Interview: Karen Saltus, June 2016
If Adventure Was Easy, Everyone Would Do It
Karen Saltus is a voiceover and narration talent who has been heard around the world for such prestigious clients as Qwest, Sony, IBM, CVS, Verizon, and many others. In 2011, she set off in her “funky old 27′ 1992 Ford Tioga motorhome”, using Source-Connect over mobile internet and fixed lines when available. After returning to fixed-location life after 19 months on the road, she got back on the road again in 2015 towing a specially fitted-out mobile voice recording booth. She spoke with Source Elements about her travels and how working on the road is made possible with Source-Connect.
Listen to the interview: [ 21 minutes ]
Read all about Karen’s amazing adventures at her website, Son of Voxmobile.
Hi, I’m Rebekah with Source Elements and I’m talking here with someone I spoke to quite a while ago and it’s really awesome to have her again on the line with me, Karen Saltus. Hi Karen.
Hi Rebekah. How are you?
I’m great thanks, yourself?
I’m doing well. Thanks.
I always have to start the conversation with where are you geographically?
Well, right now, I’m in Maine right now. I’ve moved around a bit in the past ten years or so but right now I’m in Maine.
And I’m in New Zealand. I’m in the capital city of Wellington.
Hello over there.
It’s June so for us it’s just going into winter, like, officially winter just started, but it’s very sunny right now, and for you in Maine?
Well, today was 60 degrees and last Saturday it was about 88. So, we’ve been all over the place.
Oh, that’s great.
Yeah, it’s been crazy.
That sounds like spring. So, you’ve been moving around quite a lot so I wanted to talk to you about that. So, when I was talking to you a while ago, I’ve known you since 2006 so going back a while now for both of us and you were mobile, traveling around, enjoying, getting to know the states, I guess, and using source connect to work.
Yeah, it’s interesting because I had gotten ISDN in Massachusetts which wasn’t a problem, and then I had gotten it in Maine which wasn’t a problem, and then I moved out to Arizona and I called the telecom company to make sure I could get ISDN and they said, oh, yes, and then as soon as I bought my house they said, oh, woops, you bought your house in this little corner of our service area that we just recently sold, and it turned out that that little corner of their service area that they had sold upgraded everything and they got rid of their ISDN equipment. So I actually at the time set up a Source-Connect bridge which was only complicated in that I needed to leave a computer at a friend’s house in a town a half an hour away, but it worked beautifully. Since I moved to Maine, I haven’t even checked about ISDN because I don’t get any calls for it anymore. Anybody who used to use ISDN is now using source connect so it hasn’t even been a problem, and then as you mentioned in 2011, I bought an RV and converted the back bedroom into a mobile studio and used source connect whenever my clients wanted to do a live session with me and as long as I had decent internet which I was able to find from time to time, it again worked beautifully.
That’s wonderful. So, what kind of places did you go to?
I started, of course, in Arizona and then I kind of moved quickly over to Raleigh because a friend of mine was having a milestone birthday and I wanted to celebrate with her so I was there for a couple of months I think, then I went over to the coast of North Carolina for about a month, and then I was down in Florida for quite a while because my mom lived down there and she was getting up there in years and I wanted to be able to be with her when it was her time to pass but she was in southern Florida and I am not a heat seeker so I would from time to time go up to Saint Augustine, Florida which is pretty close to the Georgia border and is a little cooler. So, I moved back and forth between those places and because I was doing that, I would call, this is kind of funny because up until then I was using mobile broadband to get internet, and I went down to her town which was Naples and I couldn’t get any signal at all and somebody in this little park that I was talking to said, oh, talk to Kenny, Kenny knows everything. So, I talked to Kenny and Kenny said, just call Comcast, the whole park is wired for Comcast.
So, I said, okay, and I called Comcast and I ordered service. Then when I went back up to Saint Augustine I called Comcast, and of course, I was going to be there for at least a month and that’s when it makes sense. Again it worked great, I had nice strong internet, and I’ve since come to find out that all of these parks have TV, they all have cable TV because that’s what everybody requires. As long as they’ve got cable TV you’ve got internet, so you just have to call them up and order it, and then you have to either rent a modem or buy a modem. In my case I have my own modem, and so you can get internet at all these places. This is stuff that you find out after a while.
So, you obviously then are not afraid of technology which makes it possible for you to do these things.
You know, I was an audio producer for many years so I kind of got used to equipment. I was in audiophile as a teenager and then when you decide to do something like I did, go out in the RV, nobody had really done it before on such a long term basis. People had done it for a weekend, a week or two, here or there, but nobody had ever done it long term, and I spent a lot of nights laying awake trying to figure out how I was going to make it all happen, and when I found out about mobile broadband, it was, like, well, there we go, and I have to tell you when I got my mobile broadband it was, like, oh, how do I set up a static IP address because I was so used to doing that with my home computer and modem and all this stuff, oh, my gosh, that totally stymied me until I talked to somebody who said you don’t need to do that with mobile broadband, and I was, like, oh, okay, so, I crossed that hurdle, and a lot of times it’s just making a lot of phone calls, looking online, trying to figure these things out, I try to be friends with people who know a little bit more than I do technologically so I can call on them when I need help.
We all do.
So, it worked out pretty well.
So, how did it feel, I’m really interested to know what the experience was, you own your RV, it’s become your home, and you’re needing to work in real time remotely, you know, using your voice, being comfortable to be able to perform, you have to have a certain level of confidence that things are just going to work out. So, I’m really interested to know how you’ve gotten to that space.
Oh, I still work on that because you are not in control, you know, here you are in this environment, most of us who are full time, we have our sound booth in our house or in our closet or basement, and you know, there’s a certain level of quiet, and when you’re at an RV park, oh, my gosh, a lot of diesel trucks, motorcycles, I was a mile from a small commercial airport, you can’t control that, and the hardest part was dealing with clients who wanted to record in real time because they want a nice pristine sound and you can’t always offer that to them because it’s out of your control, and so, you come up with little things, sometimes these little tactics, like, oh, can we take five minutes, I need to get some water, when you know there’s a plane going overhead for the fifth time, or sometimes you just have to reschedule, or there was one time where there was a bit of noise and it was not going to be a good session, but I just went ahead and did it, and then when it got quiet, I redid everything, but I already had down what the client wanted so I just went in and just kind of redid everything and cleaned it all up and sent it off. I know last year I had a particular problem, I had a new cargo trailer because I got rid of the RV and now I have a van and I tow a cargo trailer, and the cargo trailer, the guy who built it kind of messed up in one place so there was more noise than I was comfortable with but I was rather shocked that not one single client said a word or complained. So, apparently, I’m a little more cognisant of that than other people, and you have to be careful that you don’t turn your headphones up too loud because you will hear everything and you’ll just never be able to work so you have to find that comfortable place of, okay, there’s, you know, I can hear ambient noise when it comes in that’s going to affect the recording, you have to play with that a lot and sometimes you have to play with your settings and try to figure out what’s going to work, what’s going to sound the best
You are prepared for failure, I suppose.
Well, it’s funny because I would say to the people I knew in the park, oh, my gosh, it was very plane-y today, there were a lot of planes, and people started saying to me, you know, I never used to notice those before but now I hear them all the time, like, welcome to my world. I particularly don’t like small planes because they take forever to go by. I’d rather just give me a jet, it goes five seconds, it comes and goes, but the little planes just take forever.
And do you feel that this kind of work you’re able to do, I’m trying to get at the performance aspect of this because, you know, maybe you have more time for yourself living in this environment rather than sitting live, oh, I’ve got to run out and do everything and get everything done and run all these errands. You don’t have that, you’re just really enjoying being in the moment so you have more time to give a performance, you have more time to think about what you’re giving.
I’m not sure that that’s part of my consciousness because I’ve been doing this for so long, I just do it and I don’t really think a whole lot about it. I do know that last year it was noisy enough that I had to work at night a lot and it is nice to have that option, and maybe I am more relaxed because I don’t have a car, when I’m in Florida, I ride my bike everywhere, and you know, you don’t have to vacuum, and you don’t have to do a lot of the things that you have to do when you own a house, so, yeah, you do have a lot more time, that’s for sure.
Do you have any other advice perhaps, like, for example, don’t bring really heavy hardware because that’s just going to make you waste all the gas.
Oh, well, forget about that because everything that you get is going to be a gas guzzler, gosh, I don’t know, I guess I get calls and emails from people wanting to talk to me about traveling and being able to work and I guess I would just say go for it. It’s a little scary, it’s a jump off a cliff, it’s something that I always had fantasised about doing and the main problem that I could see was internet and then once I realised that there was mobile broadband, I had no more obstacles in my way and I just did it, and I’m one of those people that I sort of do things and then as I’m doing them I say what was I thinking, but then I never regret it. I don’t regret this stuff, I’m just kind of surprised that all of a sudden there I am driving away from my house with the for sale sign on it and I’m not going to be going back there, and I’ve got all my stuff with me and here I am, I’m on the road. So, that was a very odd feeling, you know, I’m not used to that kind of freedom so that was very interesting, but I just say go for it.
That sounds like a nice freedom to get used to.
Yeah, it’s nice to come home, too, though.
It sounds like you were able to take everything you needed and make the best of what you had and generally just sounds like a very pleasant interesting experience.
Most of the time, sometimes it’s challenging but that’s what makes it an adventure.
Yeah, and speaking of small planes, one just went past, I don’t know if you could hear it.
Yeah, I heard it.
Now, I’m hearing them. So, thank you so much for talking to me. It gave me some really great notes. I’m going to write up some little things here and I think we could put together a nice little, like, help checklist for other people who might be interested in doing some of this, and I’m sure there’s a lot more that you could tell us. I won’t keep you too much later but I just wanted to thank you again, and are you going back on the road?
Well, probably next winter, well, actually, not winter, it’s more like early spring. I like winter, I hate March so I try to escape Maine in March because it’s kind of muddy, you can’t really, you know, you can’t bike, you can’t hike, you can’t ski, or any of those things so I will probably be going back out. I will say that I have a blog if people just want to go to my website, karensaltus.com, they can read the blog, if they have any questions just feel free to email me or give me a call, I’m happy to talk to you if I’m not too busy because I think it’s pretty cool to try to do this and if people have that as their dream, and I’ve heard a lot of people say that, then I want to encourage that.
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