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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Artist Spotlight: Jennifer Knapp


Jennifer Knapp, to play in Boston September 2nd at Cafe 939


Jennifer Knapp was a Grammy-nominated, Dove-award winning, critically acclaimed and commercially successful artist in the Christian music circuit when she abruptly decided to stop making music in 2002. She moved to Australia where she stayed in hiatus for seven years, until she began making music again in 2009.

This year she came out as a lesbian, a revelation that has had perhaps more of an impact than the typical celebrity-coming-out story, as Knapp had up until that point been mostly involved in the Christian music scene, a music scene perhaps not best known for its acceptance of homosexuality. Now she’s touring the United States (her concert in Boston is on Thursday, the 2nd, at Café 939), where she is both playing her music and helping create opportunities for conversation and community. Mass Media had a chance to speak with her on the phone before her show.


What was the process this time for creating this record?

At the time I started thinking about a project, I probably had eight or nine songs in the bank, not all of which ended up on the record. I did the recordings in two segments; I did some of the recording in summer 2009, and later I did four demos in Nashville in July, and I didn’t have a full record at that point. I definitely had enough that I felt like I was getting the songwriting back…I never just wanted to slap ten songs and give it a title and that be the end of it. I mean, there certainly was a narrative that you want to accomplish, I think, not just sonically but musically, from the first song to the last song.


Did music play a day to day role in your life while you were on hiatus?

Just in the instance of a looming spectre (laughs) For a good five years after I did my last show, I just refused to play. I could barely listen to music without feeling like I was running away from something. I didn’t want to write, I wasn’t writing at all, I wasn’t even journaling or writing in a diary of any sort. My guitars were collecting dust. In fact, I sold just about every piece of gear minus one or two pieces that my friends and family would just not let me do. I just didn’t want to have anything to do with it. At the same time, it was just one of those weird things that was standing over me going “Why aren’t you doing this? You love to do it.”

Finding that balance between what it means to do that publicly and what it means to do it privately and where those two things intersect. I think one of the lessons I learned over the time away is that in the long run, to enter into the conversation and the blessing that music can be, you have to be willing to enter into the community and enter into the conversation and share that. And at that point, I was just so afraid of sharing or talking—I didn’t know heads from tails as to what that was going to mean, and getting comfortable with that notion and understanding that part and that gift of music—actually connecting you with other people—is a really good thing, and I think sometimes you have to be in the wilderness so to speak, or you know to sometimes go through processes of denial to realize what great gifts that they can kind of bring out to you once you actually return to it.


Did you realize that you’d end up coming out—was this a public statement at all about your life?

I think when I sit down as an artist and you start writing about the things that are inspiring you, or the things you’re afraid of, or the things that are just generally on your mind—as I sat down to write the music, it was a really scary process for me because well, what if this music actually turns out to be something that needs to be shared? I avoided that for a long time, mostly because in the back of the mind—well, at a certain point with an artist there’s a sense of vulnerability…This fear of ‘will I be accepted for who I am, with such a distance in between the last conversation that we had together, will we have something to talk about,’ I think a lot of the fears and concerns and moments of rejoicing and the positive things of that started to surface in the music I was writing at the time. Just getting back in the sense that music does create community, it does create conversation, and in essence it’s like making a phone call to a friend you haven’t talked to in a long time: at a certain point you have to make the call and wait for them to pick up on the other end. Nine times out of ten you move on, and move forward, and figure out what’s going on in each others’ lives, and that’s the process I pretty much went through with a lot of the music that ended up on this record.


How has the reaction been to your coming out with your fans?

You know, it’s been both good and bad. There are certainly those who are coming out to support me just because they’re supportive of the fact that I’m just honest about who I am and what I’m going through and willing to share my experience and I think any time you enter in to a conversation honestly, there’s going to be some dialogue about it which is really good. And then, there are people on the other side of it who don’t want to enter into that conversation at all, and will tell you exactly why. Someone sent me a package last week—some kid had sent me all of their records they’d ever purchased from me with a letter saying “I don’t even want these anymore.” So, you know, there’s both sides of it. People saying “I just bought your records because I saw you on Larry King, and I’ve never heard of you before, but I wanted to say, ‘hey, thank you.” So there are both sides of it. There are ways that people certainly support artists or people external to them by supporting their art or not supporting their art, but then in the middle are these really great, amazing fans who just love the music and can connect to it in whatever way they do. Those have been really potent experiences and the concerts we’ve been having and conversations we’ve been having….I think the thing I love about it the most is I’m just going out with me and my acoustic and reconnecting. So they’re not really big audiences…basically, it just feels like a big conversation we get in the same room and do what music does and we all get together and have a good time. I don’t feel the pressue of having to market some product or  market myself or deliver some massive message that I’m trying to convince people they need to buy into. We’re just showing up and having a good time, and I think that’s to me is one of the great and fun and  exciting things that  I’ve had the opportunity to do this last year in getting come back. Just getting to meet people and frankly, they’re really great environments—I don’t have to separate myself. It’s really organic and normal, and that’s one of the things I love the most. It’s allowing me to reconnect I think in the way that I wanted to reconnect with music all along.