in the next 20 minutes, so he’ll get up from dinner, fire up the studio and start recording.
During the day he tries not to venture too far from his house in case of a surprise call. Whenever he goes on overnight trips, such as hosting gigs, he brings a mobile rig. He’s recorded in studios, hotel bathrooms and friends’ closets while on the road.
“That’s sort of the workflow,” Flockton said.
Last week, Flockton recorded his Sky FM radio promos. He was expecting a different script to come in, and so was loath to leave his house. He rifled through files on his computer, looking for an older Sky FM promo. He queued it up.
“In the spirit of fall, the following song is now pumpkin flavored,” came his voice, carried through the whizz-bang sound effects of FM radio. “Mmmm, delicious.”
Jon Wolper can be reach ed at firstname.lastname@example.org or 6 03-727-3242.