As the Managing Director of WithFeeling, our approach is simple: we craft unique sounds that tell a brand’s story, making it memorable. Not just music, but an expression of a brand’s heart and soul. Our expansion into Las Vegas, rooted in a 23-year relationship, and the thriving Saudi Arabian market showcase our commitment to global growth. The creation of the Expo 2020 Dubai theme song, “This Is Our Time,” exemplifies our ability to weave sonic elements into the fabric of an event. With a meticulous approach to voice-over talent selection and expertise in themed entertainment, we continue to redefine the power of sound in creating immersive experiences. The core advice for entrepreneurs: follow your passion, focus on what you can control, build a dedicated team, and trust the process.
Crafting Harmonies Across Diversity
We started the interview by asking, “As the Managing Director of WithFeeling, you’ve overseen a diverse range of projects, including sonic branding, music production, and multimedia events. How do you approach the challenge of ensuring a consistent and memorable brand identity through sound across such varied projects?”
Chris replied, “At WithFeeling, we approach each project with a simple goal: to tell a brand’s story through sound. We see sound not just as music or noise, but as a way to share a brand’s heart and soul. This means we carefully craft sounds that stick in people’s minds, making sure they remember the brand.
For every project, whether it’s a big company or a small one, we create sounds that are unique to them. We spend a lot of time getting to know the brand, what makes it special, and what its customers like. This helps us make sounds that really fit the brand and feel right.
Joe Dickinson, my co-founder, is a big part of this. He’s incredibly talented at composing music that tells a story, and the team of composers from around the world we have put together understand Joe’s direction. Together, we work on making sounds that are not just heard today but remembered for years to come.
In short, at WithFeeling, we don’t just make sounds; we create memories. We help brands stand out with sounds that are as unique as they are.
Unveiling Memorable Sonic Journeys
The Worlds Times: Can you share a specific project from your career that you are particularly proud of, highlighting the impact of your work on the client’s brand and target audience?
Chris replied, “Absolutely! Reflecting on my career, two projects particularly stand out. In 2013, I had the incredible opportunity to work with the rock band Five Finger Death Punch. At The Hideout in Las Vegas, I was involved in drum programming, guitar timing, and vocal tuning for their album ‘Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell’. This album was a major success, reaching number one on the US charts and selling over a million copies. Collaborating with the talented Grammy award-winning record producer Kevin Churko, and his son Kane, was a remarkable experience that I hold dear.
More recently, with WithFeeling, we undertook a project for the Dubai Racing Club that I’m immensely proud of. We blended the electrifying atmosphere of horse racing with elements of Emirati culture to create a unique auditory experience. The highlight was attending the Dubai World Cup itself. Dressed up for the occasion with my wife by my side, it was a special night that felt like a celebration of our hard work. Witnessing the crowd’s reaction to our creation, feeling the excitement in the air, and sharing that proud moment with my wife made it an unforgettable experience. It was more than just a project; it was a personal milestone, a testament to the power of sound in creating memorable moments. This project exemplifies what we strive for at WithFeeling – creating sound that not only sticks in your heart and mind but also forms a part of your cherished memories.”
Las Vegas Expansion
The World Times: Oh yes, we can see that you have an office in Las Vegas. Could you elaborate on your connection to the city and what this expansion means for WithFeeling?
Chris replied, “Yes, we do have a presence in Las Vegas, which is a nod to my long-standing relationship with Kevin and Kane Churko that spans over 23 years. Mike McHugh, our mutual connection, Vegas office located in the iconic Hideout Studio. It’s a fantastic setup that we’re proud of. Looking ahead to 2024, we’re excited to expand our operations there and also focus on growing our new branch in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It’s an exciting time for WithFeeling!”
Engaging with the Kingdom
The World Times: Saudi Arabia is becoming a focal point for many businesses. Can you share how WithFeeling is engaging with this market and what your experiences have been so far?
Chris replied, “Yes, Saudi Arabia is certainly an important growing market for us. In 2023, a significant portion of our profits, around 60%, were generated from projects within the Kingdom, spanning sonic branding to live events and more recently visitor mapping projects which Dr. Federica Busa heads up. Our direct engagement with clients, bypassing traditional ad agencies, has been particularly rewarding, and we’ve established a strong rapport with several government entities. What sets our work apart is the way we infuse Western music with a touch of Saudi style – it resonates well with our clients who take immense pride in their culture. As government and semi-government projects require working with a licensed Saudi entity, we’re embracing this wholeheartedly, eager to cement our presence and continue building meaningful connections there.”
Given your role in developing the official theme for Expo 2020 Dubai, “can you elaborate on the creative process behind the creation of the song “This is Our Time” and how it contributed to the overall sonic branding of the event?”
Chris replied, “Creating ‘This Is Our Time’ for Expo 2020 Dubai was an extraordinary journey that feels like a lifetime ago. The process was akin to painting on a vast canvas, where every stroke contributed to a larger, beautiful picture. It began with Joe Dickinson and his wife, Lucy, in the UK, who laid down the initial melody, setting the tone for what was to come. We then enriched this foundation with Saif Fahdel’s Arabic lyrics and contributions from talented musicians’ worldwide, adding depth and diversity to the composition.
The song featured a Khaliji beat, symbolizing a harmonious blend of Middle Eastern and Western musical traditions. The inclusion of Hussein Al Jasmi singing in English added a delightful and unexpected twist, bridging cultures through music. Working with the meticulous and gifted Grammy Award-winning producer Greg Wells further refined the song, adapting it for various contexts within the Expo, including a festive Christmas version.
Most importantly, ‘This Is Our Time’ wasn’t just a theme song; it was the cornerstone of the entire sonic branding for the event. It acted as the ‘mothership,’ the core DNA from which all other sonic elements were derived. This song set the tone and mood for the Expo, guiding the creation of other auditory experiences throughout the event. It was like watching our musical DNA weave through the fabric of the Expo, bringing its story and spirit to life in a way that was both unifying and inspiring. The impact of this song went beyond mere sound; it became an integral part of the Expo’s identity, resonating with visitors from all corners of the globe.”
Crafting the Right Sonic Identity
Given your expertise in voice-over talent selection, what considerations go into choosing the right voice for a brand, project, or experience? So we asked “Can you provide an example where the choice of voice significantly enhanced the impact of a project?”
Chris replied, “In the realm of voice-over work at WithFeeling, we’ve surprisingly found it to be a flourishing aspect of our business. When we began, we didn’t anticipate voice-overs to grow as they have, especially with the advent of AI. Yet, they’ve become a vital part of our operations. We’re proud to have exclusive agreements with top talents like Safia Al Shehi and Michelle Meyrick, who are instrumental to our daily projects. Chona Gatchalian, our head of Brand Voices, manages these efforts seamlessly. Her contribution is crucial; she’s truly invaluable to WithFeeling’s success and has helped shape what we are today.
The voice-over casting process at WithFeeling is as meticulous as our approach to sonic branding. We maintain a vast global database of voice talents, featuring a variety of styles and languages. This allows us to offer a tailored match for each client’s brand identity and budget. We understand that the voice is an audio representation of the visual brand – it’s the sound of the brand’s image. So, we carefully handpick voices that not only fit the brand’s budget but also resonate with the look and feel of the brand, ensuring that the audio enhances the brand’s visual narrative and connects with the target audience on a deeper level.”
Creating Sonic Magic in Theme Parks
The Worlds Times: With your background in themed entertainment, can you share insights into how sound and music contributes to creating immersive experiences in theme parks? How do you ensure that the sonic elements complement the overall theme and narrative of the attractions?
Chris replied, “Absolutely, the power of sound to bring a theme park to life isn’t limited by borders, and we at WithFeeling have had the joy of working on projects not just in Saudi, but also in Qatar, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, the UK, and beyond. Our approach is universal – we craft soundscapes that resonate with the excitement and storytelling of each attraction, tailored to the unique spirit of each location.
It’s thrilling to see how the right music and sound effects can transform a ride or show, making every visit memorable. And it’s not just the big beats or the dramatic scores; it’s also the subtle moments, the laughter, and the whispers that we layer in to make the whole place buzz with life. That’s the kind of professional touch and enthusiasm we bring to every project, no matter where it is.”
Lastly we asked, “What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?”
Chris replied, “I don’t quite consider myself an entrepreneur just yet; I have many goals to reach before I can wear that title with confidence. But what I can say is this: if you’re thinking about starting your own business, just go for it. Do something that you’re passionate about, and it won’t feel like work. In my journey with WithFeeling, I’ve learned not to worry too much about money. Focus on what you can control, work hard, and trust that it will pay off. It’s crucial to build a team that’s not only skilled but also kind, driven, and shares your vision. Make sure they feel valued and happy, because when your team is right, you can’t go wrong. That’s the essence of building a business that’s successful and a joy to be part of.”
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