The Rogue One

Leslie Eiler Thompson is a Nashville-based multifaceted music and branding professional. In 2018, Leslie launched the Rogue Ones Podcast, which affords her the great opportunity to speak with extraordinary folks doing the most fascinating things for the purpose of "our ongoing quest toward a life with a bend toward the remarkable."

What’s your “rogue” story?

I always share the story that my father is a math teacher and my mother is an art teacher; that explains more about my background than most things will. My work and life always seem to strike a balance between art and calculation, and this has formed most of my “rogueness.” I suppose I’ve always been a bit of a rogue - I enjoy doing things differently and being unique; I revel in the interesting, and seemingly small, things. 

My bachelor's degree is in commercial vocal music - this means that instead of earning a typical classical degree like most vocal programs in the country, I was learning to sing other genres like jazz, pop, country, and rock for the purposes of having a vocal career in popular music. My emphasis allowed me to create and edit compositions with computers - I would spend hours in our college basement cutting up audio and manipulating it. I was living a full artistic life and loving it. 


Upon graduating, my husband and I got married and were hit with the reality, as many of us are, that bills had to be paid. This is where my “math” background kicked in as I decided I needed to find a job that fit both my art and calculation career. Through some pretty amazing circumstances, I was hired by a choral sheet music company in sales and social media marketing. After a year, I was moved into marketing management. After a few years I moved to a smaller music company in marketing management. I was enamored by the contractors and freelance people we worked with. No one cared where they were at 3 in the afternoon as long as the projects were being completed. They were able to take on passion projects and give them the same amount of focus as they were with their paying projects. This was what I wanted for my future, and I also wanted to have a life where I could be around for my future children while still being involved in work and great projects. 

Gratefully, an opportunity was presented that allowed for me to leave a standard “9 to 5” job - to go ROGUE - and build my own beautiful quilted career. While the transition was terrifying, I haven’t looked back. I own a marketing studio in Nashville, and I work with artists and musicians in brand development and marketing strategy. The highs are very high, and the lows are even lower (it’s still terrifying sometimes!)…and yet, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have the space in my mind to dream and build passion projects (like my podcast, The Rogue Ones) and I have the freedom to take on many different projects to which I’m able to give my best. 

Interestingly, I feel that EVERYTHING I learned in life and college (from soft skills and tangible marketable skills) is coming together for this career I’m building. I’m grateful to have been given the opportunities that have led me this far, and I remain hopeful that it will continue to build.


What is something you wish you had known when you were beginning your career?

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this career is the “red herring” of self-employment freedom. Yes - I do it on my time and can “make my own schedule,” but simply put - if I'm not working, I’m not making money. There are very slow times, and I am fortunate to have developed a system by which I pay myself a salary each month, but I still get very scared when my days are “wide open” instead of filled with work. This does not allow for feeling “free” in many ways. This is not a life of ease or comfortability in many ways. But again - I would rather manage this than wrestle with being in a career that did not fulfill me.

What inspired you to start the podcast?

I’ve always loved using digital mediums to tell stories. Growing up, I would spend hours recording my voice (speaking and singing) into recording software programs and manipulating it - writing songs and “news" programs and editing them into “things.” I also loved making power point slides, and eventually (when our home caught up to technology), making movies in Windows Movie Maker. I would film myself in my room, creating new characters and bringing them onto my talk show, “The Red Door” (my closet door was red). I’ve been hosting talk shows and interviews for as long as I can remember. Embarrassingly, I also practiced interviewing ad nauseam growing up…as I was in my room cleaning, while I did my makeup, when I drove around town…I would practice people asking ME questions, and then what questions I would ask others. As silly as this was, it was formative for me to build this comfortability with asking questions and keeping a conversation flowing. Then, I continued learning this concept in college as I sat in front of computers for hours editing audio and learning how to form it into something beautiful. 

I've always wanted to do a podcast of some sort - and after mulling over what it would look like and how it would feel, I decided that I was experiencing “paralysis by analysis"…it was time to just DO the thing. I wanted to talk to interesting people, and I wanted to learn how to make those REAL conversations ones that humanized the guest - that would make them relatable to the person listening. The only way to do this is to just start - so in 2018, that’s exactly what I did! My guests are extraordinary people doing fascinating things, and it’s a joy to talk to them and share their amazing selves with the world for the purpose of encouraging us all to live remarkable lives.


What have you learned from interviewing all of these extraordinary people?

I continue to be impacted by each interview I host, as humans are quite extraordinary and our experiences offer a great many ways to look at the world around us. I think the most profound lessons I’ve learned from these guests center on the phenomenon of failure. When we are young, we are told that when we fall we should “get back up again,” but then we are thrust into an educational experience centered on grades and performance, with the ultimate goal being NOT to fail - literally. I was never a super great student, once I got one F, I didn’t care if I got another…I wasn’t afraid to fail, and while there were some detriments here, I count it a blessing that the stings of failure become less and less painful as the years passed on. We don’t do a great job as a society of sharing the failure that lies behind the successes. The most recent interview I hosted featured a film producer and director who immediately shared how many times he’s failed - and he LOVES to fail because it means he’s closer to a success. I love this concept, and talking to extraordinary people does nothing but remind me of how good it is to try and to fail. This is what builds character, and this is what teaches us lessons like nothing else can.

What is your personal definition of success?

Broadly, I consider success to be the accomplishment of a thing. Ultimately, I don’t care about stats, I don’t care about results, I don’t care about money or income (though, these things do sidetrack us all sometimes)…I care about accomplishments. Did you set out to do a thing and finish it (even if it looked quite different than you thought it might)? This is success. Are you consistently aiming to make yourself better and thereby improve the community you impact? This is a lifestyle of success. I’m grateful that I never had the goal to be successful in ways related to money or power or job titles…these things are not always lasting, while attitudes of accomplishment will always be met with success.

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