By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Isaak Hoskins was on his way to Austin to try his hand at a songwriting career when he stopped in Denton to take a job and make some cash. Half a decade later, he still hasn't made it to the Live Music Capital—but his musical ambitions are, if anything, more alive than ever. In fact, Hoskins says he has found Denton to be as much a songwriter's Shangri-La as he ever hoped Austin would be.
It was Drams/Slobberbone frontman Brent Best who offered Hoskins a job: selling T-shirts on a short tour.
"[That] turned my musical world around," Hoskins says. "Brent told me, you're either going to hate this and come home and be a banker, or you're going to want to do this the rest of your life."
Hoskins now has a Brent Best-produced solo record, Half Empty, in the can and another one with his band The Heelers scheduled to begin recording shortly. Of the time he's spent in Denton: "It's made me love music again."
Ah, but Daniel Folmer, who showcased his tunes recently at SXSW, isn't quite as romantic. He says Denton can be as frustrating as it is nurturing: "There is quite a music community, but it can be difficult and intimidating. But it's definitely rewarding. Some people I used to imagine were complete assholes have turned out to affect me very deeply."
Folk artist Audrey Lapraik has also found the city both supportive and challenging. "The songwriters I know in Denton aren't trying to fit a mold, they're just singing what's pulled out of them," Lapraik says. "And when you go out, you're drinking and talking with people who are doing what you're doing."
Longtime Denton resident George Neal of Little Grizzly (and more recently The Slow Burners) says it's partly the ups and downs of Denton that make it such a songwriters' hothouse.
"So much of what I do is a reaction to what's going on around me," he says. "In both a positive and negative way. Some of what you see in other writers you want to improve on. Other stuff you want to steal."
But even after 17 years Neal seems as grateful as newcomer Hoskins: "I came here with the express purpose of being in a band. I'm just thankful I stumbled onto it."