ShareThis Page

Peters artist gives voice to ads, books and more

| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 8:54 p.m.
Voiceover artist, Bob Souer talks about his career in his Peters Township studio, Thursday, November 15, 2012. Souer, who’s worked in the industry for years, has done commercials for companies ranging from American Express to Sleep Number bed, has narrated dozens of audio books and even does promos for Hollywood movies. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review

Bob Souer can find the story in just about anything, whether it's a documentary about George Washington's youth or an instructional video on forklift safety.

For three decades, Souer, 58, of Peters, a voiceover artist, has lent his bass-baritone to everything from commercials to documentaries; audio books to instructional videos; and corporate narration to telephone recordings.

No matter the project, Souer considers himself a storyteller first.

“I'm recording a safety video for forklifts. That's pretty serious business,” he said. “Someone can get hurt. I want to tell that story in a way that's interesting. You don't want people to fall asleep.”

Souer's commercial clients have included American Express, Dollar Bank, Wheeling Hospital and the San Francisco Giants.

Listeners might recognize him as the voice telling them that “The No. 1 prescribed allergy medicine is now available without a prescription” for Children's Zyrtec or that Sleep Number Bed “invented a better way to get sleep at night.”

He's recorded dozens of audio books — 18 this year alone. The process is like a “marathon,” he said, and fiction can be trickier than nonfiction.

He recalls one of his peers recording a work of science fiction without first reading it. When he got to page 289, he realized the character was supposed to have an accent. Pressed for time, the author instructed him to remove any reference to the accent, a decision that affected the six subsequent books in the series.

“You have to read the book,” Souer said. “You have to know each character, each person. If they're a man or a woman, if they have a tough voice or a squeaky voice, you have to find a way to do that.”

When he's working on a book, he said, he records two to six chapters a day during hour- to 90-minute sessions.

Souer, a member of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, works from a sound-proof studio he built in the garage of his home.

His career started in 1979 in a Chicago suburb when he was working as a sales manager for a homebuilder.

Frank Dawson, a program director at WKKD Radio in Aurora, Ill., who bought a house from Souer, insisted he audition for a position at the station. After weeks of coaxing, Souer finally agreed, and went up against seven others — five with radio experience — for the job.

Souer got it, and for three months, he was on air during the overnight shift once a week when the regular deejay had the night off. Three months later, he was in a full-time, daytime slot.

One day, during the midday show, the rest of the office was out at lunch when the phone rang. It was a man from a company called Video Impressions, who was seeking someone to do voiceovers. Souer sent the company a demo tape but heard nothing for nine months.

Souer had moved to WAIT AM 820 in Chicago by the time Video Impressions contacted him again. They wanted him for a federal high energy research laboratory called Fermilab. Souer took the job, and Fermilab remains a client.

For 26 years, Souer did voiceover work on the side, apprehensive about dedicating himself fully to the ever-changing industry. He worked as a senior producer for the Billy Graham Association and as a program director for a slew of radio stations, including WORD-FM and WPIT-AM in Pittsburgh.

In 2009, he began doing voiceover full-time.

Now, Souer is a resource for the field. On his blog,, he highlights the work of his peers, offers his own insights and helps people connect.

Fellow voiceover artist and friend Rowell Gormon said he's relied on Souer many times for guidance. He describes Souer's voice as “very solid, very friendly with a touch of authority but not so much that it puts anybody off.”

“He really enjoys telling a story,” said Gormon, of Raleigh, N.C. “He engages the ear. It's not just someone reading words in a nice voice.”

Souer and his wife Cinda have four children: Karen, 30, Eric, 22, David, 17, and Brian, 15. Eric helps edit his recorded copy, and Karen helps direct.

Cinda Souer, who studied vocal performance in college, said she can't get enough of her husband's “calm and collected” delivery.

“I melt just listening to him,” she said.

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.