Reflections on Season 1 of ‘Ear Hustle’

By Earlonne Woods, co-host of Ear Hustle

This is Earlonne Woods, co-producer of Ear Hustle. (Photo by Eddie Herena)

Season one of Ear Hustle was very interesting, complex, definitely thought provoking, and hella exciting. It challenged me to stay focused and work hard.

From the moment Radiotopia chose us as the winners of Podquest, my thoughts were like, “Uh-oh, the three of us have a lot of work to do. We just joined the well-respected Radiotopia podcast family. Woot woot!” But there’s a standard that we have to live up to, production-wise.

Then, right before the start of the season, our sound designer Antwan lost some privileges and was prohibited from coming to the studio for most of the season. At that time, he had only worked on sound designing three episodes.

That was a blow as well as a reality check. It forced Nigel and myself to really figure out every aspect of producing a podcast, especially the sound designing part, and we had to work our asses off to make sure we produced a high-quality podcast.

Acknowledging I had next to no musical producing skills, I invited a lot of San Quentin musicians to the studio to record a sound here and there. David Jassy and Joshua Burton stepped up and assisted in beat-making, and Antwan had a lot of beats on his keyboard in the studio, so we were able to make it work and keep Antwan connected during his absence.

David Jassy guest sound designed episode six of season one, “The Boom Boom Room.”

After a few episodes we started to get postcards from all over the world. People were saying they loved what we’re doing, and they had questions. This was cool because it gave me a different perspective on the impact of our stories. It seemed we were entertaining — as well as educating — people all over the world on what life is like within the prison system.

Photo courtesy of Nigel Poor

For the first time, it seems we’re humanizing incarcerated people. I don’t think I ever thought about that when we started this project. Nigel said it best in episode 10: “The reality is bigger than the dream.”

Though you may only see three of us, many others pitched in to assist in one way or another. So I personally want to acknowledge them, and say thanks for all the hard work.

We had great teachers to keep us focused, like Julie Shapiro, EP of Radiotopia, who is a rockstar. If you know her or have sat next to her, you know you’re in the company of greatness.

Pat Mesiti-Miller — this dude is a super-producer and full of creative game. He has taught me way more than sound design.

Curtis Fox — this guy is a wordsmith for real. He’s taught us a lot when it comes to putting a script together, and we’re looking to learn more, because he’s dope.

Lt. Sam Robinson — he’s one of those guys who joins law enforcement because he believes in changing the status quo to improve relationships and build bridges no matter who you are.

Antwan is a smart and creative individual looking to dive into season two.

Nigel has been a superhero and the best co-host, pushing me to be the best I can be.

To everyone at PRX and Radiotopia, I thank you for having our backs and giving us this mega-platform to be heard.

To all of our listeners, we are humbled and we appreciate you for tuning in this season, and for sharing Ear Hustle with your friends. Thank you.

— Earlonne