Talking with Michael Crouch
In June 2021, Michael Crouch was inducted as a Golden Voice, AudioFile's lifetime achievement honor for audiobook narrators.
What helps you achieve an emotional connection to a book and the characters?
When I finish reading the book, I grab my notepad and write a brief Gut Response--any thoughts, feelings, or personal connections that jump to mind. It’s helpful to refer back to these notes after doing more tedious work like researching pronunciations, accents, etc. It’s a way to get out of my head and into my body. When recording, I nudge the analytical part of my mind aside and tap into the active or emotional energy flowing through the words. The emotional connection comes from there.
You narrate a lot of audiobooks for children and young adults--what do you enjoy about the genres?
They help me reconnect with the kid in me. Things like dressing up in costumes and making home movies with my cousins. Driving while blasting music for the first time. First love, first heartbreak. I like recalling how it felt when these experiences were brand new.
Tell us about a time you’ve gotten feedback from a fan.
A man who lived through the very worst of the AIDS epidemic sent me a message after listening to THE GREAT BELIEVERS. He thanked me for helping him remember his partner and the many friends he’d lost. He took time to list each of their names. It was incredibly humbling.
What has surprised you the most about your work in audiobooks?
There’s room to break every rule you learn. Each book is different. I used to tell myself things like, “I should read every book at a relatively slow pace” or “I should fill every middle-grade audio with big, animated characterizations.” But then I would inevitably come across a book that just begged to be read at a faster pace or a middle-grade audio that needed really subtle characterizations. I have to stay sensitive to what each book is asking for. It’s an art, not a science.
Interview, 2015--Narrator Michael Crouch went to Ithaca College for musical theater, but nearing the end of his program he changed his mind. “I didn’t love it enough to build a life around it,” he says. He still wanted to be creative, still wanted to act, so he began to look into voice-over work. “It stole my heart. I love it!”
A few years later, his friend, narrator Christina Delaine, recommended taking Paul Ruben’s class on audiobook narration. Ruben, an audiobook director, producer, and coach, is, according to Crouch, “awesome!” He continues, “Paul is all about finding the life beneath and around the words of an audiobook and making discoveries as you narrate.”
Crouch balances preparation with studio spontaneity in a process he thinks of as connect-the-dots. “The words themselves are a series of dots; my preparation connects the dots and creates a framework. Then, once I’m in the studio, in the moment, I fill in the colors and the shapes. Preparation allows me to feel rooted in the story, so I can feel confident in my moment-to-moment work.”
In two years of recording, Crouch has put into practice all he’s learned, winning Earphone Awards for his excellence, especially in children’s and YA audios. “YA is a nice niche for me because I can pull off a youthful sound but bring adult chops to it.”
Crouch is expert at creating nuance, often by uniting opposites. He certainly did this while narrating the part of Dill, one of three characters in Jeff Zentner’s THE SERPENT KING. “The writing is from Dill’s point of view in the third person, and the author uses italics to voice Dill’s first-person thoughts. It was an interesting challenge to contrast his voiced thoughts with the dialogue and narrative.”
THE SERPENT KING was one of Crouch’s two favorite narration projects; the other was Becky Albertalli’s SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA. “That main character is near and dear to my heart. It’s a touching story, but when I first read it, I laughed out loud many times. I missed both those heroes when the recording sessions were over. Some jobs are just jobs, but those characters lingered and have a special place in my heart.”
Crouch has a home studio where he has recorded tons of auditions, anime voices, and thirty-second commercials. But he’s never done an audiobook at home. “Preparing an audiobook for performance is a huge enough task on its own. If I have a choice, I’d rather not take on additional roles. Being in front of an engineer or director in a studio makes me a little nervous, and when I’m put on the spot, my best work comes out. If I were at home, I might be a little too comfortable.”--Susie Wilde
[JUNE/ JULY 2015]
Photo by Christine Cain-Weidner
© AudioFile 2021, Portland, Maine
Oliver Loving AudioFile Best of 2018 Fiction
Hope Nation AudioFile Best of 2018 Young Adult
I Have Lost My Way AudioFile Best of 2018 Young Adult
The Ship of the Dead AudioFile Best of 2017 Children & Family Listening
Goodbye Days AudioFile Best of 2017 Young Adult
See You in the Cosmos AudioFile Best of 2017 Children & Family Listening
Salt to the Sea Audies Award 2017, AudioFile Best of 2016 Young Adult
The Serpent King AudioFile Best of 2016 Young Adult
The Big Dark AudioFile Best of 2016 Children & Family Listening�
Photo by Dennis J. Photography
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