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Carson podcast shares ‘pure, uncut, raw’ insight

JESS KEUHN Shawn Carson began his podcast in December 2020 and has seen success.

“Hey everyone, welcome back to the Carson Podcast,” Shawn Carson said as he opened his eleventh episode. After only a few episodes, rather than recruiting friends to appear on the show as he had done originally, people started coming to the Kearney podcaster. He has a quickly growing fan base, with listeners in Australia, Chile, Mexico, Canada, Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates, with a domination of the Midwest in the U.S. 

Carson never set out for this kind of recognition, and he never thought this many would listen. His goal for the show was simply the betterment of his own character. 

“It’s called The Carson Podcast not because it’s about me, but because it’s for me,” he said. “It’s mainly for me to learn, to expand—to open my eyes a little bit. At the end of the day, it’s just two people talking and hundreds of people listening.”

The Carson Podcast appears on services such as Spotify and Apple Podcast and is gaining traction. The topics of conversation can range from politics to rugs to Buffalo Wild Wings. Shawn Carson has done and seen it all: school activities, the stock market, Army basic training, deployment in Iraq, college courses, the workforce, and, most recently, a rising podcast—all before the age of 21. Carson has no shortage of experiences and stories, but he is more interested in sharing other people’s stories. The Carson Podcast ties together all his interests and activities, struggles and successes, simply through conversation. 

Though he was born in Wichita, Kansas in 1999, Carson grew up in Kearney where he attended grade school, middle school, eventually high school and college. In school, Carson was involved in numerous activities including theater, track, bowling (“one of the best on the team”), and even orchestra, as he played violin for eight years. 

After high school, he enlisted in the United States Army Reserves and was deployed in December 2019, spending a month in Fort Hood in Texas followed by a transfer to Germany and then Kuwait before arriving at a base in Iraq. 

“I tell people I survived World War III in my underwear,” Carson said.

That first day in Iraq wasn’t exactly calm for the young soldiers. The night after they arrived, the new soldiers were told to go to the bunker due to a missile threat. After a while, the soldiers decided to go back to their barracks to go to bed. Just then they heard sirens wailing, so the only logical thing to do was to join in singing “Whoop, whoop! That’s the sound of da police” of the 1993 song “The Sound of da Police” by KRS-One. Just then, the group heard an explosion and felt the ground shake beneath their feet as a ballistic missile hit the base; this was not a drill. The soldiers grabbed their body armor and ran to the bunker. It was not until they were safe inside the bunker that Carson realized he was only wearing his underwear and body armor. They then realized they were missing a man, so Carson ran back inside the barracks only to find him sleeping! Fortunately, everyone was safe that day. 

Carson shared this experience and many more with John Harbols, who graduated from Kearney High a year ahead of Carson and appeared on the fourth episode of his podcast.

“He has that magic where he can just sit down with anyone and just have this flow of conversation,” Harbols said.

There were plenty of activities for American soldiers in Iraq including markets and local shops that sold various handmade goods (including intricate rugs which Harbols especially enjoyed) and the hookah bar was the place to hang out. During this time, Carson listened to the podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience,” which played a role in his interest in podcasting.

After leaving Iraq, the soldiers quarantined at Fort Hood due to COVID-19 before returning to their lives. For Carson, it was almost like returning to a different world, and he didn’t waste any time. He couldn’t even if he wanted to, which made for a tough transition.

“The worst thing about it is that I just got off the plane and just started going to school like I was supposed to forget everything that had happened in the last year,” he said.

After returning from Iraq, a conversation with an old friend finally drove him to start his podcast as a way to catch up with people. He bought two microphones and invited his longtime friend, Thor Thong, on the first episode. They sat and talked about anything and everything until they got hungry and bounced off to Buffalo Wild Wings. He recorded another show the next day, and “The Carson Podcast” was born.

Friends with Carson since middle school, Thong grew up alongside Carson. He has also seen how far Carson has come with his podcast in this short amount of time.

“He’s a very humble person–he likes to work for what he has, and that’s something I respect about him immensely,” Thong said. “I think he’s really embraced it, he’s more comfortable, it feels more natural to him. I think he’s a really good person to be a host.”

According to Thong, stage managing for Kearney High’s theater program helped Carson develop the people skills that he utilizes for his podcast. 

“I think that was probably the biggest part of him growing throughout high school,” Thong said.

Thong vividly remembers a specific instance when Carson’s character shone through. Thong was late for the early-morning bus departure for a One Act competition. Before the bus could leave without Thong, Carson volunteered to track his friend down at the risk of himself being left behind. With an alarm clock malfunction, Thong was still sleeping when Carson arrived at his house. 

“That’s something that I think will just forever be ingrained in my memory,” Thong said. “He could have banged on the front door, but he decided to bang on my window just to make sure he didn’t wake anybody else up, which was very kind of him. He’s always there for a person.”

The team went on to win the tournament, likely thanks to Carson.

Unedited and uncut, episodes of the podcast generally run around two hours.

“I like pure, uncut, raw audio,” Carson said. “I think it’s honest. I haven’t had a bad conversation yet.”

“It’s endless what you can talk about,” he said. “That’s why I really enjoy it.”

Carson wants to continue to grow his podcast, and his ultimate goal is to interview Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk.

“I’m not gonna stop until Elon’s on the show,” Carson said. “No clue what we’d talk about, but that’s the goal.”

Currently majoring in political science, Carson has a full scholarship through the Kearney Bound Program. Lately, though, he has been leaning toward an interest in business and marketing. He wants to make the best of his opportunity to earn a degree, but he really doesn’t know what his future holds. He isn’t thinking of the podcast as a career option yet, but he says he would consider it. 

“I’m just going with the flow, honestly,” Carson said.

Kearney Bound Coordinator Josh Pierce has gotten to know Carson well. They connected when Carson was still in high school, and Pierce is proud of Carson’s accomplishments and his decision to join the military.

“He wanted to be part of something bigger and better, and he wanted to contribute in a bigger, better, different way, and that’s what he was able to do,” Pierce said.

Not only has Carson learned a lot since his first episode in December, but he has also grown as a person. Throughout all his experiences, he discovered things about people that can serve as valuable lessons for others. 

“There’s a good and bad thing in everyone,” Carson said. “Patience is very important. You can’t depend on people. Don’t depend on your neighbors, don’t depend on your friends, but be there if they need something. Depend on yourself to be there for them.”

And if there is one thing to be learned from Carson, it lies in this final simple yet complicated line: “Life is easy, people make it difficult.”

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