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Failure is always fine in retrospect. It’s when you’re in the middle of it that things can get dark. You wonder if you’ll ever make anything good ever again. It’s a common fear of creative people: We’re worried we’ll wake up one day and all our creativity will be gone. And yet, there’s not a single creative person out there who hasn’t failed miserably at some point. It’s going to happen, and then it’s going to happen again. What makes someone a pro is how they deal with it — how they move on.

On the About page of their website, Deep Elm Records describes themselves as “fiercely independent.” This description will make more sense after you read our chat with Deep Elm founder and owner John Szuch, who started the label with a bike, a backpack and pretty much zero industry know-how. In a post-interview email, John wrote: “I poured every penny I had into [Deep Elm] while taking no salary, working 18-hour days and living on ramen. It took five years to break even. Many times I thought I wasn’t gonna make it…but I just kept believing that it HAD to work.”