From listening to her talk, you would never know that Jennifer Knapp is a native of Chanute, Kansas. Her speaking voice is almost as mesmerizing as her singing voice, especially now that there is something distinctly Australian about the way she pronounces her vowels.
After walking away from an illustrious career in the Christian music industry in 2002, Knapp has spent the last seven years Down Under, growing, healing, relearning herself, and — believe it or not — rarely picking up her guitar.
The reasons for her departure are as complex as Knapp herself: burnout, fatigue, frustration, loss of enthusiasm — and yes, that persistent rumor is true: Jennifer Knapp is gay. She’s been in a relationship with another woman for the last eight years.
But, just like with her faith, she doesn’t want to be boxed in by the label. Jennifer Knapp is a whole person, and her new album — Letting Go, which will be released on May 11th — tells a lifetime of stories.
I spoke with an earnest, warm, humble Jennifer Knapp earlier this week about Letting Go, about coming out, about faith, and about the strange phenomenon of being Google-able.
AfterEllen.com: Can we talk a little bit about your decision to leave
the Christian music scene? I think a lot of people are going to put
that all on your sexuality, but that was only one of many factors that
made you decide to walk away, right?
Jennifer Knapp: Yes,
[my sexuality] was pretty far down the list. And while, for a lot of
people, my departure was pretty sudden, I spent another year after I
decided to leave clearing up my schedule. So it was quite a commitment
for me to kind of have to go through the dates I had on my schedule and
know at the end of it, people weren’t going to have anymore.
don’t really know why anyone was surprised. I talked the entire time
about how I wasn’t going to continue. And my relationship, my
circumstances about the awareness of my own sexuality, I had to pretty
much put on hold because I couldn’t even deal with it. So, I think that
was one of the reasons why — one of the many reasons why — I was going, “Wow, I just can’t deal with [recording and
touring] right now. I have to get to a place where I can deal with a lot
of personal issues.”
AE: Music was such a huge part of your
identity, as big a part as anything else, I would assume.
Yes. I was really struggling as a person who was losing enthusiasm for
my profession, and something that was an amazingly fulfilling part of my
life. And that was far more colossally confusing at the moment
than any other thing.
For the Christian community to think that
I’ve held or harbored some sort of secrets, it’s a little bit
disturbing. One can only self-actualize and figure themselves out when
you’ve got a quiet place to go do it. At the end of the day, you just
kind of have to let people say what they will say. The people around me
know the truth of my whole life’s journey, and not just the public
life that I have.
AE: And you didn’t just stop recording and touring, right? I mean,
you just stopped playing altogether.
JK: Yeah, I sold all
my gear. I kept my favorite guitar at the request of friends who were
like “Just keep one thing, and maybe, maybe one day you’ll play again.”
for about five years, I couldn’t even play. I mean, I might pick up my
guitar for about thirty seconds, but it was such a painful and confusing
process for me that I just didn’t persist until a couple of years ago
when I felt like I’d really gotten my s–t together, and could really
start to plumb the depths of who I wanted to be. As a songwriter, that
process is really sacred to me. I’ve always had to go to some place
safe, and only when it began to feel safe again was I able to play
and write. I just finally felt free to do it, and I was just happy to
have that really important thing in my life back.