HJ: There seem to be a few obvious questions to ask: Why did you leave the music scene? Was it your decision or did you feel forced out?
Simply put, I was tired and had lost the enthusiasm for being a musician. It was a decision that was entirely personal. Most people around me were on the side that I shouldn’t stop, so it would be unfair to say that I was ever encouraged to quit or was forced out.
HJ: What were the things you missed the most about being in the scene? What was your favorite thing about not being involved? And why go to Australia?
My favorite thing about not being involved was the time I had to build my life as an anonymous, normal human being. Relationships, hobbies, mundane requirements of daily living like mowing the lawn, or traveling for pleasure…they all rank up there.
I can’t say that I missed the ‘scene’ that much. I think what often gets forgotten about doing music for a living is that it is hard work. The process of having a career in music goes way beyond the few minutes a day I get to spend on stage performing. It has a way of dwarfing the personal, contemplative and creative spaces that really drive the joy of why I do music in the first place.
Australia was a place where I could enjoy a great deal of anonymity. Beyond the relaxed nature of the country, the fantastic scenery and brilliant weather, I had the fortunate opportunity to build relationships based on reality and not the presupposition of “Jennifer Knapp the artist.” I needed a quiet place to recover, and found it Down Under.
HJ: Did you make a conscious decision to come back or did you just find yourself making music… and end up going, “wow, maybe some people want to hear this?”
I made a conscious decision to start writing again, and it wasn’t easy. I needed to write because that is the way I connect with my universe, with or without an audience. I was empty without music. So it was ultimately a very personal move. I had to stave off all the ‘what if’s’ that come when thinking about what might happen when I actually wrote something decent. But as I started down the road, I realized that the process was still a bit empty if I wasn’t willing to share the music. Music is a very social, connective medium, and I wasn’t connecting. When I began to make a few calls, I didn’t really expect that I would be releasing records on the public scale that has occurred. I don’t usually expect or assume that anyone wants to listen to any of it. I put it out there, and if it sticks, well…that’s just the way it goes, I guess.
HJ: What was your hope or your goal for Letting Go?
For me, the process was more of just getting back on the bike, so to speak. From the writing at home, to getting into the studio, to sharing the music on the stage…it’s all just been a personal project of trying to reconnect with the joy of music and the people who share in that joy.
HJ: Musically, it sounds to me (and I’m no music major) more like “old school” Jennifer Knapp, like Kansas. Is that fair? Is that on purpose?
I’m getting that a lot. Perhaps it the nature of how I’ve approached this project…not initially a ‘project’ to begin with, just me, sitting at home writing. That’s all Kansas was…songs that were created from the living and telling of a journey, without the premeditation of creating a hit record. I had no preconceived notion of where these songs were going to relate to others, I started in a simple quiet space, alone, away from the industry.
HJ: Sticking to the music, did you make “Christian” music before? What does it mean to make “Christian” music?
The thing that most people forget is that I had no idea what the “Christian music industry” was when I got there. It wasn’t until I began getting exposure as an artist writing about my journey about my faith that I began to understand just how specific the genre was. And then, signing with a label that marketed specifically to that end, realized the assumptions put upon me that I was in some way called to promote Christianity by profession. Don’t get me wrong, I released three records specific and purposed about my faith, but after traveling that road, I would say that there was a flip on the art that I intended. The organic nature at which I felt called to be as a creative person turned out to be quite a balancing act between the art and a call to ministry that is often placed upon those who expose their journey through song.
HJ: Is your music Christian now? Why can’t I find that in a Christian bookstore or website?
Is Letting Go a record about Christianity, no.
You won’t find Letting Go stocked by Christian retail, or radio simple because it’s not being marketed through those avenues. Many of the music, literature and specific religious products that you find on the shelves of such stores are through specific distributors intent on servicing that specific need. Kansas, Lay It Down, and The Way I Am were and are still marketed and distributed in this manner. If any retailer or radio station wishes to stock Letting Go, or play music from it, they will have to go out of their way to get it. This is purely a mechanical, distribution issue.
HJ: Do you believe it’s because you came out that you are gay? Does that bother you as a musician that someone would discount your art because of your sexual orientation, race, politics, etc.?
As I mentioned before, the records I released on Gotee Records (so far as I am aware) are still available through the Christian distribution systems, but not Letting Go.
Still, no matter the product, be it music or bubble gum, every retailer has the right to stock what is compatible with their message and audience.
HJ: Why do you think the “Church” cares that much about homosexuality? Aren’t there people who are producing music who are engaged in activities that people consider sin, like theft, lust, greed, gossip, etc.?
Well, it seems a very vocally discussed topic these days, no? Listen, I tend to take the heightened volume as a sign that we are now recognizing the role sexuality plays in the crafting of a spiritually whole person. Within my lifetime, we’ve gone from an attitude of never talking about sex, to openly hashing out just what we think of it in terms of our spiritual being and what that means to the religion that we practice.
HJ: What’s next for you? You’ve had seven years to reflect, plan, revamp… are you currently day-to-day or do you have a ten year plan?
It’s a small plan, really, Just working this record, getting out and touring. Just getting back into the swing of public life again. If there’s a ten year plan, it’s probably just purposed endurance in balancing the commerce with the art.
HJ: We cover movies, music, television, videogames, books, sports, and comics from a faith perspective. What other medias rock your world, whether it’s a book you’re reading or a movie you’ve seen lately?
Ugh, I’ve been so busy, so my entertainment is rather an attempt at disconnecting. I love my PlayStation 3. When I get home from a road trip, I usually spend several hours just refueling with a little NHL’09. Streaming Netflix is a must have for relaxation, documentaries if I’m contemplative, or movies if I just want to chill. I love going to the movies, dying to see Iron Man 2, but haven’t had the time yet….