It’s no secret that Hollywood and New York City are major centers for acting. But major- market talent also can be found in Memphis.
Voice-over actor and producer Rick Tarrant, the owner of Memphis-based Rick Tarrant Productions, said the region has plenty of its own talent to boast about. That includes his own voice, which has been heard on a range of mediums, including 100s of radio stations, commercials and Sirius XM.
Although Tarrant was born in Memphis, he moved to Seattle, Washington at an early age. It was there that he became captivated by the radio, specifically after having heard The Beatles for the first time on KJR-Channel 95.
“When I was supposed to be going to sleep, I would sneak the radio into the bed with me and I would listen to the disc jockey. I was enamored by it,” Tarrant said. “I didn’t know it at the time that the radio was going to be a part of my life, but as I look back, I can see what an important role it was playing.”
At a young age Rick's family moved from the city of Seattle to the rural South. When he was 15 he landed a disc jockey gig at KVSA, a 1000 watt radio station located just outside of McGehee, Ark. This began his now-extensive background in radio. At 21, he returned to his roots in Memphis and landed a job at WHBQ, where Tarrant worked with many great talents including George Klein and Rick Dees. “I’m the Rick that got fired when Rick Dees got hired,” Tarrant joked.
However, when one door closed, another door opened, and from WHBQ, Tarrant went to the William B. Tanner Co., where, for the first time, Tarrant was taught how to produce in a multi-track recording studio.
“The lights just came on for me,” he said.
Tarrant took his new fascination for production and went to work for WDIA, the first radio station in America programmed for the African- American audience. At WDIA Rick formed friend- ships with black radio pioneers, including A C Williams, Theo Wade, Robert Thomas and "The Deadly Doctor" Bobby Brown. Sometimes Memphis music legend Rufus Thomas would drop by the studio. "Rufus would drop in and tell great stories about his days on Beale Street. At the time I didn’t really appreciate it because I was thinking, ‘Man, I've got work to do and here you are bending my ear,’” Tarrant said.
“Now I am thinking, ‘Why wasn’t I rolling tape?!!”
In 1982, Tarrant left his job and started his radio production company. This is where he began his career in voice-over acting. In the beginning, his regular customers were Christian radio stations and record labels, which were growing rapidly in popularity.
Between family life – wife, Kristy, and children, Leslie and Michael – and his busy career, Tarrant still makes time to practice his skill. “In this business – I guess in any business – if you want to continue to work, you better continue to improve because I promise you somebody else is,” Tarrant said.
Tarrant traveled to Southern California to work with other voice-over actors and voice-over coaches, as well as attend seminars, workshops and conferences. By exposing himself to the same education many well-known voice-over actors receive, Tarrant was able to return to Memphis and use his local talent.
“I wouldn’t want to paint the picture that it’s been all success, all success, all the time,” he said.
Like many companies, Rick's business has been affected by the recession. After 20 years of success, Tarrant lost the radio show he was producing – one that aired on more than 200 stations and in 23 countries around the globe.
“I went into a dark place of despondency,” Tarrant said.
At my lowest point I pulled out some recordings I had made for StarSong Records called “Words of Encouragement” . It was a spoken word project mixing meditational music with select Bible verses. I would play these on continuous loop all night so that when I woke with anxious thoughts, I would hear Jesus’ words replacing my own,” he said.
Hoping his recordings would help others struggling with a difficult time, Tarrant created www.wordsofencouragement.net, where visitors can listen and download encouragement to themselves or others.
A high water mark for Tarrant was being cast in a national TV ad campaign for Time-Warner Cable.
"It came out of the blue when I was contacted by a producer working with agencies in Minneapolis and New York City. We recorded the session here in Memphis at River City Sound and ARDENT Recording Studio. I was thrilled with the way it turned out."
Tarrant continues to explore how to combine his love for voice-over, vintage studio gear and music. "On the one hand, things are harder in the online world we live in due to increased competition. On the other hand there are more opportunities that I never imagined."
Tarrant says it is much easier for someone to get involved in the voice-over business today as technology progresses.
“The tools are now available for people to get in the game, but it takes more than just the tools,” he said. “There’s an old proverb that says, ‘Tools doth not a carpenter make.’ If you want to stay in the game, you need to keep learning.”
Memphis, TN United States
Rick Tarrant is a veteran voice performer with thousands of promo, commercial, narration, and presentation credits. Professional experience includes: Radio/TV imaging, voiceacting, onair talent, production, program syndication, commercials (on and offcamera)