Interviews, Musicians

Balancing the Grind With Antwan Wiggins (Awon), Co-Founder of Don’t Sleep Records

July 3, 2019

Antwan Wiggins, aka Awon, is a Brooklyn-born independent recording artist based in Newport News, Virginia.

In 2014, along with frequent collaborator Phoniks, he founded Don’t Sleep Records as an independent platform to release music. Awon has shared the stage with many legendary hip-hop acts including Little Brother, Common, EPMD, MC Lyte, and Oddisee.

Balance the Grind spoke to Awon about a day in the life of an independent musician, running his own record label, juggling music with family, and more.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your background and music career?

Hi, my name is Awon. I was born in Brooklyn, New York, raised in Newport News, Virginia and I love Hip Hop.

I found my calling emceeing many moons ago and I have been putting out underground Hip Hop albums since 2008.

I am the co-founder of Don’t Sleep Records and I pride myself on our independence.

2) What does a typical day in the life of an independent musician and record label owner look like? Can you take us through a recent day?

So let’s start with today. I woke up around 6am. Everyday begins with coffee so I made my wife and myself a cup of coffee.

I played with my daughter a bit and started checking my emails. Most of my work gets done on my phone so it’s imperative that I check it due to time differences.

Most of the people I do business with have started their day by the time I get up. By 7am I’m getting breakfast ready while watching the news in between checking my socials.

The rest of the morning I am helping my wife get ready to head overseas for a show she has in Paris.

We go over the set, I listened to some of the records she recorded last night, loaded the set on a hard drive and by then it was around 11am.

My wife needed to run errands so I hung out with my kids until it was time to go. We made it to Dulles around 330pm.

Traffic is crazy in Northern Virginia so I made it home around 430p.m. From that time until my kids bedtime it’s dedicated to family. I record or finish up business after hours.

3) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

For me work-life balance is everything, being a dad I have to give my kids the attention they deserve so I compromise with how I work.

I’m rarely in front of a computer. My office is where ever I am. I invested in a good phone with great storage, I research apps that can help me organize my day and keep up with business related emails and data.

Time management is also something important in my opinion, that time is our greatest resource we have to use it wisely.

4) In between your music, life and all your other responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?

I always stop for a moment. I take my time, I’m flexible and I don’t live by deadlines.

5) What does work life balance mean to you?

Work life balance to me means not putting too much on either side, for every hour you work you owe yourself that much time during the day just to be yourself.

I try not to get so lost in what I am doing I forget to take care of me.

6) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

For me flexibility has been crucial to me because everything doesn’t always go according to plans, but it’s still in motion so it’s working.

Small changes or minor setbacks should not derail you. You just adapt and keep going.

7) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

I have read tons of books, but none have prepared me for my career in the way that knowledge of self has.

Self awareness has given me the ability to self actualize and manifest what I project in my thoughts.

There are no rules to the industry that I am in, standards and common practices are out of the window and my own success is a testament to that because it came along by not following conventional methods.

I actually laugh at All You Need to Know About the Music Business by Donald Passman now because so much has changed and those rules don’t apply, there are no longer any rules.

8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

I get a good nights sleep, I don’t miss any of my meals, and I set daily goals on what I would like to accomplish for the day.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Your day to day process is your process, find out what works for your and stick to it.

Do not be afraid of change or adapting your routine to fit your life at the moment because first and foremost we all have to live.

Entrepreneurship is tough, but rewarding and doing it your way is the only way that makes sense.

Photo credit: Jarele Taylor

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