Jennifer Knapp was at the height of her career when she did what most would consider unthinkable: she took a seven-year hiatus, looking to reclaim a part of herself that felt lost in her success. But that period of soul-searching made her songwriting more honest than ever. After her highly anticipated return Letting Go, she has solidified a loyal fan base through remarkably accessible songwriting that bridges across genres. Her transition from Contemporary Christian Music to mainstream folk rock has made her a lightning rod for controversy, but her unique ability to speak gracefully to music lovers from all walks of life fills a void in the unlikely intersection between the faith and LGBT communities. Today we find Jennifer experiencing a personal renaissance with a much broader platform than ever before: recording a new album entitle Set Me Free, becoming one of the foremost advocates for LGBT people of faith, and releasing a memoir Facing the Music: My Story on Howard Books/Simon and Schuster.
Widely recognized for her human approach to the divine, Jennifer had been honored with four Dove Awards and two Grammy nominations, and her albums Kansas (1998), Lay It Down (2000), and The Way I Am (2001) had sold over one million copies combined. But in 2002, Jennifer left all that behind to wander the most remote corners of the Australian outback. “I didn’t play, I didn’t write, my guitars collected dust for 5 years. I completely had to divorce myself from the whole thing because I never really took ownership of what music meant for me as an individual. I needed to figure that out, so I really left the music business with the idea that I may not ever do it again.”
After seven years spent traveling and being a “normal” person, Jennifer started to revisit what made her happiest. Inspired by other female artists touring Australia — including Katy Perry, whom Jennifer had managed in a previous incarnation as Katy Hudson — she picked up her guitar again and started performing for friends. “I was really enjoying the music I was playing at home. There are sad parts of working in the industry that made me feel disconnected, but I realized I was just afraid and was hiding. It seemed a shame that I could share my songs with people and I wasn’t doing it.”
Jennifer finally returned to music in 2010 with her refreshingly straightforward earthy rock record Letting Go, which eager fans rewarded with a debut at no. 73 on the Billboard Hot 200 Chart. Although Jennifer made her initial mark in the Christian market, her time away made her realize that while she would never turn her back on that belief, she didn’t want to exclude anyone else, either. “I wanted my core audience to find something familiar, but refreshed, on Letting Go. At the same time, I am so happy to throw off any cloak that has been put upon me that would make any music lover hesitate to listen to my music. I am so excited to bring all different types of people to my party.”
In the same year that Jennifer released Letting Go, she publicly came out as a lesbian. This noteworthy story was initially published by Reuters, The Advocate, Christianity Today and CNN.com and was quickly followed by an interview on Larry King Live. Jennifer’s poised willingness to speak on behalf of LGBT people of faith has created a new role for her as an advocate. In 2011, she launched the Inside Out Faith series to engage this social justice dialogue. At these presentations, conducted mainly in churches and universities, Jennifer weaves her narrative with her music while sharing candid revelations of her experiences as a gay person of faith.
After reconnecting with her loyal fan base by playing intimate shows across the country in support of Letting Go and releasing The Hymns of Christmas with Margaret Becker in 2012, Jennifer is working on a new album for release in 2014.
“an uncommonly literate songwriter” — People Magazine