By Shawn Raymundo
Crystal Bowersox is used to performing songs in front of a live audience.
The 33-year-old singer-songwriter, who is back on the road this summer and will be debuting some new material, particularly enjoys interacting with her fans during and after the shows.
“I really enjoy meeting people after the shows and hearing stories from people about how my music has played a role in their lives or maybe helped them get through something difficult or even just helped them celebrate something like a wedding or love,” she said.
But lately, Bowersox has embraced a new form of songwriting and performing: musical theater. For the past several months, she’s been putting together a show about her life entitled “Trauma Queen,” which she says is the most personal piece of work she’s ever written.
“With my songs, there is a little bit of ambiguity with some of it, or it’s just slightly vague so that other people can insert their own experience,” Bowersox said. ”With this show, ‘Trauma Queen,’ it is my story from start to finish and all the struggles and things that I’ve dealt with.”
When The Capistrano Dispatch spoke about the project with Bowersox, who was the runner-up during American Idol’s Season 9, she admits she was hesitant about exposing all of the details of her life.
“The thought of spilling all my secrets on a stage in front of people was not appealing to me,” she said.
Bowersox teamed up with playwright Willy Holtzman and songwriter Marty Dodson for “Trauma Queen” after the three had previously worked together on the musical Play it by Heart in 2017. Bowersox said Holtzman approached her about writing the show to chronicle her life, pointing out a lack of up-to-date info on her Wikipedia page.
“I said, ‘You’re right, there’s a lot of stuff in-between the lines,’ ” she recalled telling Holtzman. “He came over to my house, we talked for eight hours. A couple weeks later, he sent me a rough draft, and we started working for about a year, sorting out the details and creating the storyline.”
“Then I worked with Marty Dodson, who has had many No. 1 hits, and he’s just such a wonderful songwriter,” she said. “I’ve been working with him on the music for the show.”
Through the process of writing “Trauma Queen” and digging into her past, Bowersox said she experienced a sense of healing.
“It’s been deeply, deeply personal; it’s been very healing to go through everything—just the songwriting is for me, as well,” she said, adding that by telling her story, it also gives those watching “permission to feel and forgive themselves for things” in their past.
Writing “Trauma Queen,” she also said, wasn’t too unlike putting together an album, as each project is a “labor of love” in which you’re constantly writing and editing.
“As far as crafting the script, you read it, you reread it, you edit,” she said. “The song is sometimes the same way for me; you start with a bass structure and play over it again and find new ways to craft it together. . . . It’s about editing and just trying to make it as good as you can get it.”
If all things go according to plan, the show will premiere in Franklin, Tenn., this October.
“The first show is going to be in October; it’s all happened pretty quickly, and I’ve just been very blessed to meet an amazing group of people that helped me make it happen, she said.
Between now and the show’s official debut, Bowersox will be playing several shows around the country this summer, including a stop at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano this month. Because it’s been a couple of years since putting out her last album, Alive, which was recorded live, Bowersox said she’ll be testing some new songs during the upcoming shows.
Aside from debuting the new material and telling “really bad, stupid jokes,” as she normally does during sets, Bowersox wants to connect with her audience, playing her music in a more intimate setting.
“When people come to the show, I want them to feel like they’re in my house and in my living room and we’re just hanging out, and more often than not, people are talking to me from the audience, and there’s no wall between me and them,” she said. “That’s how I want it to feel, and I want people to leave feeling happier than when they got there.”
Tickets to see Bowersox at The Coach House on Thursday, June 20, are $18. Doors open at 6 p.m., with the show scheduled to start at 8 p.m.
The Coach House is located at 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano. For tickets or more information, call 949.496.8930 or visit thecoachhouse.com.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow The Dispatch @CapoDispatch.