Author Taro Meyer: On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in Audio Acting.

An Interview With Guernslye Honoré

Guernslye Honore
Authority Magazine

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I wish someone had told me it’s okay to lighten up. I would tear myself up trying to get everything I did be perfect. I want my projects to be as good as possible, and I will always strive for that. I love to work with people who share a “let’s make it the best we can” attitude, but I’m working on releasing myself from the anxiety about it when it does come up.

As a part of our series about On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in Audio Acting., I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Taro Meyer.

Taro Meyer is a Grammy-winning audiobook producer and director whose work has garnered Audie and Earphone awards. Her productions have been named to the lists for ALA Notable Recordings, the YALSA Top Ten, Publishers Weekly Annual Best of the Best, and Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults.

A former actor and singer, Meyer starred on Broadway in Zorba, with Anthony Quinn, and in the miniseries Memories of Midnight, opposite Omar Sharif. She has also starred off Broadway and in daytime TV.

Meyer received Gold and Platinum Albums for her work with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO). She was co-producer of the multiple touring companies of TSO’s arena show, and directed Ossie Davis in the narrated version of TSO’s first album, Christmas Eve and Other Stories. Meyer co-produced the TV Special, The Ghosts of Christmas Eve, starring
Ossie David, Jewel, Michael Crawford and Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Meyer wrote and co-produced the children’s album Mighty Musical Fairy Tales, starring international artist and Grammy winner Patti Austin. She is currently directing the 5th audiobook in the smash hit series that launched with Eragon, and is Associate Producer of a new musical, Relapse, showcasing in New York on Theater Row, September 2023.

Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

A friend who owned an audiobook publishing company asked me to take over the last half hour of a session he’d be directing. I was an actress and singer and I’d never directed before so I was a bit hesitant. but the narrator would be the extraordinary actor, Ruby Dee. I definitely couldn’t miss an opportunity to sit in on a session with her. Just in case I would be asked for my opinion, I read the book being recorded several times. I had notes for everything: the tone of the story, the style of the language, the imagery. I had notes for each character’s personality, their objectives, their actions.

Lucky I did, because when I walked into the studio, the publisher said he had to leave earlier in the session than anticipated. The publisher introduced me to as the director. I was surprised but of course, I couldn’t show it. We began the session and soon, I felt a scene wasn’t being read properly. I was nervous, but gave Ruby my direction, taken from one of those notes I written. Ruby looked at me across the glass separating the control room where we were all s sitting, from the recording booth. She smiled and said, “Oh yes! That’s a wonderful idea! That’s what we’ll do.”

The publisher got up, patted me on the shoulder and left. I knew from that moment on my career would be focused on audiobooks. I loved everything about it. I loved the creativity, the ability of actors to bring a story to life off the page. I loved that I was able to help them navigate the landscape of the book and come up with new ideas. I loved the people involved, everyone working together to bring an audiobook to listeners. Ruby and I became good friends and went on to do many wonderful projects together, including her and her husband, Ossie Davis’, autobiography, With Ruby and Ossie, In This Life Together, for which we won a Grammy.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I was directing my daughter, Ari Meyers, early in her audiobook career. I was giving her a note when she stopped me and said, “Mom, just say “take it again.” “Really?” I asked. “How will you know what I’m suggesting if I don’t tell you?” “You’re my mother,” she said. “I know everything you’re thinking!” So the next time I had a direction for her I simply said, ‘Take it again.” She did exactly what I would have told her to do. I loved that response. It demonstrated how profoundly a mother and daughter can understand each other. There’s a rhythm that flows between us. It’s a great feeling to share that intuitive understanding.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was an actor before my career in audiobooks and was in a mini-series, playing the extremely wealthy, upper crust wife of the character played by renowned actor, Omar Sharif. The scene was an elegant dinner we were hosting. I was fabulously gowned, coifed, made up and draped with incredibly gorgeous jewelry that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. They’d even assigned a guard… not to protect me, but to protect the jewelry. I totally looked the part. But during rehearsal, we had to lift our wineglasses in a toast. I lifted mine holding the bowl of the wineglass. This was clearly not how my character should have done it because Mr. Sharif silently looked at me, then flicked his eyes to his glass and without a word, lifted it by the stem.

I did as he had kindly instructed. It was funny and touching. He could have made me feel badly about my character error, but he didn’t. He could have made a point of correcting me in front of others, but he didn’t. He was supportive and kind. I’ve never forgotten that. And not only do I still lift my wineglass by the stem, but I make certain to couch any direction or lesson I want to convey with as much kindness and privacy as possible.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m of course thrilled that my book Audiobook Acting: A Master Class in the Art and the Business has just been released by Silman-James Press. My goal in writing it was to give as many actors as possible the tools that will help them excel in the industry. I’m also very excited about two projects I’m working on now. One is the audiobook version of Grandpa Bernie’s Bedtime Stories, written by first time author, Bernie Ditchik, who will turn 100 in January, 2024. He’s a fantastic example of someone who stays creative and productive no matter their age. His stories are unique and express love of all people and all creatures. The audiobook is read by first time narrator, Googy Gress, who sounds like the grandpa you’d love to be told stories by. My other exciting project is the audiobook recording of Murtagh, the fifth in the wildly popular series, The Inheritance Cycle. The author of this fantasy series, Christopher Paolini, represents the opposite of Grandpa Bernie. Mr. Paolini was a teenager when he launched his series with the now classic book, Eragon in 2003.

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

Fear of failure is common, and it can drain you. Focus on action instead, focus on the tangible things you can do to achieve your goal. Don’t focus on whether you’ll be a success or failure, focus on the work itself. With regard to aspiring audiobook actors, as I noted in the beginning of this interview, focus on acquiring the skills essential to an excellent audiobook read. Know and prepare the tools required to promote yourself. Having the skills and the business knowledge will give you a sense of power and agency. That’s the best way to fight the fear.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture.

….On the psychological side, it is empowering to see one’s self represented on screen in a positive manner, and to have your voice reaching the viewer. We all take cues from media about what life is about, what’s important and who is important. Television and film in particular inform young people of what’s expected of them and what is possible for them.
Girls seeing themselves as scientists or business leaders onscreen shows them that those roles are in their reach. Children of minority groups and kids with disabilities will see themselves as cared for, valuable and important. They’ll know that not only do they matter, but they too have a world of opportunities and a lot to contribute because they’ve seen it in the movies. We owe that to all our children.

….On the labor side, increased diversity opens the door to innovation and creativity from many different sources. These voices are bringing new and exciting programming, and their participation is an engine of economic growth.

….On the creative side, we enrich our national culture and character by the diversity of faces,
voices and points of view. We pull back the curtain from false illusions about others, and we see the common humanity in all of us. Seeing the ‘other’ as my brother or sister has a powerful impact on the possibilities for a greater sense of community. This diversity of perspectives allows us to expand our understanding of each other, of our different histories and the forces that have shaped our different world views. It is through this we can create a more accepting and kinder society. As our world gets smaller and smaller, and our interactions with other nations more intertwined, understanding and celebrating the tremendous, glorious diversity of humanity will increase the opportunities for us to work together for the benefit of all.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

1. Lighten Up
I wish someone had told me it’s okay to lighten up. I would tear myself up trying to get everything I did be perfect. I want my projects to be as good as possible, and I will always strive for that. I love to work with people who share a “let’s make it the best we can” attitude, but I’m working on releasing myself from the anxiety about it when it does come up.

2. Just Say Yes

I was asked to be an associate producer for a film. I’d never done that before, so I felt a little uncomfortable. I thanked him but as I was starting to decline, the producer stopped me. “I want your input,” he told me. “Just say yes,” So I did. I realized that I was needlessly closing the door to an opportunity that would be positive for my personal development and a positive for him as well. Challenges will come from unexpected places. Now “Just say yes,” is my inner mantra.

3 . Don’t Let a Setback Set You Back

The entertainment industry can be filled with setbacks, so you have to be able to take the hits and keep going. People told me it’s a hard life, you need to be tough, you may not make it. But those words are defeatist. There’s a song lyric by writer Barry Orms, that was performed in a show I did years ago called Bones. It says:

“Don’t be discouraged, you just started in the dance.

If you’re really in love with life, it’s not an overnight romance.

Once you get started, stay on the right track.

Don’t let a setback set you back.”

I love those lyrics. They give you a positive focus. They are encouraging. They say that anything is possible if you keep moving forward. And best of all, they do it in rhyme.

3. Find the fun

No one had ever suggested I could have fun doing something I was not especially good at. Of course everyone is asked to do things for work at which they don’t excel, but in show business you have to do it in front of a large audience.

Early in my career, I was cast in the show I mentioned, Bones, for my singing and acting ability. On the first day of rehearsal, I was horrified to discover that I would also have to dance. That is an art for which I have little to no talent. I consider myself a fairly serious person, and the thought of kicking up my heals in front of an audience was pretty daunting. Luckily, however, everyone else in the cast was a great dancer. So for the dance numbers, I decided to hide in the back row of the group, way, way off to the side. So far to the side in fact, that I was actually dancing offstage in the left wing of the theater. I hoped no one would notice. But the choreographer soon caught on to me.

“Taro,” he called out. “You’re not on the stage! We can’t see you.” “Yes, I know,” I called back. Can I stay here?” “No,” he said laughing. “Get out here!” So having no choice in the matter,
I decided that I would, as the Nike slogan advises us, “Just do it.” I threw myself into it. If I was going to be dancing in front of an audience, I would at least have fun. And I did. I remained in the back row, but I had a great time. And still today, if I’m feeling low on energy or a little bogged down, instead of slogging through, I put on some fast paced music, get up from my desk and I dance. Of course I only do that when working from my home office. I never do it in the recording studio, though I’ve been known to boogie down the hall to an elevator if no one is watching. It’s not something I suggest doing in public, but I highly recommend finding the fun. Just for the fun of it.

5. Empower Others

I’ve discovered that the best work is achieved by helping others achieve their best. I try to ensure that everyone on our team, from the star talent to the runner who goes for coffee, feels respected and appreciated and integral to the success of whatever project we’re working on.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

To keep filling the tank, always stay creative and mindful. And exercise. In the audiobook business you’ll spend long hours sitting. You’re either the artist sitting before the mike, the director and engineer seated in the control room, an editor, an executive producer most likely spending much time sitting down. Get up and move. We need the physical action to generate energy. And I know it sounds cliché but eat right. It’s easy to reach for the caffeine and sugar to pump yourself up for the moment in the studio setting. In fact, the joke is the four food groups in a studio are caffeine, sugar salt and carbs. But that’s ultimately draining the tank. I know that sometimes you have to push through to finish a project, but as soon as possible, take a break. Refuel. Let yourself rest as soon as you can. And if you’re able, put on some music, forget about work for a few minutes, and dance.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Thanks for the compliment. My movement would work to ensure a world-wide agreement regarding the fair use of AI technology. It would codify that every individual has the absolute right to their own voice, image and authorship. It would state that the use of a person’s work to train an AI system would be negotiated, compensated for and acknowledged, whether that training system was supervised or unsupervised. There are countries beginning to do that, but the U.S. is lagging behind. My movement would bring every nation into such an agreement.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My dad was my rock. My first job was as a singer in a jazz club in Omaha Nebraska, the Red Lion. I wasn’t a jazz singer, but my manager said not to worry, the crowd would have a great time. Opening night, I was so nervous I could hardly get my voice above a whisper. But my manager was right. The crowd listened for a second, then turned away, laughed, drank and had a great time. They totally ignored me. After the show I called home devastated. Not just because I’d done a bad performance, but because I had to do another show in an hour! To my insistence that I was “horrible” my dad told me he knew I was good. To my moans that I couldn’t do it, he told me that he knew I could. To my saying that I just wanted to come home, he said, “Okay. But first you go down there and show them what you’ve got. Then tell me if you still want to come home.” Armed with my father’s faith, I went back to the club, dug deep and, as they say, “I killed it!” I worked in that club for two more weeks and never looked back. My dad taught me to not let a failure stop you; to not let it define you but to see it as a challenge and as something to work on. I always keep that in mind, especially when I’m faced with something I’m struggling with.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” — Allen Ginsberg

Every time I decided to change course, to plunge into a new challenge, to take on something that was calling to me, I’ve chosen to follow that inner moonlight. And I’m so grateful I did.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Brian Lehrer, of the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC, New York Public Radio. The man is one of the most knowledgeable people on the planet, and he is the greatest exemplar of the art and power of listening. He asks the most pertinent questions of his on-air guests. He provides the most incisive analysis of the issues of the day and, in an era when combat has replaced comity, his is always the voice of calmness and inclusiveness. His radio show invites call-ins from people of every point of view, and he treats every caller with kindness, appreciation and grace. So any meal — even a snack — would be an honor to share with Brian Lehrer.

How can our readers follow you online?

VISIT my website at:

https://www.silmanjamespress.com/shop/acting/audiobook-acting/

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Thank you for having me!

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Guernslye Honore
Authority Magazine

Guernslye Honoré, affectionately known as "Gee-Gee", is an amalgamation of creativity, vision, and endless enthusiasm.