Help me congratulate Michael Crouch, voice actor extraordinaire, on being named a 2021 Golden Voice. As you’ll discover in the audiobooks featured here, Michael is well known for his ability to increase the suspense of a mystery, add excitement to an adventure, and tease out the deep emotions in literary fiction.
Michael is, however, first and foremost a master at creating believable characters across ages and genders. For example, in LYRICS FOR ROCK STARS by Heather Mateus Sappenfield, he convincingly portrays a 108-year-old man in one story, and in LOOT: HOW TO STEAL A FORTUNE by Jude Watson, he switches smoothly between the voices of preteen boys and girls.
The following recommended audiobooks highlight Michael’s solo performances in a variety of styles, so you’ll be sure to find new titles to add to your listening wish list.
AN OCCASIONALLY HAPPY FAMILY by Cliff Burke is geared to a middle-grade audience, but this layered story will appeal to listeners of all ages. On one level, the audiobook is about a family camping trip, complete with funny mishaps and the unique people the Ripleys meet along the way. But at the core of the audiobook is how 13-year-old Theo, his older sister, and his father come to terms with a family death that none of them has fully faced. Michael delivers on all fronts: connecting listeners to the family’s grief, punching up the humor, and capturing the rhythms of the dialogue.
Clear some time in your schedule, because once you start listening to KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF by Tom Ryan, you may not want turn off the audiobook. This cold-case thriller is set in a small town, a year after Mac’s best friend was murdered by a serial killer. Mac begins his own investigation of the crimes when he discovers new information, but finds help from a cute boy who was related to one of the victims. The pair find themselves on a dark journey, wondering whom they can trust. Michael sets a suspenseful mood, keeping listeners on edge as the boys’ relationship deepens and they start to understand the evidence they’ve uncovered.
MY NAME IS ANTON by Catherine Ryan Hyde is a bittersweet story of a teenager’s first true love under difficult circumstances. When 18-year-old Anton is left on his own during the Christmas holidays, he learns his somewhat older neighbor is in an abusive marriage. As he tries to help her find safety, he falls in love, though he understands she must leave. Years later, they meet again by chance, and Anton has a second chance to see where his constant and deep feelings will take him. Michael shines in his characterizations, which reflect the protagonists’ personalities and the way they and their relationship change over time.
An unlikely but supportive friendship is at the center of Rufi Thorpe’s coming-of-age story THE KNOCKOUT QUEEN. Two lonely high schoolers can be themselves only with each other: Young Michael is hiding that he’s gay, and Bunny wants boys to see beyond her body size. When Bunny tries to protect her friend from bullying, her single act of violence changes their lives forever. Michael Crouch’s sensitive, thoughtful performance gives the teens an angsty edge while distinguishing their different personalities and individual challenges.
LIGHTS ALL NIGHT LONG by Lydia Fitzpatrick looks at 20th-century America from the perspective of a troubled Russian exchange student. Ilya has mixed feelings about attending high school in Louisiana. He has always dreamed of living in the USA, but his older brother, Vladimir, has been convicted of murders Ilya is sure he didn’t commit. Life with the well-off Mason family is the polar opposite of his impoverished upbringing, yet Ilya’s focus is not on the well-stocked grocery stores and modern technology. Instead, he and one of the Mason daughters, who has secrets of her own, together to try to prove Vladimir’s innocence, neither understanding what solving the mystery will reveal. Michael mixes his excellent sense of timing, skill with accents, and credible characterizations to add depth and energy to this story of brothers and family.
Now that you’ve gotten a taste for his talents as an audiobook narrator, it’s time to learn more about Michael Crouch the person. I am so pleased he agreed to answer a few questions about his life as a voice actor.
AudioFile: What is the one thing you wish you knew before you recorded your first book?
Michael Crouch: I wish I’d known that once you step into the studio there’s no time to waste. You’re expected to record a lot of material each day . . . and there’s no rehearsal process. With my first book I was not mentally prepared to tackle 75–100+ pages in a single recording session.
AF: What’s you most embarrassing moment in the recording booth?
MC: In late 2019, I narrated a lot of books back to back. I was grateful for the work, but I was also exhausted. There were definitely nights when I didn’t get much sleep. During one recording session at Penguin Random House, I kept messing up the same lines over and over again. I got so frustrated that I slapped myself across the face! I must have looked batshit crazy.
AF: What’s the first task you tackle when given a new audiobook project?
MC: I Google an image of the book’s cover. Most covers do a great job of capturing the book’s style and personality. My ears and voice are essential to the project, but my eyes are just as important. I’m actually a very visual learner.
AF: What kinds of things do you do to protect your voice in your down time?
MC: I’ve had sinus issues over the years, so I make sure to stay on top of my monthly allergy shots and prescriptions. I’ll make followup appointments with my ENT or otolaryngologist if it’s time. Other than that, I try to stay as hydrated as possible.
AF: What do you never wear in the recording booth?
MC: I never wear heavy clothes. Recording booths can get hot and sweaty, especially on humid days. Best to dress as lightly and comfortably as possible. I’ve recorded over 200 audiobooks, and I can think of only one or two times that I was ever cold in the booth!
Thanks so much, Michael, for taking the time to talk with us today. Seeing you slap yourself might have been a first for the technicians! I can relate to the feelings of frustration. And I agree that the book's cover art gives us a hint of what’s inside.