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Whiz Kid

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"Sports is the modern version of slavery," says Denton-based singer Daniel Folmer, as he watches the Cowboys/Jaguars game at an eatery in North Dallas.

"I mean, look at football--there's an owner, and the players run around on a field with chains on it," says Folmer.

The 21-year-old songwriter has just released his lo-fi techno-pop debut, Wear Headphones, and is finishing up his degree in Rehabilitation with Substance Abuse and Addictions at the University of North Texas.

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Daniel Folmer

In between Drew Bledsoe interceptions, Folmer pontificates on everything from sports psychology to the ever-changing area music scene.

"Every other motherfucker I know is moving to New York," Folmer bemoans. "I don't understand why people are moving from Denton. It's not like we have a million other rats trying to get the cheese."

The outspoken and gangly Folmer (who sports a nasty gash on his chin incurred during a pickup hockey game) is wary about promoters, agents and, especially, soundmen; but he is much more upbeat discussing the twenty songs that make Wear Headphones such a brainy yet engaging debut.

"A lot of people might say it's too long or stretched out," says Folmer, "but with iPods, I wanted to have as many songs available as possible." With the able help of John Congleton (The Paper Chase) and Justin Collins (Burnt Sienna), there's nary a bum track in the bunch. Songs such as "Who Do You Think You Were," "Lonely Seed" and "Everyone's Columbus" are well-constructed odes to broken relationships and interpersonal interactions gone awry.

"My songs are always direct narratives to old girlfriends or people I've known," says Folmer, who played guitar, bass and keyboards on most of the tracks. "I mean, everybody knows at least one person who really fucked them up."

Folmer's upbringing included attending the Carrollton Christian Academy where he was kicked out for getting a little too frisky with a girl in the back of a choir bus. He decided to attend college in Denton but not to share in UNT's musical tradition.

"I don't think playing jazz on a Carnival cruise ship is for me," he says.

Folmer's been hanging out in his small apartment, delivering pizzas in an un-air-conditioned car and writing about six songs a year since 2002. Inspired by his parents' love for music, Folmer incorporates elements of Neil Young, David Bowie and even old-school country into his minimalist compositions. Folmer's fragile tenor dances across the skeletal backdrops like a resurrected Nick Drake fronting Yo La Tengo.

"I equate making music to creating videogames," says Folmer. "There's a storyline that branches out in other directions."

Although a bit on edge, Folmer comes across as a likable curmudgeon, a thoughtful surveyor of the music scene who feels lucky to have an avenue for artistic expression.

"I'm mediocre at everything I do," Folmer says humbly. Thankfully, he couldn't be more wrong.

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