Jennifer Knapp lets go in San Diego
- Jennifer Knapp begins West Coast leg of “Letting Go” tour tonight at Anthology
- Christian music star Jennifer Knapp comes out
SAN DIEGO — Jennifer Knapp took a seven-year hiatus from her career as a successful Christian rock singer-songwriter and disappeared “Down Under.” This past year she resurfaced on the scene with a new attitude, a new album and a declaration for her fans: She was gay.
Knapp launched her tour for her new album, “Letting Go” last spring and has chosen the cities and venues she’s played in carefully. This Friday, Sept.19, will be her second swing through San Diego and also at Anthology in Little Italy. But this time around, she expects it to be a much richer experience.
“Spring was lacking in celebration,” she explained to the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News. She’s referring, in part, to the mood of the tour at that time. After all, just weeks before she hit the road, she had come out to her very religious and conservative base and given a very bold but incredibly eloquent interview with Christianity Today.
“The Christian media handled my story with a great deal of integrity,” she said. “There was a real interest in telling my story with earnest, and I never felt manipulated.”
Still, her fans were a different story and a much more difficult hurdle, especially in those early days of the tour. They still came, but many seemed to come more out of curiosity, than anything else. Did she grow a second head? Will she become a militant? She never had any protests, but she definitely felt the tension.
“It was a weird first couple weeks,” she continued. “Each night it was like ‘are we still friends?’ I really didn’t anticipate the conversation.” She admits that her largely conservative base of fans was often somewhat challenging.
Getting on with it certainly helped and before long, her knees stopped shaking, the awkward dialogue began to subside and she began to relax. That first leg of the tour was difficult but entirely necessary, allowing her to reconnect with her fans and grow through this new stage of her life and her music, together.
“Even though my music is not faith-based anymore, I’m still the same person. I’m not going to convert the whole world to homosexuality, it’s just part of my narrative. I’m very grateful that my fans understood that.”
To Knapp, the fact that she is gay is merely a footnote to her life as a musician. She just wants to play music. In fact, when she finally picked her guitar back up midway through 2009 while still down in Australia, she decided she would “not let my orientation be the deciding factor” in whether or not she played her music.
And play her music she does.
“Letting Go,” is quite a departure from her Christian rock roots and is much more mainstream. She has pretty much closed the door that stands between herself and her previous work, although there are several songs that still resonate deeply with her and remain on the play-list.
As the months have gone on, she’s taken notice that people from all walks of life are now showing up to her performances, gays, straights, a diversity of religions and even atheists, all enjoying themselves in a peaceful nature, and she takes a great deal of pride in that.
“It is a real honor to feel I was some part in that engagement,” she said.
Chely Wright, the popular country and western singer who came out right around the same time Knapp did, waded through a media firestorm – mostly of her own doing – that literally dwarfed Knapp’s experience. And although their stories were quite similar and their fan bases equally conservative, their journeys were quite different.
“I don’t know Chely and I haven’t read her book, but part of her process was telling her story,” she said. “I appreciated the process she chose to go through. It just wasn’t the process for me. In my case, I got it out there and then said ‘now let’s do my music.’”
Knapp spent some time touring with the troubled Lilith Fair this year, and although she was in agreement that the tour and many of the performers took a financial beating, she is grateful for the experience.
“Watching other artists I learn, I get inspired.” Her biggest thrill was watching Mary J. Blidge perform.
“When a white girl from Kansas can be jumping up and down,” she said, her voice getting excited, “there are very few women who can cross over like she does – she brings the whole thing.
“At the end of the day,” she reflected, “if you love performing, you realize why you are there. If it is to make a buck, people will see right through you. You need to invest in yourself as an artist. Good artists remind me that you gotta love and respect what you are doing.”
Like everyone else, she has caught the social media bug, with her Facebook page and her Twitter account, but not without a little trepidation.
“It makes it a bit challenging on a personal level. I love to engage but it’s dangerously close to reading your own press. People can be quite damaging.” Clearly she’s had her share of interaction with the random cowards, those who have chosen to throw barbs or hateful comments from behind the safety and anonymity of a computer screen.
“I’m gotten fairly comfortable with it,” she explained. “There is a sense of accountability and I’m really impressed with the overwhelmingly positive conversation, although it was a little rocky at first.”
Knapp’s return to San Diego was by choice.
“San Diego is a great place, and Anthology is a great venue,” she said enthusiastically. “As an artist, you want to hang out where you’ll have a good time and San Diego is a lovely town, the people are great, I have friends here, so there are many factors. It’s also nice to have it feel special. I really am looking forward to it.”
She also admits San Diego has a similar climate to what she became used to all those years down in Sydney and has even considered settling here.
When she hits the Anthology stage Friday night, there will be no band. It will just be Knapp and her guitar in an acoustic set that may also include a couple of other instruments; a choice that gives her the opportunity to really connect with her audience.
“The best shows are when we have a bond, not a one-sided conversation.”
When asked what San Diego fans can expect from her show that is different from her last appearance in the Spring, she was confident in her reply.
“I think I’m hitting my stride. It’ll be much more conversational and peaceful. Fun. Beautiful. It will be a celebration.”
Come out and celebrate with Jennifer Knapp this Friday night at Anthology at 7:30 p.m.
If you go
Anthology, the “fine tuned music and cuisine” venue, is located at 1337 India St., between Ash and A streets. Parking can be found in various lots surrounding the venue or on the street.
Tickets range from $7 to $30, depending upon viewing level and seat selection. There is an additional $15 food and beverage minimum per person. For tickets, call the box office at (619) 595-0300.
For more information about the venue, its award-winning menu or the performance, visit the Anthology website.
Morgan M. Hurley is the Copy Editor for SDGLN. She can be reached at (877) 727-5446, ext. 710, or via e-mail at [email protected]