By: Heather Smith
In 2003, Jennifer Knapp had a successful career as a contemporary
Christian singer-songwriter. She had sold over a million albums.
She had a Grammy nomination and several Dove Awards.
However, she was not enjoying her success the way one would
expect. She was exhausted, going through what she described as
a “crisis of confidence.” She walked away from music and virtually
Four years ago, Knapp returned with an announcement that
would test the loyalty of her fans and provoke many conservative
Christians. She was a lesbian. She released an album
called Letting Go and began her comeback.
In October 2014, Knapp released a new album called Set
Me Free, as well as a memoir, titled Facing the Music: My Story.
Both works are honest and emotional and continue to spread
what initially gained her fame—her message of love and faith.
Jennifer Knapp took some time to talk about why she left music,
her journey back, and how her faith still plays a part in her career.
In 2002, you walked away from a successful career
as a contemporary Christian artist. What were the
factors that made you leave it behind? Did your sexuality
play a part in that?
In general, I left my Christian music career exhausted. I was going
through such a crisis of personal confidence to such a point
that I simply didn’t have it in me to continue wrestling my private
needs while living such a public life. I had so many issues weighing
me down: crisis of faith and questions about whether or not I
even wanted to be a Christian “on display”. I had a host of philosophical
doubts about my role in the industry and many questions
about what, if any of my own faith experience I was willing
to share in public. Looking back, I’d have to say that my sexuality
had a part to play in it, sure, but it was more of a symptom of need rather than a catalyst. It was, however a
huge wakeup call that I needed to start taking
my mental and physical well-being a lot more
seriously, and so, I did.
In 2010, you came out and also released
a new record Letting Go. What
was the reaction of your fans after
you came out?
I’ve experienced the entire, perhaps predictable
spectrum. There were fans absolutely
celebrating with me, the joy of returning to
music after having come back from such a
dark place, all the way to having CDs sent
back and hate mail. There were Christians
who went out of their way to be supportive,
while others angrily insist I could never claim
my Christianity again. Good or bad, though,
my coming out has definitely been a significant
factor for many of the fans I’ve lost and
kept since coming back.
What is your relationship with your
earlier, more faith-based records,
Kansas, Lay It Down, and The Way I Am?
There are a handful of songs I still play live,
but I’m pretty selective about when and where
they get played. There are some personal,
faith-based reasons why I won’t play some
and there are some I just don’t enjoy playing.
In the end, I suppose like any artist performing
their own stuff, you keep playing what speaks
to you and leave out what doesn’t fit...
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