As with any fledgling creative project, Mean Hustle has been having some growing pains. I’ve compared it to one of those deceivingly old looking middle-schoolers who are clueless and clearly mimicking what they think “chill” looks like. Awkward, but passable. If we’re being completely honest, Mean Hustle is at its first day of school. It is trying to get its bearings, can barely read or write, and potty trained just in the nick of time. (It probably still needs a change of clothes in its backpack, just in case.)
I feel like when we think about our dreams, even in terms of projects like Mean Hustle, what we are usually envisioning is a finished product. Not the logistics and evolution of the thing. We are certainly not fantasizing about the trials and errors… and errors, and errors, and errors… that it takes to actually realize the dream. Who wants to day-dream about contingency plans when you could be sipping margaritas all day on your own personal mind-beach!
For Mean Hustle, I had created what I thought was this perfect process. It was sewn together with a golden thread, would be expertly executed, and then distributed with precision! I never planned for failure; I had no contingency plan. The reality of it is- I based this entire project on my ability to seek out some of the busiest, hardest-working humans I could find, and then to ask them to stop what they were doing and do me a solid. Big ask. I would then have to take their words and hard work, and find time in my own crazy schedule to make sure that how I am representing everyone is done right. This dream is bleeding logistics! But, it’s doable! In fact, it’s happening. I am learning to let it happen the way that it is supposed to. Not “on-time”, or in a certain order. Just let it happen. And above all else, do not let the conversation stop.
Pro tip. When it starts to feel like your “perfect process” is holding you back, kinda’ like a parent chaperoning a date where all you want to do is experiment… It’s probably time to ditch the buzzkill. So, lets lose the rules, and let the experimenting begin! I’ll tip-toe around the awesome inuendo(barely), but I totally think we should do it together! That is the whole point! Be it raising the Mean Hustle baby, or changing the narrative it is based on, even saving the friggin’ whales… Either we do it together, or it won’t get done!
So! The Mean Hustle nomination format as a means of determining the next interview, is no more. I will still be asking the question, but I want to open the question to EVERYONE and we will just roll with interviews as everyone has time to get them done! I have added a form submission to the website. Please feel free to shout out someone who you see fighting the good fight! Business women, women in music, someone who has started a non-profit, your server at Olivebee’s. Anyone! And then hopefully instead of creating a community hanging on by one “golden thread”, we’ll end up casting out SO many lines that it will create the huge, powerful, cosmically intertwined safety net that this was supposed to be in the first place! A conversation so loud, that it cannot be ignored.
The first line I cast was to long-time friend, musician, honorary Aunt to my kids, and literally one of the busiest humans I have ever met, Samantha Crain. Samantha and I have always had this relationship where for no particular reason, we won’t speak for like 6 months at a time but are then able to pick up the phone and have a conversation like no time has passed at all. I knew that when the interview process changed, it was time to track her down. Sam and I have hilariously enough butted heads on the fundamentals and application of feminism on a few occasions. Without getting into too much detail, I will say that it is my stubborn opinion that has thankfully changed over time. Sam has always been compassionate, worldly, and a gracefully fierce activist who not only embraces knowledge, but demands it. She has educated me on several occasions, whether I liked it or not.
When I contacted Sam, it seemed like she was in the exact same place that I had left her. On some international flight, flying over some random foreign country, on a tour that I always consider to be too long to be healthy for anyone. And we picked right back up where we left off. Thank you, Samantha, for doing the Q&A without hesitation, for your fearless honesty, and for carving out time to sip margaritas on my mind-beach. Cheers!
Samantha Crain is a musician from Shawnee Oklahoma, and this is her hustle…
Who are you? Where are you from? What’s your story?
Samantha Crain, from Shawnee, Oklahoma. I live in Norman, Oklahoma currently. I'm a singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer, and poet. I record albums, perform nationally and internationally, write poems, and just like to do creative projects, in general.
What is your 9 to 5?
My schedule is usually never set in stone. My days are different depending on whatever I'm working on at the moment. If I'm on tour, my days are full of traveling, emailing, and scribbling song or poem ideas down whenever they come to me. If I'm recording, then that's just a day of being in the studio working on songs, purposely disappearing into the creative process, trying to separate myself from reality almost. If I'm at home, I'm doing all sorts of things. The thing about being a self-employed creative is that the job is never just the performance; there are all these other aspects of the business of it that are small working cogs in the hustle to pay the bills. So if I'm home, my days can be full of any sort of blend of the many jobs I have to do: writing songs, recording demos, writing poems, designing/upkeeping my website, fulfilling and shipping webstore orders for merch, booking shows, advancing and contracting shows, accounting, self-binding poetry books, social media, promoting shows, conceptualizing music videos/photos/graphic design/project timelines, etc.
What is your passion project(s)?
I love producing records for other artists, even though I haven't had a ton of opportunities yet (I've produced records for Kierston White and Annie Oakley) but I'm very very aware of the extreme lack of women in the recording and production side of music, so I'd really love to expand that for myself and I do a lot of "studying" and obsessing over production for that reason. I've also started creating stage sets and décor at Opolis in Norman for myself and other bands that want special visuals on stage for their shows. I love the aspect of taking all day to create a world with different materials for one event and then tearing it all down at the end of the night. There is something really cathartic about being able to destroy what you create, haha.
I am always interested in the "why" of people’s work. If it is sparked by something that impacted them directly. If someone just loves hard-work and it's instinctual. Is it a necessity to maintain? Or is it one big push to arrive at an end goal. What is the "why" of your work?
I'm a project person so the "why" of my work is simply that I'm happiest when I'm working on a project. Yes, all the things I do are necessary to maintain the position I have in the creative world (which allows me the work that pays my bills), but I like making a list in the morning and checking the things off as I go along. It is fulfilling to me and gives me a sense of accomplishment and momentum. I do work hard and "hustle" but as I've gotten older, I've realized the importance of boundaries and slowing down at times to enjoy living your life; this is essential to my mental health and prevents burnout (which, in turn, actually allows me to be even more productive). I work hard but am a stickler for putting it away at a certain point and letting my body and brain recharge while I spend time reading or watching movies or taking walks or hanging with my friends or meditating.
No one truly sees the blood, sweat, and tears that go into doing what we love while often times just trying to get by. On your busiest day, gettin’ down and dirty, what are you doing?
Honestly, I feel like being on tour is the busiest and most exhausting. I will wake up, do admin stuff (emails, phone calls, interviews), get in the truck and drive however many hours to the next gig, load in gear at the venue, soundcheck, set up merch table, do additional/remaining admin work (usually accounting stuff or travel booking) while having dinner, hopefully get some yoga or walking (some form of physical activity) in, try and do some practicing and or writing pre-show as a form of vocal and physical warmup for the show, play the show, sell merch after the show, settle up with the promoter, load out gear, and then drive to wherever I'm staying. So, it is a busy 15-hour day most of the time.
“We are basically having to work twice as hard to be considered on an equal platform. Not only must we excel at the work, we also must excel at the psychological boot camp that precedes and accompanies the work.”
Mean Hustle aims to be a platform to openly discuss the barriers and biases women deal with on a daily basis. What have some of those obstacles been in your own career?
I think Carter sorta talked about this but the reality of being the "token woman" for a festival or show or tour is so maddening. The truth is that most people making the decisions in the music industry still believe that the majority of music fans only have enough room to absorb one female/trans/non-binary artist at a time. That is obviously ridiculous and not at all an actual representation of how people feel but those that hold the pen write history I suppose. So, there are just less opportunities in general because you only have access to work when a "female musician" is specifically asked for. As far as biases, any woman who is knowledgeable in her craft, straight forward, or detail oriented with venue crew, promoters, etc, is seen as a "bitch" or "bossy" instead of "a leader" or "impressive" and that bias can really affect a woman's ability to achieve because of various forms of outward career sabotage (directly or indirectly). Sound engineers still question my choices and knowledge of my gear on a regular basis, which over time really affects your confidence, and when the success of your performance depends on the confidence in which you present your work, that is hard to overcome on a daily basis. We are basically having to work twice as hard to be considered on an equal platform. Not only must we excel at the work, we also must excel at the psychological boot camp that precedes and accompanies the work.
There is a lot of attention being paid to inequality in work settings for women. In music specifically, do you feel like that attention is resulting in progress?
Yes, and no. I'm glad attention is being paid to the inequalities, but I see it more as a generational change. I doubt many people who already have specific views on the existence or non-existence of the societal inequalities of gender are going to change much or make much progress in their lifetime. BUT I think the more the message is being broadcast and attention brought to it through conversations, the more normalized it becomes to the developing next generation of people that can make changes and believe in the progress.
Is there one piece of advice that you wish someone have given you in your formative years, that you’ve had to learn the hard way?
I feel like I've learned most things the hard way but I don't know if someone giving me advice would've helped honestly. I have a particularly stubborn disposition and so advice doesn't always work on me, ha-ha. BUT I do think this ingrained idea that is put forth for us socially, that our careers or jobs have to be lifelong and look a certain way is particularly bull shit. I wish someone would have told me that your job can change and morph and take different shapes as things and situations in your life change and you don't have to be made to feel like a failure or ashamed because of that. It is natural to want to do different things and keep your mind and body active and learning and changing....and to suppress change within your life or career is to cause unneeded and unhelpful stress and shame in your life.
”No matter who you are, you are worthy of love and respect. If you can practice gracefully and gratefully receiving small things in your life (like sincere compliments or letting someone cook you a meal or give you a gift without expecting reciprocation) then when a time comes that something bigger is offered to you because of hard work and dedication, then you won't be conditioned to feel like you don't deserve it”
Mean Hustle is based on the necessity of working hard, solving problems, and equipping women and girls with the tools needed to complete any physical or emotional task. Some of these tools include community, support, & knowing that we have back-up. But we all know that reaching out isn’t always easy. Is there a message you could pass along to those women or girls who might benefit from support but are afraid to ask?
No matter who you are, you are worthy of love and respect. If you can practice gracefully and gratefully receiving small things in your life (like sincere compliments or letting someone cook you a meal or give you a gift without expecting reciprocation) then when a time comes that something bigger is offered to you because of hard work and dedication, then you won't be conditioned to feel like you don't deserve it (which usually leads to some sort of self-sabotage). Make friends with people of all ages and races and backgrounds when you can, because this is where empathy comes from and where the art of keeping things in perspective comes from.
What is the most important “tool in your toolbox”, physical or otherwise?
My guitar (my main guitar, that is) -- a Martin 00-15. It feels like a 3rd arm to me. It calms me and helps me focus and helps me create.
Are you either self-trained or licensed in any trades or artistic disciplines? Do you paint, weld, sew, plumb, build sculptures out of trash, etc.?
I took courses in welding, which I loved, but don't really get to use often. I'm self-taught in anything else though. I'm very much an autodidact in that I learn best by just teaching myself via hands on activity, books, and YouTube. As I mentioned before, I build stage sets out of crazy things I find at thrift stores and flea markets and party stores. I just like to create so I do all sorts of weird stuff at home (hand-dyeing material, painting, interior design (I know that sounds crazy but if you came to my house, you'd see that I have a very specific aesthetic that I've worked hard to establish in my home), baking).
How do you define success for yourself, and are you there yet?
Success to me is being able to do work that I love and managing the struggles and hardships of it with a clear head. So, I'm there more and more often these days...but not every day. But that's okay.
What is your most valuable failure?
Hitting a rock bottom mentally and physically (losing the use of my hands for a time, panic attacks, addiction) allowed me to value my life to a point of getting things into perspective and healing from the trauma of many aspects of my life. It allowed me to understand what a sustainable and content life looks like and how I can work towards that and have that. I'm not recommending people screw their lives up to the point of hitting rock bottom, but it did allow me a lot of clarity, ha-ha.
Favorite day of your career so far?
Really just every time I get to hold a new finished and packaged record that I made.
Let’s pretend that I have two toolboxes. You must choose one toolbox, which for the rest of your life its contents will be the only tools that you are allowed to use. Materials are still fair-game. Which do you choose?
-Toolbox one: hammer, welding rig, Phillip’s-head screwdriver, flash light, rusty box cutter, adhesive of choice.
-Toolbox two: Sawzall, handheld propane torch, needle nose pliers, scissors, duct tape, needle & thread.
Jesus what a crazy and awesome question. I think I'm going with toolbox 2. I feel like with the materials that I frequently use in my crafting, those tools make the most sense in manipulating them (fabric, paper, foam). I've never used a propane torch and that sorta excites me to figure out what I can do with that. Plus, scissors, I feel like I use every day, seriously.
You have to teach someone a random skill that you are knowledgeable in, in 5 minutes or less. What is that skill, and how do you do it? Novelty skills absolutely count!
I think everyone should know how to change a tire, so I'd do a quick, solid demo on that.
What female fronted music are you listening to right now?
I feel like probably 75% of the music I listen to is female fronted honesty. It isn't on purpose; I just feel like women are making the best art right now. Lucy Rose's new record "No Words Left", Nilufer Yanya, This Is The Kit, Summer Walker, Anna Tivel, H.E.R., Cocteau Twins, Lucinda Williams, Patti Smith, The Japanese House, Bedouine, The Weather Station, The Roches, Charli XCX
Thank you for being a part of Mean Hustle and sharing your story! Last- Is there any one specific woman on your radar right now who you look up to in terms of mean hustling, and/or doing impactful work?
Greta Thunberg! What an amazing young woman!
*We will be posting Sam’s full upcoming tour schedule as it it confirmed, or please visit-