Interview with podcaster Aaron Smith: ‘Get to the root of the person’

Podcasts dedicated to elevating the voices of incarcerated people and examining the forces that placed them there are often broadcast from behind prison walls. Ear Hustle was one of the first to do this: two of its creators, Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams, were incarcerated in California’s San Quentin State Prison when they started it in 2017. Since then, Ear Hustle has gained wide acclaim, including a Pulitzer nomination, and has more recently begun to tell the stories of people after they leave prison.

Conversely, Aaron Smith’s podcast Escaping the Odds has focused almost exclusively on life after incarceration since he launched it in 2019. Smith, who describes himself as a lifelong entrepreneur, first conceived of the show while he was still serving nine years and five months of a 12-year sentence in federal prison for distribution of heroin and fentanyl. Smith does not shy away from his time in prison on the podcast; on the contrary, it’s the focus of the first episode of Escaping the Odds‘s third season, which dropped Tuesday.

On the podcast, Smith interviews other formerly incarcerated people who have gone on to start successful businesses. Guests discuss anything from what a first day in prison is like to how important family support is when you’re inside. But the interviews always come back to the podcast’s central theme: how to start and grow a successful small business. After he was released, Smith — who earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from Columbia College before he was incarcerated — started a trucking company, U Turn Transport, which employs formerly incarcerated people.

When he first conceived of Escaping the Odds, Smith had never listened to a podcast. He later taught himself the basics of recording and editing to get the show off the ground.

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