Catching Up With Jennifer Knapp
By Joseph Hassan
Talk a little bit about what happened after you left the United States.
After I left Christian music in 2002, I probably spent another six to eight months traveling around America just because I could. I just packed my bags and ran around for a long time. I ran around the States and went to Europe and basically just spent that time trying to figure out if I could find my own voice. And eventually I needed a place to put my head on a pillow and go to bed consistently and Australia ended up being that place for me.
So you would say it was 2002 when you 'left' Christian music, when you made that conscious choice?
Yes, absolutely. I think it was September 27, 2002 -- that was the last show that I played as a full-blown Christian artist.
Christianity was such a huge part of your life. Is it still?
It's a catch-22 really, because when you've been so wounded by something it's really hard to hold it as dearly and intimately as you did before. At the same time, it's still the framework with which I continue to go to back and see the best of the world and the best that I have to offer and the best of other people. So it's hard for me to just single-handedly throw it out the door. For as many years as I've built it up to be something that it may or may not be, I'm starting to relearn what that means -- in honest acceptance of who I am in that context I never had before.
That has to be a very difficult thing to do.
That's a huge challenge. I got a package last week from this girl who sent every single record of my Christian work that she'd bought back to me, which was actually the most hurtful thing that I've ever had anyone do. I can handle the rhetoric and the language and even people coming up to me and saying that they're disappointed in me. But when the very best gift that I had to offer the world, to other people -- and she summarily just sent it back and said 'I don't even want it in my house, I won't throw it away, I want you to have it, here -- I reject you.' I actually cried over that, which is a pretty big deal for me. I tried to be tough about it, but that's the amazing thing that you kind of have to go through. Knowing that you've given your best to somebody and then to have that rejected' it's pretty challenging to keep your chin up.
It's interesting you say that because in your interview with Larry King [where Knapp was forced to argue against Pastor Bob Botsford that spirituality and homosexuality are not mutually exclusive] you held it together really, really well --
I cried for a couple of hours after that.
So the interview was more difficult than it looked?
It was pretty hard. I do my best to respect the position that Pastor Botsford came from. We don't share the same position obviously. To be in the hot seat that much, to have your very person, your integrity, and your heart questioned -- the core of where you find identity. It's hard enough in the universe to be secure and confident in who you are. And then to be in that position in a very, very public setting and to have someone take a very important section of my life that I've taken very seriously, doing my very best to be good and accomplish that faith as best I could. To have someone come in' it was really hard and to be gracious at the same time and try to give him the same thing that I would expect in return. Yeah, it's really hard.
It's certainly not a comfortable situation.
At the end of the day, I can go home. This is a public life and I can go to private life. I've been very fortunate in my private life. I've had my family and my friends not even skip a beat in accept me all my days as whomever I've been and however I've come. I think Christianity's probably been the harder adoption in my life that my family's had to deal with far more so than my sexuality so that's kind of the irony there.
Because you found religion in college, right?
Yeah, the exposure to the evangelical side of adopting that whole tradition as a life-changing experience. Absolutely.
[At this point in the interview, a member of Knapp's team pokes her head in and mentions that some fans who came all the way from Florida would really like to say hello. 'They've said they'll wait all night.' Jennifer refuses to let that happen and excuses herself for a quick introduction. High-pitched screams erupt from down the hallway.]
You essentially didn't pick up your guitar for six years, what did it feel like when you picked it up to write again?
It was pretty strange at first. I knew how to do it, but I was so rusty. My calluses were practically nonexistent, I needed new strings, my vocal chords were unresponsive. In a way, the fact that I could focus on the physicality of it was probably a blessing. I set my mind to practicing, for a while, working on some covers' then, sweet joy, I started to write my own stuff again.
What has the reaction been from your former fans?
We took a seven-year break. Nobody does that. It's career suicide. And there's not a single person that I've ever met who said, hey that was a good decision [laughs]. So, I played a show in Hoboken and two here [in New York City] today and I'll still have someone next week come up and say, "I can't believe Jennifer Knapp is back." We're still trying to get the word out. So, there's that. And then there's the huge impact that it's made in having guys literally say, 'I'm not going to follow you anymore because you're gay and I'm Christian and you just can't be both.' It seems less of an issue that I'm not doing Christian music anymore. The guys that show up love the new record and love the music.
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