Rocky Mountain News

Queen of voice mail lives in California
Who is the voice who does voice mail? Is she a real person?
Rocky Mountain News; July 4, 1997; By Jessica Englewood

Different systems use different voices, but the one people are most familiar with is probably the Octel system, used by US West voice messaging. Octel uses many voices in more than 35 languages, but the English language voice heard on US West messages belongs to Marsha Graham, a voice-over artist in Bel Air, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles.

Graham, who is single and has a 24 year-old daughter, has been in show business for nearly 30 years, including 11 years as a singer. She answered a talent search for a voice mail voice six years ago and has gone on to become the queen of voice mail.

“One of the hardest phrases to record was ‘I’m sorry,'” says Graham, a Boston-ian by birth. “I didn’t want to sound condescending or curt. I would go in and record it as though I was speaking to a friend or someone I cared about,” she says.

Graham’s favorite prompts: “Are you still there?” and “To disconnect, press star.”

In fact, Graham has really gotten into this notion of connections. She’s writing a book about re-establishing human connections. The title: Are you still there?

“The book will be wrapped around that, about re-connecting with the voice of who you are,” says Graham. “Voice mail is a symbol of what’s really going on with people, and that is that they want to connect.”

Graham says the rise of voice mail has forced people to embrace their humanity. “My sense is, when the technology started, it was a great new innovation, everybody wanted it. But over time, what’s happened is interesting. People are feeling more isolated than ever. Yes, we have access to so much information it’s incredible, but the bottom line is, are we connecting with one another? Where’s the humanity? People are looking to find that human connection again.”