Somewhere in Austin, Texas, tonight a band is playing. They’re good. They’re very good. They’ve got a tight rhythm section, guitar hooks for miles, the singer can sing, and they’ve got something to say. In the middle of their set, as they blaze through their favorite number, a mischievous, young, raven-haired woman orders a glass of red wine and sits down at the table in the back. She’s heard through the grapevine that they’re worth checking out, so naturally, she’s there, and if the band knows what’s good for them, tonight they’ll do their damnedest to burn down the house.
For the past few years, Laurie Gallardo has embodied this role and played out this scenario in numerous venues across the city. As an Announcer and Associate Producer for KUT, she has tirelessly championed local acts she believes in, and lucky for them, ‘cause she’s got a righteous platform from which to proselytize, and a hell of a voice with which to do it. Educated in Journalism at UTEP, this girl from West Texas, who used to record songs from the radio onto her tape recorder, recognized the power in music at a very early age, and felt a kinship with those who delivered it. Her love of music is, in her words, “a driving force”, and it’s evident in her work. Through shows like the “Austin Music Minute” and “Laurie’s Town”, it’s apparent that Gallardo does it as much for the sheer joy of the experience as she does for the opportunity to break up-and-coming acts that she thinks should not go unheard.
With SXSW on the horizon, as she prepares for another year of on-air performances, showcases and of course the parties, Gallardo sits down with EG15M to talk about her time at KUT, finding the “joy in the unknown”, her passion for her work as a voice actor and a whole mess of bands who have her screaming her “mantra” from the rooftops. Pay attention, because now is certainly not the time to behave.
What does your business card read versus how you would describe what you do?
My business card says that I’m an announcer and Associate Producer for KUT 90.5 in Austin. Well, I do a lot of announcing on KUT, whether it’s the Austin Music Minute, Laurie’s Town for Texas Music Matters, underwriting, hosting a music show or sitting in for announcer Bob Branson during the drive-time shift, from 3 to 7 p.m. on weekdays. I do production work, and of course, I’m a voice actor. I can do character voices and commercial narration for all sorts of things… everything from commercials to education materials to animation.
What inspired you to get into radio/journalism?
The journalism side of my career comes from my curiosity to see how creative minds work. I used to do stories about artists and a lot of bands in El Paso when I worked for the El Paso Herald-Post, an evening paper that isn’t around anymore. My love of music is what got me fascinated with the idea of radio. When I was younger, I’d be taping songs I liked from my little radio into a tape recorder my parents got for me. Of course, the announcers at these radio stations seemed like really cool people to me. It seemed like they had a very fun job, so naturally I began to follow the work of my favorite announcers, which led me to notice announcers that you hear in nationwide commercials on radio and television, and even the movies.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Listening to so much great music. Who’s lucky enough to say something like that? Music is a huge part of my life anyway, so I’m truly blessed. I also love the nervous energy I get right before I go on live. I always get nervous as hell before I’m on. Scares me to death. But I learned to use that energy and, in the wise words of Tim Gunn, “Make it work.”
During your time at KUT, you have seen and worked with a number of musicians. What stands out in your mind as your most memorable music moment on the air?
Oh man. How much time have you got? I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of getting to know so many talented people here in Austin, so interviewing them is an added bonus. It’s a way I can share their ideas, their creativity and their humor with the listener…especially the humor. In some of these interviews, I swear, sometimes you can hear the grin on my face. I’ve had some of the best times visiting bands in their studios or rehearsal spaces, and hosting performances in KUT’s Studio 1A.
Through your work with shows like Before The Break, Texas Music Matters and the Austin Music Minute you have been an avid supporter of the local music scene in Austin. Why is it important for you to keep searching for and discovering new music?
Honestly, it’s my passion. This is what I love. Music. Words are not enough to describe the elation. It’s a driving force.
What are some of the criteria that you look for when you are looking for new bands to listen to/profile/showcase?
Criteria? Egad! I cannot list any specific criteria. It’s too confining for me. To be blunt, nothing out there is entirely new. We constantly borrow from our inspirations, but I do tend to be drawn toward artists who do a great job of mixing different styles and genres, and maybe provide a fresh outlook on what they love or grew up listening to.
What moves you? What are you listening to these days?
I am having some mad love for Blitzen Trapper. My heart also belongs to The Raveonettes, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Elvis Perkins in Dearland, Gliss, The Avett Brothers, Dawn Landes, and Kaiser Cartel. I’ve been getting into Yeasayer and Lissie. Locally, I’m all over The Black Angels, Stereo Is A Lie, Lee Barber, The Lovely Sparrows, White Denim, The Sour Notes, Uncle Lucius, Wiretree, The Tunnels, Lee Simmons, The Black and White Years, Leo Rondeau, Leatherbag… Oh lord. My peeps know I have mad, mad love for the White Ghost Shivers and The Invincible Czars. I about had a cow when I saw Crawling With Kings reunite to do a show with Zookeeper. (eyes roll to back of head, faints)
You’ve mentioned before that you are also a voice actor/narrator. How did you get into that line of work? What are some of the jobs that you have done in this field?
A friend of mine introduced me to (producer and director) Charlie Campbell, when he was still working for ADV Films, and that was the beginning of my stint with anime. Apparently, I make a pretty damn impressive bad guy. I’ve played quite a few villains, including one in the restoration of Gatchaman – Edwin Neal (from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre) played the male version of Katse, and I was the female counterpart. I also played a lead character in the English-dubbed version of a Korean action film, No Blood, No Tears (2002). I make a pretty good bimbo.
Who are some of the voice actors out there that inspire you?
I’m inspired by people who have impressive, character voice ranges. Take, for example, Jean Hagen. She starred in “Singing In the Rain”, as this actress named “Lina Lamont”, a great beauty, but with a voice that would, as Robert Osborn on Turner Classic Movies said, “…make hyenas’ ears hurt.” I mean…”Lina” was just awful. It was like nails on a chalkboard. But in reality, Jean had a lovely voice, and she could even sing. That, to me, is great talent. It takes an intelligent person to play someone so stupid.
Some of my heroes are the late Paul Frees and Don LaFontaine. I also love the work of Seth MacFarlane, Brendan Small, H. Jon Benjamin and Mark Hamill. Phil Hartman was amazing, may he rest in peace. There’s a brilliant voice actor named Candi Milo who’s done great characters on Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends. Her range is amazing! And let us not forget my mentor, Lainie Frasier. She’s absolutely amazing. She’s taught me a lot about getting into character, and reading a script in the most effective way possible. There’s an art to this, you know.
Any advice for those just starting out in radio?
My advice to budding broadcasters is to never be afraid to learn editing. It will serve you well. It’s not enough to simply be just a pretty voice. Learn to produce your own shows!
You say your mantra is “Don’t Behave”. Where did that phrase originate, and what does it mean to you?
My love, life is short…terribly short. We cling to things that, in the end, are not that important. “Don’t behave” is my way of telling people to live. One of my favorite actors, Rosalind Russell, portrayed a character in a play made into a great film called Auntie Mame (1958), and Mame always said, “Your problem is that you don’t live, live, live! Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!” You have got to appreciate the moment. The time is NOW. Do it NOW. I find it mind-blowing when my friends toss my line right back to me: “Laurie! DON’T behave!!” Good. I hope they remember that. I hope I do, too. If I drown in my own self-pity, be sure to give me a right thunk on the head.
Someday, I’ll provide voices for Family Guy, or The Venture Brothers, or…oooooh! Squidbillies! (sighs dreamily) Imagine working for Adult Swim on Cartoon Network? One of my biggest dreams is to do voice work full time. I’ll probably keep singing. And…who knows? The joy is in the unknown, right around the corner.