UCI Drama alum Taylor Fagins produces a powerful message through song
Taylor Fagins, Department of Drama alum, B.A. ’17, recently released a moving piece, “we need more.” The song is dedicated to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless others who have died through violence. The project was written and sung by Taylor Fagins, and arranged, recorded, and produced by Paul Chang.
Fagins was born and raised in Southern California with a love of music. He started his acting career at UCI and then moved to the professional stage with roles at the Chance Theatre in CA, Theatre Row in NY, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He now lives in New York City, pursuing a professional career as a playwright, specifically musicals. Fagin’s ultimate goal is to tell the unheard stories and give a voice to those who are unseen. His recent endeavor is a shining example of doing just that.
We recently reached out to Fagins to ask a few questions about making “we need more.”
CTSA: How long have you been passionate about, and singing, music?
TF: I remember singing with the radio ever since I was little. When I was nine years old, my mom heard me singing in the shower and said I was "actually a really good singer." After that, I regularly sang - with my grandmother at the piano, with show choir in high school, church worship, and musical theatre in college.
CTSA: When did you first start writing music?
TF: My aunt gave me a journal in middle school and told me that I should write things in it. It was a black journal with a picture of the Empire State Building, which was the beginning of everything I knew as writing. I would take it with me to school and write fictional stories and journal entries; I would write dreams and fears and everything in between. Finally, when I was a senior in high school, my family went through some rough times that forced me to grow up fast. That's when I started writing music and plays, December of 2012.
CTSA: How long have you been producing songs?
TF: I didn't start producing music until I moved to New York in 2018. After attending UCI and the New York Satellite Program with Prof. Myrona DeLaney, I realized I wanted to write the stories of people unheard and unseen. So, when I graduated and became a Big Apple resident, I went through a lot of emotions that I needed to process through music. Luckily, my friend Paul Chang (producer of "we need more.") is one of my closest friends in NY. He ended up showing me tips and tricks to producing, and I grew in my love for expressing myself through music, not just writing.
CTSA: Can you tell us more about your inspiration and the process of writing this particular song?
TF: I woke up on Wednesday, May 27, just was two days after George Floyd died. I had not expressed myself through writing (my natural way of coping with emotions) for the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery or Breonna Taylor. I found myself sitting at the edge of the bed, wondering, “why am I so sad?” I remembered a phrase someone told me once - they were complaining about their son being disrespectful - “little boys don’t do that.” That’s when I opened my eyes and said, “that’s why I’m sad. Little black boys can’t run anymore without being scared - because of Ahmaud Arbery’s death.” From there, I listed what made me sad about the future of my little brother and sister, the lives of my future children, and the lives of every black child right now. I knew I had to address the fear of parents and the effort our community is making for these children. When I sang the song for my girlfriend, Johnique Mitchell, she told me the song was perfect and how emotional it was and said, “Yes, we have to try.” I needed a final chorus to show how much we were doing for the Black community and our culture. So I wrote the “We will try...” chorus. I played through it again, made a single word shift in the second chorus, and hit record on my phone—all in all, a 30-minute process. About two hours after I posted it, Paul told me he saw the video and asked if I’d be interested in making a more produced version. He said, “this is important, and I think we can make sure the message is heard. But only if you agree.” I thought about it, and I did.
CTSA: What is one message you hope resonates with your audience?
TF: If we change the way our country treats people of color, especially Black people, then we’re making a start toward a world where no one lives in fear.
CTSA: What does “more” look like for you or the community?
TF: Peaceful protesting, donating to a cause that helps, having conversations that force you to open your heart to another perspective, and doing it all over again, every time you have a chance. Also, be proactive about reaching the Black community and people of color. If you know events are happening in the world that could affect someone in your life, reach out before they have to ask for it. The kindest thing you can do is let someone know you care and you’re there.
CTSA: Is there anything else you would like to share?
TF: Honestly, just think about it this way. A child knocks on your door. You open it to see that they are younger than ten and Black. A police officer is standing behind them. The officer says, “I’m sorry to bother you, but can you please explain to this child that, according to statistics, they are 93% more likely to die by my hands?” After a confusing silence, the officer would say, “just tell them that there were only 27 days in 2019 where a black citizen did get hurt or killed by a cop. So, it’s possible they might be next, no matter what they do.”
Of course, this is hard. You’re not crazy for thinking this is ridiculous, but it isn’t wrong. Many credible organizations log this data, and these are real facts. These are also real conversations that my mother and father had with my siblings. This the conversation the world has with us when we see a black man spend the last nine minutes of his life under a police officer’s neck or black woman is woken up in the morning and killed without question. So, if you think it’s a scary world to see people live through, then try and imagine actually living it.
Now do something to make things different. Do more than just imagine because that’s what we need - more.
Learn more about Taylor Fagins at www.taylorfagins.com