Susan Bennett: Voice of Siri didn’t know she was going to be Siri

Susan Bennett comes forward as the voice behind Apple's 'Siri.' Credit: Getty Images
Susan Bennett comes forward as the voice behind Apple’s ‘Siri.’ Credit: Getty Images

Before you ask Siri what she’s wearing again, keep in mind you’re messing with a polished performer.

Susan Bennett sang in jazz band at Brown, sang backup for Roy Orbison, and recorded jingles for years before her foray into voice-overs. In an interview with CNN, the Atlanta suburbanite came forward as the voice behind Apple’s virtual assistant.

“I really had to weigh the importance of it for me personally,” Bennett tells CNN of her longtime decision not to publicly associate with Siri. “I wasn’t sure that I wanted that notoriety, and I also wasn’t sure where I stood legally.”

But the UK and Australia Siris had already revealed their identities. In September, The Verge posted a video prompting further speculation about the identity of the American iPhone personality. Bennett learned she was not bound by any nondisclosure agreements, and she decided it was time to come forward.

Not that Apple is confirming any of this, but CNN’s audio-forensics expert says the match is unmistakable. Bennett herself didn’t know she was the voice behind Siri until the iPhone 4S came out in 2008; she had recorded the voice-overs for software company ScanSoft back in 2005, and didn’t know what they would be used for.

“A colleague e-mailed me [about Siri] and said, ‘Hey, we’ve been playing around with this new Apple phone. Isn’t this you?’” Bennett tells CNN.

Sure enough, it was. Bennett finally had something to show for a month of reading gibberish in a home recording studio.

Recording studios are familiar territory for Bennett, who provides the voice-overs for countless commercials, GPS systems, telephone systems, and Delta Airlines. But that’s a career path she fell into by accident. She started out with jingles—her big break came when she scored the voice of “Tillie the All-Time Teller,” the first ATM machine from First National Bank. A jingle job at Atlanta’s Doppler Studios in the 1970’s turned into her first voice-over experience when the original voice-over talent didn’t show up. The studio staff desperately turned to Bennett.

Years later, we’re still desperately turning to Bennett—in the form of Siri, that is. Whether you need directions home, an appointment change, or just someone to talk to, Siri’s your girl. While Bennett’s reign is coming to an end with the launch of iOS7 and a new set of voices, we look forward to a new mystery to solve.



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