MusicalWriters Academy Member Jason Spraggins is a lyricist, book writer, and composer living in West Tennessee. His new show, Crawlspace: A True Crime Musical, has recently enjoyed a flurry of activity. The musical premiered with a university production in 2022 and has since received a week-long workshop, staged readings, and a second full production. His new sci-fi musical for children (and children at heart) called Jo and the Gigalytes is currently in rehearsals for its premiere performance in the early summer.

MusicalWriters sat down with Jason to talk about collaboration, working in rural West Tennessee, and the ability of musicals to make dark themes (like murder!) more accessible in this month’s Member Spotlight.

What are you working on right now?

Jason Spraggins: Matt Glickstein and I are in the middle of rehearsals for our new musical Jo and the Gigalytes.  It’s a sci-fi show for children and adults, and it’s worlds away from our last project — but still with a healthy dose of light-hearted social commentary baked in. It merges science fiction, mystery, and adventure, weaving in themes of exploration, acceptance, and courage. Working on this show has been a fun change of pace!

How did you get started writing musicals?

JS: I’ve always been fascinated by music’s power to tell stories. When I was a kid, long before I even understood the term “musical,” I’d lose myself in music of any kind. I’d imagine how it could intertwine with the stories I loved or ones that I made up. I was captivated by the possibilities.

In middle school, a music teacher introduced me to edgy musicals like Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar, Miss Saigon, and Sweeney Todd. By high school, I was hooked on musical theatre. I enjoyed shows that tackled complex themes like politics and social issues. Shows like Assassins and Titanic left a profound impact on me, with how they translated well-known, true, and tragic stories through music. I’ve always been drawn to true stories, and as a writer, I knew from the beginning that I wanted to write shows with unorthodox subject matter. I kept my antenna up for several years, waiting for the right story to come through.

After earning a music degree in college, I explored songwriting and honed my skills in composing, lyric/book writing, and collaboration. In 2010, I began working with composer Matt Glickstein as a lyricist. The following year, I stumbled upon a book detailing the John Wayne Gacy murders of the 1970s, and I immediately knew it was a story I wanted to reimagine as a musical (Why?). It was true, tragic, and full of insights about our society – insights that, sadly, are still very relevant. To me, it felt like a dark opera. I believed it could sing and that music could transform it and make it worth retelling. Matt was up for the challenge, and soon after, we began work on Crawlspace: A True Crime Musical.

Writing a musical is a years-long commitment, and I wanted any show we put that kind of time into to be something experimental and non-formulaic. Crawlspace gave us a chance to stretch the genre to its limits with an unlikely story that asked questions and provided insightful commentary and musings on the human condition. We were able to experiment with form and audience expectations of the genre. It’s been quite a journey and learning experience – one that I hope we continue with other shows.

Listen to songs from Crawlspace below!

What’s a lesson you’ve learned from your writing journey that you’d like to share?

JS:  The journey of writing a musical is inherently collaborative. However, as individual writers, we often work as solitary creatures – lost in our imaginations. The process of collaboration can sometimes leave us feeling vulnerable, protective of our ideas, and defensive. It can be disheartening when, after investing weeks or even years into crafting a libretto or score, a director or audience member offers suggestions for improvement after just one viewing. However, it’s crucial to resist the urge to dismiss these ideas outright or take offense. Feedback, although sometimes challenging to receive, can lead to wonderful discoveries—or not. In any case, we must be willing to listen and consider different perspectives.

In a recent production of our musical Crawlspace, the director, Garry Posey, brought some very out-of-the-box ideas to the table. The production benefited greatly from exploring these possibilities and being open to the collaborative exchange of visions. Gary helped us see our work in a new way – from a fresh perspective. It was a helpful and exciting experience.

Whether it’s between a lyricist and composer, a writing team and a director, or a composer and a musical director, successful collaboration requires an open mind, active listening, and trust in our partners’ intentions for the work. Choosing collaborators carefully and trusting the process allows ideas to flow freely at every stage of development. Good and positive communication is key to success. Collaboration is an integral part of the craft that demands practice and respect. Any success I’ve had has been built, first and foremost, on the foundation of a strong collaborative relationship with my co-writer.

As creators, we possess an intimate understanding of our work. While it’s essential to weigh feedback against our artistic vision and instincts, it’s also valuable to explore different possibilities. Some suggested changes may prove inspirational and transformative, while others may not align with our vision. Ultimately, remaining open to collaboration enriches the creative process and enhances the final product. And if we choose to write musicals, embracing collaboration as an integral part of the process is essential.

Writing a musical isn’t easy. What’s your “why” for being a musical writer?

JS:  Music has a unique power to communicate universal themes in a way mere words alone often can’t. Music also has the potential to make any story, even dark and difficult ones, more accessible and, I believe, transcendent. Musical theatre offers unlimited potential as a story-telling medium and provides a unique vehicle to harness music- a language that speaks to all people- in exploring, through wildly varied stories, what the human experience is all about.

Why did you join MusicalWriters Academy?

JS:  With me living in rural West Tennessee and my co-writer living in Hawaii, I felt pretty far away from any major theatre mecca. I needed guidance, feedback on my work, advice, resources, and a supportive community.  I have found all of that with MusicalWriters Academy.

Click here to learn more about MusicalWriters Academy. Membership is open now!

What’s your proudest accomplishment as a musical writer?

JS:  Attending the first tech rehearsal for the premiere production of our musical “Crawlspace” at Tennessee Tech University was such a powerful experience.  To see a full cast of students, a tech team, musicians, and a seasoned director bring our work to life-  a work that only existed in our imaginations for years- was nothing short of amazing.  It was a wonderful sense of accomplishment, and I remain so thankful to the theatre department and to Mark Creter, the program’s brave and visionary artistic director, for that opportunity and experience.

Do you have any regular collaborators?

Matt and JasonJS:  Matt Glickstein is my good friend and most frequent collaborator. He’s an immensely talented songwriter and composer born and raised in Kaneohe, Hawaii. He is a 2006 graduate from the University of Redlands, receiving a Bachelor of Music in Composition. Matt is the founder and Executive Director of the Lana’i Academy of Performing Arts (LAPA) and has served as Music Director for every LAPA musical (13) since the organization was formed in 2013. In 2019, Matt was chosen as one of eight American dramatic educators to be honored at the Musical Theater International Junior Theater Festival with the prestigious Freddie G Fellowship award.

What do you love about

JS:  It’s been a fantastic and helpful resource.  In fact, after years of development with my musical Crawlspace– things really started moving forward after I joined MWA and met with Rebecca and the other coaches.  Their advice and encouragement was invaluable.

Is there a specific MusicalWriters resource that has been particularly helpful for you?

JS: Rebecca Lowrey!

What is your favorite musical writing (tech) tool?

JS: I regularly use Master Writer as a lyric writing tool and place to store ideas.

What’s the best way to get better as a musical writer?

JS: I’ve found that the best way to improve as a musical writer is to write every day and avoid being overly critical of your work and ideas too early in the process. Remember, a first draft is just that – a first draft. Focus on getting your ideas on paper without getting bogged down in refining them during the initial concept or draft stage- where exploration and experimentation is key. Refining the work is a whole other process that comes later. If you focus on it too early, it can hinder your creative impulse.

Do you have a website?  What tool or service did you use to create it?

JS: I have two- both I created using &

Check out production photos from Crawlspace below!

Just for fun: What’s your favorite “guilty pleasure” album to listen to on repeat?

JS: 90’s Country Hits

Lightning Round

Coffee or tea? Coffee this month
Cats or dogs? BOTH!
Digital or analog? Analog
Fly solo or team up? Depends on the project
Pizza or Hamburgers? Pizza
Road trip or fly? Road Trip
City, Country, or Suburbs? Country
Flip Flops or Croc? Neither
Apple or Android? Apple
Most recently used emojis? Thumbs Up
Last thing you texted? The “O.K.” emoji
Three things within arms reach right now? My notebook, a water bottle, and a copy of The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin (a must read for any creative person)

What is one question you wish we would have asked?

Question: In a famously difficult market to break into, you wrote a musical about a real life serial killer-are you crazy?
Answer: Sometimes I wonder…

You can connect with Jason Spraggins, and learn more about his work at the links below. | |

Jason earned his Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from Lambuth University in Jackson, TN and his Master of Arts in Education from Bethel University in McKenzie, TN. He currently serves as the West TN Educational Representative for Amro Music Stores based in Memphis, TN. Aside from his theatrical endeavors, Jason is an active composer; his original music for concert band is published by Alfred Music, GPG Music, and Warming Sun Music. In 2021, his piece, “On a Starry Night” (Alfred Music), received a featured performance by the Eastern Wind Symphony at the prestigious Midwest Clinic International Band, Orchestra, and Music Conference in Chicago.