Anyone who has listened to Australia’s premier music awards will be familiar with the smooth sound of voiceover artist Nick Bennett.
The Wentworth Falls resident, has spent 34 years as a multimedia broadcaster and journalist and 20 of those years he’s been the voice behind the ARIAs (the Australian Recording Industry Association’s awards), the music industry’s night of nights, signing up once again this year.
“I’m excited about doing my 21st (ARIAs) show [next month]. Over the years, I’ve voiced the awards for Network Ten, Channel Nine and Go, so no matter what network, the show goes on as does a travelling circus.”
The man with a face that is usually split in a watermelon grin, has also interviewed some of the biggest names in the business from Australia and overseas – stars like George Michael, Angelina Jolie, Peter Garrett, John Mayer, Sir Bob Geldof, Neil Finn and Naomi Campbell.
In his first year for the ARIAs at the Capital Theatre in 1997, he remembers clearly how “Crowded House won highest selling album for Recurring Dream andSavage Gardencleaned-up” all the while a sort of chaos was occurring in the background.
“Writer Mike Gee and I were hand-writing voiceover scripts during the live show and telecast. We got there in the end. At the time, I was presenting for Channel [V] and Fox Entertainment News and voiceovers for Fox Kids. Mark Fennessy was Channel [V] manager and EP Cathie Scott asked me to be the VO [voiceover] guy. I’ve done every show since.”
Not that it has always been a glamorous event.
“People often ask where I am on the night. The VO booth has had curious locations such as a stairwell, a green room and the mixing desk.”
Bennett has created a niche in the live arena, voicing events like the AACTA’s [the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards], as well as working on programs like So You Think You Can Dance, Australia’s Next Top Model, The Australia Day Concert, and numerous sporting events, including for the Olympic Committee and Cricket Australia.
“I’ve used my voice in thousands of scenarios over the years; everything from TV shows like The Great Australian Spelling Bee and the Helpmann Awards to radio ads for smash repair shops and video documentaries for Compassion Australia. And that’s just the past year,” he told Review magazine.
It’s been a wild ride that’s been bigger than voiceovers; he’s also a producer and prime time radio and TV presenter, but the voiceovers remain a constant.
“It’s about not being a one-trick pony, having a good range and variation in the ways you read ... from a retail read ... selling Holdens for a used car lot on Parramatta Road … to a considered read, raising money for muscular dystrophy.”
Bennett got his break in the media early. Spurred on by a mum working in the industry, his was mostly a carefree childhood.
“Dad [an ex-Navy man] was inspired to be a ‘blockee’ in Renmark, SA. We had 36 acres of grapes and fruit trees and I loved every minute of it … tractors, motorbikes, throwing apricots and swimming in the Murray River.
“I loved creative writing and storytelling but my mother Kath, demonstrated that you could make a career out of writing. She worked on radio serials such as Dad and Dave and later, wrote radio ads for 3MA Mildura. That’s where the radio bug really settled in. Mum instilled in me the theatre of the mind.”
And he had plenty of other heroes to emulate.
“I remember the Rocky Page hour on 5RM and later across the border in Victoria’s Sunraysia, Bruce “Wacca” McCartney. His show would crackle across the Hay plain; an AM signal from 2SM Sydney. Once I got into the game, Doug Mulray, Stuart Cranney, Barry Bissell and Peter Grace inspired me to lift my game.On the voiceover front, I always loved to hear Gavin Wood on Countdown and, John Blackman on Hey Hey It’s Saturday. People who have got an ability to tell a story.”
His dad died in a car accident at 14 and Bennett left home after finishing school, “making an escape tape” and heading to the Gold Coast to find fame and fortune.
Bennett is overwhelmingly positive, cites reading the Bible as his go-to book, drives a Prius and has learnt as a journalist to try to “rise above negativity and find a light”. He is also big on research, prepping for hours to help the stars relax.
“Entertainers have a hard life. It’s a circus existence. I’ve always believed that the interviewee needs time to shine. That extends to talkback callers on my drive time show at Talking Lifestyle. Everybody has a good story in them somewhere. My job is to help bring it out.
“If I’m conducting a ten minute interview, I’d want to spend at least an hour getting to know somebody thanks to Google. But it’s case by case. When interviewing George Michael for TV in London, I spent days filling my head with all things George - I read his bio, listened to the albums over and over and, looked at videos and any interviews I could access.
“Tough questions need to be framed thoughtfully and respectfully; it’s rare that I’d open the conversation with one though. I’ll leave that to Leigh Sales when she belts up politicians.”
Having a laugh with his interviewees also helps “bring any walls down”.
Bennett lives a quiet life in the Mountains. He met his wife, Emma, 20 years ago when, as a single mum and TV producer, she kept booking him for voiceover jobs. They have a production company called Beatnick Media and have their own studio.
“We gift it to musicians that we love.”
Bennett was a former editor of The Music Network and has also written for Rolling Stone and his syndicated radio shows include the globally distributed Qantas Rock on Q. Locally Bennett has worked on the Blue Mountains Film Festival, projects for Rotary, Adam’s Shed and Scenic World and also helps out with fundraising for theatre at The Carrington.
And while he’s presented and produced prime time shows for Nova, ABC, Triple M, Hope FM and many others, he counts as a real highlight the year spent backpacking through Europe in 1987. He ended up on a floating pirate radio ship in the Mediterranean on Israel’s Voice of Peace – a show that tried to bridge the gap between Jews and Arabs through music. It was a broadcasting and life experience he’s never forgotten.
“The hardest parts were keeping the needle on the record and the food in your belly,” he said.
- The ARIAs are on Tuesday November 28 on Nine. Nick Bennett can be heard on weekdays on the Daily Drive https://www.talkinglifestyle.com.au/Show/the-daily-drive/