Many musicians take inspiration from the world of literature and theater, but 21-year old semi-newcomer pop musician Taylor Castro takes it one step further with an entire concept album, Girl, Afraid, structured entirely as a two act stage play. With each song representing an scene in the greater story, it’s easy to fall into the trap of bloating tracks with extra plot, so to speak. But if “Muse With a Dagger,” the latest single off the LP, is any indication, Castro is skilled at keeping the story refined and unburdened with overcomplexity.
From the first couple of shots, the music video for “Muse With a Dagger” wastes no time establishing the backstory and setting for the rounded characters born from Castro’s head. A preppy school uniform, a splash in the water, a huge estate, Castro herself. With a uniquely deep vocal tone, she sets up a tale of two characters at odds with each other in more ways than one. That’s one takeaway anyway; Castro is delighted by the idea of the many interpretations the song and video can take on.
“‘Muse with a Dagger’ can be seen from many different angles,” says Castro. “Depending on the listener’s subjective point of view. For me, it’s a song about the divisions society forces us to have with those who aren’t like us, told allegorically through a relationship between two individuals. The pair forms an unexpected bond but are torn apart due to the polarized communities they come from.”
A star-crossed lovers story it is not though, Castro emphasizes. “This is not Romeo and Juliet because the characters have genuine loyalty to their people and are frustrated by the unwanted connection. When a natural conflict occurs between the two, they rage against the other’s community. It’s all in vain, however, because both of them will always be an entity separate from what they stand with. In a rage, one can destroy the world of the other but never quite bring themselves to destroy the other. This is because we are not defined by what we associate with. We are defined solely by the corners of our inner selves that no one can quite fit into or even grasp.”
That kind of nuanced literary analysis infiltrates Taylor Castro’s entire creative process and body of work, and have been an innate part of her since birth. “There was never a choice in the matter. I’ve been creating since I was created.” Like many musicians, her eclectic side emerged earlier than most. “The golden age of my elementary day was spent hiding in the garden, reading books by what must have been by the billions. The moment I was taught to write, I wrote. A lot. I put pen to paper, wrote down the songs that had only been impromptu performances. I figured out how to use GarageBand and iMovie. I designed my own website and started a YouTube page. I failed all my classes back then because I was too busy creating my own little empire.”
But it’s not all in the abstract on Girl, Afraid. On the title track, Castro confronts her personal struggles with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (which she was diagnosed with at age 10) head-on. “OCD presents a constant fear and paranoia, so I wanted Girl, Afraid to be a comfort for people who suffer from it as I do.” And comfort it is. As her LeAnn Rimes-esqe voice belts lines confronting herself like “Get out of my head” or “afraid of nameless, unknown things / afraid of losing everything,” it is easy for fellow anxiety sufferers to relate. Meanwhile, despite its title, single “Abyss” (which reached #3 on the UK Commercial Pop Club Chart) picks up the pace, while remaining catchy and introspective.
Naturally as a lover of all things art and writing, Castro’s affinity for film has shown itself publicly even before her debut album PURE in 2018. She has starred in five feature films, currently studies at film school, and has been recognized by the Los Angeles Film Awards for her roles in features Dream Killer and Marriage Killer. It all makes sense given her cinematic flair with her music videos. “I love film. Music videos are a great chance to tell a story. I love acting too, so the videos are everything I do encompassed into a four-minute feature.”
With both a burgeoning acting and music career, at the moment Castro is resolutely focused on the latter. “I really wanted to bring out a new side of me for this album. A lot of doors are opening up for me with music, so I am going to walk through them and go where life is taking me.”