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Every day, from dawn to way past dusk, more than a million Australians listen intently to what Taylor Owynns has to say. Sometimes, multiple times a day.
Yet ask them to point her out on the street and they’d fail; few would probably even know her name despite her voice being part of the fabric and rhythm of their lives. And that’s OK with her.
“I’m just this disembodied voice,” she says over a drink in a pub in Sydney’s inner west. “I’m happy not to be recognised”.
Ms Owynns isn’t a host on the radio; if she was, you’d at least be able to name her. Rather she’s the voice of trains and trams in New South Wales.
She has been the purveyor of the familiar sonorous sound heard on platforms from Central to Penrith and from Newcastle to Nowra for two decades. And for a time at Melbourne’s Flinders St station too.
The soothing sound of this Melburnian’s voice, telling you where the next train will be stopping, upcoming engineering work, or to always remember to tap off with your Opal card, is part of the background hubbub of the Harbour City.
Taylor Owynns is the voice of the Sydney and NSW Trains’ networks, heard by millions each day. Picture: Christian GillesSource:News Corp Australia
If it wasn’t for a childhood illness, she may never have become one of Australia’s leading voiceover artists – albeit one that is regularly mistaken for presenter Gretel Killeen. That, and acute nerves, has kept her off the stage and behind the mic instead.
During her career she’s played a starring role in Bananas in Pyjamas and became the ABC’s first female announcer as well as narrating countless ads and audiobooks. One man liked her voice so much, he wanted to her to speak at his funeral. But it’s the trains where her voice is mostly widely heard.
“I do catch the train; I went for a holiday to Newcastle and did it all by public transport,” she said.
“I listen to myself on the platform and I find myself going ‘no, that’s the wrong inflection’ or a bit flat. And then I think ‘no Taylor, just walk away’.”
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The Melburnian‘s tones have become part of the fabric of Sydney. Picture: Benedict BrookSource:Supplied
A bout of childhood chronic illness was the unexpected springboard for her voiceover career. Picture: Benedict BrookSource:Supplied
Ms Owynns grew up in Melbourne, “110 years ago,” she laughs, but it was a difficult childhood marred by chronic bronchitis and asthma.
“Dad used to put the two o’clock radio play on and when you were, well, struggling to breathe, it was a wonderful distraction.”
She became enamoured by the words, the sounds and the diction.
Fast forward a few years to the 1970s, and in her lunch hour while temping she went round ad agencies and studios dropping off cassette tapes filled with samples of her voice.
“I’d cut out ads from the paper, write my own script and record them.”
Her big break came in an ABC radio play swiftly followed by a radio ad for Avis car rental opposite actor Robbie McGregor. And it snowballed with Ms Owynns becoming the voice of Estee Lauder and Clinique.
“I remember one week where I played a young mum, an orange, a sheep and a blackboard.”
This article first appeared on www.news.com.au
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