Sidewalk Hustle started out as a music podcast in 2007 before its creators, Tristan Banning and Hawley Dunbar, realized the monthly hour-long episodes weren’t nearly enough to cover what would probably transcend better with words and pictures. The pair, who actually met at York University in a ‘‘Modern Canadian Poetry’’ class (not even kidding), went on to create a reference on all things cool and hustling. Their growing success granted them several collaborative opportunities in various fashion, cultural and music outlets, most notably with Paper Magazine, Fashion magazine and Soho House & Co, to only name a few. To top it all off, Sidewalk Hustle was named ‘‘One of the world’s 100 most influential blogs’’ by Style of Sound, and made the list of CBC’s ‘‘Canadian music blogs you should be reading.’’
Tristan, you left your 9 to 5 job in early 2015; was it to concentrate 100% on Sidewalk Hustle?
Tristan: ‘‘I started the podcast to satiate my own cathartic needs, since working at a bank wasn’t very fulfilling. One day, I ended up being robbed at gun point in a branch, and I sort of had a mid-life crisis. I didn’t just want to be remembered as a banker. That’s when I found an opportunity and shifted to the digital space where I learned a lot about the internet. A few years ago, we realized the potential of the website, so Hawley left her job in 2014, but there was so much work! In December of that year, we decided that I would also leave my job to help out. They were disappointed to see me go, but I told them that eventually, they would’ve had to fire me! I was really pulled in half; we’re both perfectionist and workaholics and I felt like I wasn’t giving 100 % at neither of the jobs.’’
Tristan: ‘‘Not regrets! We didn’t even have time to regret; we’ve spent most of the year on the road!’’
The music industry, from local to international artists, is incredibly fast-paced. How do you find the time to research and listen to what is worth pushing forward?
Hawley: ‘‘Yeah we’re pretty overwhelmed with that; we get over 200 emails a day in our inbox, if not more! For us, it was really about developing good relationships with publicists and agents, those that we love and trust. For the fashion part of it, I read all of what the competition is doing so there’s that, but it’s also about keeping your eyes open, especially while travelling. You never know what you could lay your eyes on.’’
Hawley, your affinity with fashion is obvious, but I read somewhere that you find writing about music more fulfilling nowadays. Why do you think that is?
Hawley: ‘‘Yes I do, because it’s not superficial. It fills you up really quickly, while fashion, although beautiful, is a bit more… Shallow? Maybe not shallow, but competitive; what costs more, who has the latest things, etc. I don’t really care for the stress of it anymore. Nothing compares to going to a show of an artist you love and just letting it take you in. I write a lot about fashion as well, but I just find music is more fulfilling.’’
You guys don’t have traditional jobs and very often, people with unconventional jobs tend to put in more hours but maybe not view it as work so much. Would you agree?
Hawley: ‘‘I would agree yes! In this digital media era, people think running a website is a cake walk and it’s a dream life, but it takes a lot of work to make it look good.’’
Tristan: ‘‘When I worked for a company, I’d worked until six, and if there was a deadline, I’d give it my all. But there were also some slower times where I could take it easy, and no matter what, there was always a paycheck at the end. With this, I get up earlier than I did before, I stay up later than I did before, but the real difference is I get to do what I love.’’
Tristan, you’ve said before that you lived by the ‘Fake it ‘til you make it’ motto. Does that still apply today?
Tristan: ‘‘It’s funny; I haven’t said that for a while since I’ve made it, but in the beginning, it made a big difference! I wanted to be a writer, so I started writing. And now here I am.’’
Hawley: ‘‘Now, the hustle is real!’’
From what I’ve read Hawley, your best advice was to be a yes man (or woman). After the success of Sidewalk Hustle, do you still live by that?
Hawley: ‘‘Ha! Yes and no. I mean, at first, there was a lot of opportunities that we needed to take advantage of, but what I didn’t realized at the time is that there is a power in saying no sometimes.’’
Through the website and its history, what’s your biggest achievement?
Hawley: ‘‘For me, I think it goes back to our content being more curated. I’m happy with the direction and the fact that I can still manage to write a lot.’’
Tristan: ‘‘What I’m the most proud of is seeing our vision come through our projects. We’re living the dream, even if it’s more work than dream. Outside of actual work though, running into people who know us around the world is really something cool. We have a big audience and it’s easy to forget that behind every like and follower, there’s a real person.’’
Hawley: ‘‘We live our lives online too, and we get a fair amount of pats on the back, but having someone say those things to us in person, it’s really great.’’
The #ArtofTheChase campaign by Hennessy is about constantly thriving. How do you guys do it?
Tristan: ‘‘We spend all of our time online, but it’s important that we go out and see things. We’re literally always on the move; I always look up and I always look down, while Hawley always looks forward. We read a lot, we travel a lot, we go to the museum, we meet people, we make friends. We really value, and keep chasing, the cool content from different angle.’’