Jennifer Knapp is an open book


Jennifer Knapp is a household name in the Christian music community, which has come at a cost for the 40-year-old musician. A singer-songwriter who got her start playing in her local church band, Jennifer was an award-winning and best-selling Christian star until she took a hiatus and, after much speculation and several years in Australia, came back to the States and announced she was a lesbian.

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That was four years and one album ago, and now Jennifer is telling her life story in Facing the Music, available in stores today. Her new album Set Me Free follows on October 14 from Righteous Babe Records. From her childhood as a twin in a broken home in rural Kansas to her current life in Nashville with her partner, Jennifer details her struggles to fully come into her own but how finding God and music were of equal importance to shaping who she is today.

Jennifer said that writing Facing the Music fits rather well into a pattern that seems to be her life: “Which is, I think there’s no possible way I could ever do that and therefore no, I’d never do that. But it’s a breadcrumb trail that keeps happening that I end up falling into.”

“I think ever since I came out in 2010 the immediate call was that I was some kind of lesbian genius that had something to contribute to the LGBT conversation when, in fact, I was just trying to sort that out,” Jennifer said. “There were immediate calls to write a book and tell us how that went and I didn’t really know. It took a long time for me to process that and I kept pushing the idea of writing a book aside even though I had several invitations to do so.”

When she decided to publish with Simon & Shuester under its new Christian imprint,  Howard Books, Jennifer worked under a tight deadline, which she said was “great for an Aries. We love deadlines otherwise we never get stuff done.” She wrote the book in six month’s time and found it was not so unlike songwriting.

“I think the idea of the book was so big and enormous and long and drawn out that it was hard for me to get my head around. So in that way the songwriter part of me was really a comforting thing to have,” Jennifer said. “I kind of had an idea of how to spend time getting into making a narrative and I think those skills are really helpful in writing a book. But I really did kinda do some investigative reading to see really how someone does this.”

The biggest difference, Jennifer said, was having to work on the book even when she wasn’t feeling particularly creative. That’s where having that deadline came in handy, helping her push through the writers’ block.

“For songwriting I wait for a moment where I’m inspired,” she said. “With the book I had to go to a place and then ask the inspiration to come in. I got up every day from 9-5 and said this is a time to write, this is what you have to get done and get accomplished every day. So in that sense it was incredibly different and required an endurance I don’t think songwriting requires. Songwriting is a lot shorter. I might spend a day on a song but I can leave it and there’s no pressure to come back. I might finish it a year later. But a book demanded that I sit and I listen a lot and process and rewrite not just a line which would become cumbersome, even though the songwriter in me wants that line to be perfect, poetic and wonderful and beautiful, when I had to remind myself that I didn’t have a lot of time to do that. So it was kinda fun to allow the two skills to play on one other. I learned that the time and patience and dedication it took to write a book in more of a drawn out way is probably skills I’ll take back to my songwriting in some way.”


Conversely, songwriting must have informed how Jennifer writes words that aren’t necessarily set to music, as the book is a prettily-penned timeline of what she’s endured as part of the Christian community and industry and, later, the larger music industry as a whole. Now a public figure that speaks on behalf of LGBT people as well, there were (and continue to be) certain pressures stacked on top of the woman who found both music and religion healing in different parts of her life. When being confronted with former fans who mail her their albums with hateful letters and preachers that use her as an example of how not to be a good God-fearing girl, Jennifer has had to find answers to the questions people have for her and the condemning statements they want to make. She said that writing the book was “a good exercise” in finding the way to answer those concerns.

“Yeah, I was super aware of it actually so much so that I had a sheet that had all the questions that people have ever asked me,” Jennifer said. “I had to put them someplace because at some point in time they start to become your master in a weird way. They’re important questions and they’re valuable in the sense that we all come to the water cooler because there’s something there that draws us, some commonality.”

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