American Songwriter 2020 Song Contest Winner Taylor Fagins Reflects On Experience: “It Changed My Life”

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

“It was pretty funny—I was just scrolling Facebook and the ad for the song contest with Ziggy Marley popped up,” Taylor Fagins told American Songwriter in a livestream interview last Friday. “It was fun and I love him, so I was like ‘Oh yeah, this seems like a fun thing to do.’ I clicked the link, filled out the form and entered my song. I thought ‘I’m just going to throw my song in there, it’s a cool song and who knows? Maybe they’ll like it.’”

At that point in time, Fagins was like many songwriters across America and around the world: unsung. First coming to songwriting in college as a way to express himself and find his voice, the art of telling his story through music quickly became second nature. By the time 2020 rolled around, Fagins was a pro—using songwriting as a way to not only work through his own thoughts and feelings, but to forge them into powerful artistic expressions. Starkly honest, intimately impassioned and societally minded, the songs he was writing were world-class, but nonetheless, he continued on unaffected after entering the 2020 American Songwriter Annual Song Contest. 

“To be completely honest, I forgot about it,” he said. “In my brain, it was like it never happened. I kept writing other songs, I kept going to my job and doing things in New York, I moved on with my life, really.”


Ready to Enter the 2022 Song Contest?

American Songwriter’s 2022 Song Contest is now accepting entries! Get your songs in front of top artists and A&R executives and your chance to win $10,000


But everything changed one morning when Fagins’ slumber was interrupted by the familiar buzz of his phone. “I got a call really early in the morning—because ‘Nashville time’ and ‘New York time’ are very different,” he said with a self-acknowledging laugh. “The voice on the other side said ‘Hey, sorry to wake you up, but is this Taylor Fagins?’ I said ‘Yes,’ they said ‘Oh, well I hope this is good news: you just won the American Songwriter contest!’”

The song Fagins submitted was one he wrote in the wake of the George Floyd protests—entitled “We Need More,” it expounded his experience in a way that was potent, moving and inspiring all at once. So, after years of honing in his craft and pouring his soul into songs, Fagins was finally getting his due recognition. Hearing those words “You just won the American Songwriter contest” was thrilling… once he woke up enough to realize what was happening. 

“At first, I was like ‘What? What contest is this?’” he said. “But then, I was like ‘Oh, oh! The contest!’ It all came back in a flood. It was so funny. The process of signing up was so different from that moment of winning. When I signed up, it was just, like, sending an email. But finding out I won, I was like ‘Oh woah! This is happening now.’”

And pretty soon after that fateful morning call, everything really was happening. For 2020, the prize package for the first place winner included $10,000, a two-page spread in a print issue of the magazine, a consultation with a music publisher and record label, a guitar and more. Right off the bat, these things started to change Fagins’ life. 

“I was able to use the $10,000 to fund my education—I’m going to grad school at Berklee’s NYC campus for a master’s in writing,” he said. “I’m really excited about that. It’s something I only ever dreamed about doing, but the minute I got the prize I was like ‘I can actually do this now’ and it made me really happy. I also got to meet with a publisher and a label. It was really cool talking with them and getting advice on how to further my career as a singer-songwriter. They were like ‘Yeah, make as much music as you can and put it out there.’ They gave me a lot of encouragement and a lot of advice and I’m still in contact with them, so that’s been super awesome. The whole experience has been really fun.”


Ready to Enter the 2022 Song Contest?

American Songwriter’s 2022 Song Contest is now accepting entries! Get your songs in front of top artists and A&R executives and your chance to win $10,000


But beyond being fun, the experience also gave Fagins the infrastructure to follow his dreams with a new rigor. With these resources at his disposal, he’s been able to lock into an even more productive headspace and hopes to be releasing new music soon. “Definitely keep your eyes peeled because there’s going to be a lot of music coming out in the next year,” he said with an infectious smile.

Ultimately, choosing to take the leap of entering the American Songwriter contest proved to be one of the most miraculous and important decisions of his life. 

“It really changed my life and I believe it could change anybody’s life,” he said. “For anyone considering entering the contest: you have to put your work out there. You have to put your art and your heart out into the world. Every time I get an opportunity to put myself out there, I never regret it.”


Taylor Fagins was the 2020 winner for American Songwriter’s Annual Song Contest. The 2021 contest opens (and announces prizes and judges) tomorrow, June 1. Click HERE to learn more. Watch the full interview with Fagins below:


Ready to Enter the 2022 Song Contest?

American Songwriter’s 2022 Song Contest is now accepting entries! Get your songs in front of top artists and A&R executives and your chance to win $10,000


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