Talking with Ron Butler
Multitalented award-winning narrator Ron Butler says he was always a theatrical child. “I was the kid who would round up all the neighborhood kids and make them put on a musical. I’d teach them all the parts, and I’d direct them, and then I’d call all the parents together and sit everybody down, and we would put on a show.” Butler’s father is Bahamian, and his mother is American. He grew up going back and forth between the two countries, returning to the Bahamas when he was about eight years old. He finished the rest of his school years in the Caribbean, and, while there, he was exposed to the world of the night clubs and performers. “My father is the number one recording artist of the Bahamas. He’s a Calypso singer/songwriter, and he’s been the top recording artist for about six decades.”
Even so, Butler’s interests lie in math and science. “In college I started out being pre-med and ended up a history major. I fell in love with history. I love the storytelling aspect of history.” While he lived in Washington, DC, his interest in theater was rekindled. Getting an agent led to theater jobs, commercials, and an ongoing relationship with the Atlantic Theater Company in New York City.
Of being in the recording booth, the Los Angeles-based actor says, “I love being alone in the recording booth. I love wearing all the hats while narrating. You’re creating everything from beginning to end in your head, and I love that.” To keep things fresh, he takes regular breaks from the booth. “I’ll do a headstand against the wall. I’ll go out and do a couple of yoga stretches. I’ve found I have to keep moving.” For CHASING SPACE, by Leland Melvin, he wanted the tone of the narration to match the character of the astronaut, and, although he didn’t meet the author, he did extensive research, getting the opportunity to listen to him and watch some of his film footage. “His tone is very clear in the book, and I felt a real responsibility to stay true to the man and the book.”
At one point, Butler did a series of novels in a genre new to him and one he wasn’t expecting to enjoy. “I got to the end of the third book, and I could barely get through the last five pages, because I kept crying. It totally got me. I literally was a blubbering mess and had to keep stopping.” Most recently, he recorded GHOST OF THE INNOCENT MAN, by Benjamin Rachlin. “It’s a beautiful and heartrending true story of wrongful conviction.” The delightful Butler--who has professionally impersonated Barack Obama, has his own YouTube channel and has written, produced, and directed several musical parodies--notes that the audiobook industry has gotten bigger and busier since he began narrating nearly three years and more than 50 audiobook titles ago. He says, “I’m really happy about that.”--S.J. Henschel
© AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine
Photo courtesy of the narrator
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