Podcast ‘Hustles’ toward second season


Photo by Eddie Herena

(Left to right) Earlonne Woods, Nigel Poor and Antwan Williams record their podcast from inside San Quentin State Prison. The second season launches in March.

Sami Soto

“Ear Hustle,” a popular podcast co-produced by a Sacramento State professor and two prisoners, is preparing to launch its second season.

After season one, the podcast gained popularity with its unique look into the prison system. Each episode is based on stories of inmates inside San Quentin State Prison.

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The show is co-hosted by Nigel Poor, a photography professor at Sac State, and Earlonne Woods, an inmate serving 31 years to life for attempted second degree robbery. Antwan Williams, who works as the show’s sound designer, is serving a 15-year sentence for armed robbery.

Currently Poor is on sabbatical from Sac State. She spends her time at the prison working on the podcast 5-6 days a week, working 50-60 hours alongside Woods.

“Luckily we love it,” Poor said. “If we didn’t it would be a chore.”

“Ear Hustle” was renewed for a second season as the first season was underway. The podcast got its start after winning Radiotopia’s podcast contest in 2016.

The podcast has had over 7 million downloads and has gained national attention. Radiotopia’s executive producer Julie Shapiro said the group was floored by ongoing flood of responses received from listeners.

“I don’t think any of us expected it would resonate so deeply with so many listeners,” said Shapiro. “In some way Ear Hustle has done the impossible—it appeals both to those directly connected to someone in prison and those with absolutely no connection at all, but who are deeply curious about a place they have zero access to.”

“Ear Hustle” has been recognized as one of the best podcasts of 2017 by several publications, including “USA Today.” The podcast was also recently featured on an episode of WNYC Studios hit podcast “Snap Judgment.”

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“We’ve gotten so much feedback through emails and letters and interviews and phone conversations,” Poor said. “Full on classes and different college professors have contacted me who are using ‘Ear Hustle’ as part of their curriculum.”

As the first season progressed, the “Ear Hustle” team saw many “kites” make their way into the studio. It gave fans a chance to ask questions while helping educate listeners about life inside the rarely heard from community.

The experience has not only benefited listeners, but the inmates as well. According to Poor, Woods was shy when the podcast first started. Over time he has gained confidence and has become a spokesperson for the show.

“I think everybody loves a good story whether it is spoken or written and this podcast does that very well,” sophomore Daniel Ortiz said. “The production and the value of Nigel and Earlonnes’ topics of conversation are captivating and at times heartbreaking. I can’t wait for the rest to come out.”

Coming to season two, listeners can expect to hear a variety of different stories from inmates. The topics range from death row to a father meeting his son for the first time.

Shapiro says she is in contact with Poor daily to discuss new ideas and production strategies. One new project in the works is t-shirts in celebration of the launch of the new season.

Season two will be eight episodes long and will premiere on March 14. The group’s goal is to have two seasons a year.

“We’re already thinking about season three,” Poor said. “It will be an ongoing project, as far as I can tell.”

CORRECTION: When this story was first published, Antwan Williams’ name was misspelled. We apologize for this error.