People Are People

Last night I went to my first lesbian night club.

(pause for you to catch your breath)

Like so many of the diverse and amazing experiences I’ve had in my life, I have music to thank for it. As usual, I am always curious as to how the music I play will adapt to those who have come to listen. Of course, the lyrics and music are set, they are the same wherever I play them. Still there is an amazing effect that happens each night when so many different individuals come together, each from their own private world, and enter into the community of a concert.

I talk about this a lot. The concept that we individually connect with music in our private rooms, tying the song to some place deep in our hearts. Then when we follow the sound, we find others at the epicenter, drawn as we were, to the place of shared ground and find that ours is not a lonely journey at all. What’s more, we are often surprised as to who find there…

In my mind, I imagined what Sisters Night Club was going to be like when I got there. Of all that I could conjure up, I can tell you I wasn’t even close to guessing. Every color, every gender, urban, sub-urban, the churched and areligious; there were straight married couples, L’s, G’s, B’s & T’s…It was beautiful! Like the biggest and best box of crayons you could imagine. I couldn’t have been more wrong about who I thought I would meet, and I couldn’t have been more delighted to be found in error.

But it wasn’t the diversity alone that made it special. It was the spirit of those who were there that made the evening so touching. As we allowed our differences to fade, we gathered our courage to connect with others around us: just as we came, are and hope to, someday, be.

Through the wars

Hop down to any pub and share a schooner with your Aussie (Australian) mates (translation: share a chat and a beer with your friends) and, before long, the reminiscing begins. You remember the good times with the bad, recall friends you haven’t seen in ages. Some living the good life and others not so much. But you still love them, and you raise a toast, wishing them the best wherever they may be. For those who have walked a less glamorous or even arduous path, there is a phrase that is commonly used: He’s been through the wars.

The conversation may go something like this:

Bloke #1: “Yeah, mate, what’s up with Jennifer these days? I haven’t seen her in a while.”

Bloke #2: “Yeah, no, yeah. She’s been through the wars, but she’s alright. Heard she’s back to the ole entertainment thing again.”

Bloke #1: “Now that’s a yarn I’d like to hear her tell…”

Somewhere in the phrase, there’s an appreciation that whatever scars we receive, they carry the hope of our potential to create character. I can think of few American phrases that we use that release us from the shame of how we get into our precarious messes and still hold esteem for the battle weary.

It’s the term that comes to my mind when I think of Christa Black.

I know Christa from our time together “on the road.” She’s a talented violinist who has spent countless hours enduring the bliss of the spotlight and the grind of the confined and yet, exposed life on the tour bus. She’s toured with me, Michael W. Smith…even the Jonas Brothers!

Like many of the musicians supporting the artists you know and love, she has a story of her own. Let’s just say, she’s been through the wars.

Recently she penned her first book God Loves Ugly” . It is a courageous account of  her head-on war with an eating disorder. From struggle to insight, she has come out the other side with a story to tell. No surprise, the artist in her has set the story free to do it’s work.

Visit her here:

Belmont University releases non-discrimination policy

The circumstances surrounding the sudden departure of soccer coach, Lisa Howe from Belmont University left many students and the Nashville community concerned and confused. What, exactly, is Belmont’s policy regarding sexual orientation? Will students and faculty face discrimination if they are open about their sexuality?

It is important to note, that from the beginning, Dr. Fisher has been adamant that sexual orientation is a non-factor in it’s hiring practices, nor is it the mind-set of the university to discriminate. Yesterday, Belmont released it’s updated non-discrimination policy to the public to include specific language of their accountability to Title IX and their commitment to those under their care.

Thank you, Belmont, for your continued efforts in what has been a harrowing time of uncertainty. To borrow thoughts from Andrew Marin, living in the tension is only the beginning of dialogue.

Cheers to long, continued growth…

News: The City Paper (Nashville)

An Open Letter to Belmont University

I am disheartened by the circumstances surrounding Lisa Howe’s departure from Belmont University.

That any employee, student or church member in our society be required to remain silent about their sexual orientation in exchange for secure employment, academic growth or spiritual support is an intolerable injustice. Unfortunately, this conditional coercion is far too often the norm.

Discrimination presents in many forms, not the least of which is passive silence. We look to our both our academic and religious institutions to engage us, lead us, and inspire us—-not to avoid our deepest needs and concerns out of fear of popular approval. We look to our institutions of higher moral reasoning as we seek knowledge, understanding and advancement as a human race. We must hold sacred the responsibility to confront our fears and biases; with all courage, engage critical thought when approaching long held traditions.

Acceptance of LGBT persons as full and equal community members must begin with a welcome invitation in clearly defined anti-discrimination polices, as well as public accountability to address and act upon any ethos that would diminish the right of any human being.

Belmont, as a gay person of faith, I humbly challenge you to inspire us with your willingness to facilitate safe, open dialogue on matters of faith and sexuality.

In this Advent season, I encourage the Belmont community to boldly embrace the opportunity to act with the human compassion, leadership and abiding love that honors Jesus Christ, the university, and your Nashville neighbors.

Such an endeavor could begin with both an offer for Coach Howe to return to her position and with a sincere apology to all who have been harmed by her dismissal.
Peace—-with justice—demands nothing less.

Yours sincerely,
Jennifer Knapp

Associate Press
Dr. Robert Fisher’s statement
Nashville Scene
Mike Curb, Nashville speaks out

To say nothing…

On the weekend of November 12, I was invited to speak at a symposium at Highlands Church in Denver, CO. Rev. Mark Tidd laid forth a daunting request. Would I be willing to speak open and candidly about my experience as a gay person of faith? He’s not the first person to ask. From the moment that others have become aware of my story I have received many requests to comment, admonish, endorse or simply just appear in the on-going, emotionally charged conversation about being gay and Christian. At the same time, I have found much encouragement to simply remain silent. The message seems to be clear: It is ok that I am gay, but it is not acceptable to some that I speak of it.

That being said, it took several long emails and phone calls with Rev. Tidd and the symposium facilitator, novelist, Jonathan Odell, for me to agree to participate in a symposium entitlted “The Evangelical Church & Homosexulality”. They worked hard to convince me that this was a moment of hospitality; an opportunity to release the tension of silence by means of sharing stories. Stories of loss, of joy, compassion and of spiritual growth. Stories not fully written, continually evolving, fragile and potent. Not unlike the stories any of us could relate to, regardless of gender, ethnicity, spiritual traditions, or social class.

Yet the elephant in the room remains, we are talking openly about the experiences of being gay in the church. I find that anytime I write it down (gay) or say it out loud (gay) or talk about the joys of sharing my life with a partner (gay)…there is always someone who comments that they wished that I would not speak.

In the words of a pastor who came out to his church, “Pastor, we all knew you were gay. We’re just made as hell that you told us.”

But here’s the rub. How well do we, or have we ever, responded when assumptions are made about our unique person? When we meet a new friend, join a new group, continue a relationship with another human being, we tell the stories of our lives. We share the narrative of how we grew up, what experiences have shaped us. We confess our sins, our misdeeds, waiting for the other person to make good their escape. We lure them back in with tales of our accomplishments, our victories, our strengths. We secure these bonds by showing our vulnerabilities and willingness for the capacity to love.

Along the way of living we accumulate the joys and sorrows of our individual experience that grow into ‘our story’. We learn by listening to others. We learn in the telling of our own journey. We wound, heal, divide and unite, over and over again.

I cannot avoid it. I have a story. Occasionally, someone asks me to share it in questions like: Where did you grow up? Why do think that? What’s your family like? How did you get that scar? What’s it like being gay?… Every time, the dizzying risks of vulnerability sound their alarm and I am left with a question:

Will I share my story?

What’s in the bag?

Ok, my brain is fried, so for now, I thought I’d write about something a bit on the lighter side of things. I’m not much of a gear junky, but I am picky what I use out on the road. As I’m doing the solo acoustic thing a lot these days, I’m traveling very light. But what I do carry has to earn it’s keep when it comes to carrying it all around on my back like a pack mule.

First and foremost, I’m playing a Taylor 810ce. She always gets the most attention, so I’ll save space for my less acclaimed gear.

I recently added a Taylor T5-C2 to my quiver. It’s a Koa topped hollow body electric that Taylor describes as blurring the line between electric and acoustic guitars. It’s an accurate description. Currently, I’m running it direct, interchanging on the same line as my acoustic set up. Basically, I’m working the vintage, hollow body sound, and getting the front of house to add some reverb. It’s a nice aural change from listening to the acoustic all night.

L.R. Baggs Para DI

My gear on the floor is pretty basic. There are tons preamp options out there pitched to acoustic players that promise to deliver the warm tones of the unplugged, natural sound of an acoustic. For years I toured with a Demeter VTDB-2B tube DI. It is amazing, but it’s also a bit pricey, heavy to carry around and needs to be handled with a bit of care (although mine took a pounding and seems to have survived!) That’s where the LR Baggs Para DI comes to the rescue. It’s no accident that just about every performing acoustic artist has had one of these in their gig bag for better than a decade. It performs exactly as promised, it’s affordable and always reliable. It has saved my bacon on more than one occasion from feedback & EQ nightmares.

Boss TU-3

Of course, good tone is pointless if you’re not in tune, so before my guitar hits the DI, I run it through my Boss TU-3 Tuner pedal. The TU-3 is a very accurate chromatic tuner, which makes it versatile for alternate tunings. It also mutes while tuning which is handy.

Now that it looks like the T5 is going to stay on the road with me, I need to get a dedicated line for it, which means carrying a little more gear. So I’ve just ordered an LR Baggs Venue DI. It’s basically the same specs as the Para, just updated a bit and has a chromatic tuner built in for good measure.

Last, but certainly not least, are my Mono cases. The M80 series of guitar gig bags are without rival. They are durable, water resistant and not to mention… sexy! I feel like a rock star with these bags strapped to my back. Oh, and did I mention it is the best protection I’ve ever seen in a soft case? As airlines have started charging for every checked bag, I try to carry on all that I can. (This tactic also avoids the lost luggage dilemma when I’m traveling the same day as a show!)

Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest difference. With a different stage every night, bringing some of my own gear is one of the easiest things to help me feel at home.

Name Brand Labels

Ok, I’ve been inside my head all week. Mulling and obsessing as usual. Here’s what it looks like:

You may have caught the news, that former gothic novelist, Anne Rice has decried Christianity, in the name of Christ…Her words, not mine. With all the eloquent prose befitting her talents as a writer, she’s attempting to shed the label but not her faith.

The blogosphere went nuts; instantly posting, judging, cheering and jeering Ms. Rice’s exasperated expression. Many comments to the effect of “Get in or get out!”, “Put up or shut up”, “Be either hot or cold”…

I’ll be honest and say that after a week of ruminating over Ms. Rice’s comments I have experienced both elation and devastation on both sides of the coin. I so very deeply understand the frustration of identifying with the label of Christianity with which many parts of me seem incomplete when attempting to please all under its banner. At the same time, I have an acute awareness in recognizing that I am equally a powerful agent for the legacy, definition and culture of a diverse, mysterious faith.

But the questions that come to my mind this week are sociological/psychological in nature:

What are some of the labels I adopt, willfully or intrinsically?
Are there ones I wish I could choose/remove?
What is the value/effect of the personal adoption/rejection of these labels to me? To others?
Am I content with how the diverse elements of my life form the picture of my whole being?
Is it the label that makes me recognizable or valid?
Is the person I seek to be still honored without the assignment of grouping?

I know, I know- it’s a lot of questions. So let’s start small.
Here are a few ‘labels’ I have adopted and have been given:

woman, musician, artist, business woman, world traveler, writer, daughter, lesbian, country girl, student, employee, employer, leader, servant, Christian, Kansan, Australian, American…

I’m really curious, what are some of the labels you wear?

(click on this blogs header to view the comments section)

Links: Anne Rice Facebook, gestalt : principle of totality

Another view: Michael Rowe/Huffington Post; Alisa Harris/Patrol Online

Some like it hot!

St. Louis Press Conference

No doubt, one of the most anticipated dates on my calendar this year, I had the opportunity to catch up with Lilith Fair 2010 in Kansas City and St. Louis this July.

First, it was a bit of a crap shoot ever getting a spot. (There’s not a girl with a guitar on this planet that wouldn’t consider all kinds of bribery to get this gig!) At the time that Sarah McLachlin & Co. were putting their line-up together, I was hardly worth mentioning. I hadn’t toured in years and didn’t even have a record pieced together. Most folks had only heard a whisper of my return. On a wing and a prayer, we tossed my hat in the ring and hoped…and to my surprise and honor, I got a couple of days!

Two dates are better than none, especially when you get to see up-close performances Sarah, Emmylou Harris and Mary J Blige!

I dunno why, but I’ve never been one to get too excited about things. About the best you get out of me is a wry smile and a laid-back response like “Yeah, that was very cool.”  It takes a lot to get me jumping up and down, but Mary J’s performance in St. Louis had me stupid with excitement. I actually got out of my seat and jumped up and down a few times. I seriously thought my head was going to explode in joy ala Femme-bot style!

Considering how hot and unholy the weather was, it was a miracle I could even move at the end of the day. Everything was burnt to a crisp and then made soggy by hours of sweating. Fortunately, there were little patches of shade we could all share, have a chat and take a few photos. I don’t know why any of you would have wanted to even come near me, but then again, you guys were just as gross as I was! Nonetheless, I met some fabulous people. Not to mention just how humbling it was to have folks show up just cause they knew you’d be there.

By far the best moment was being on stage and watching my family come over the hill. Like I said, it was a miserably hot day, but they braved the weather. It gave me a chance to perform Mr Gray for my Grandparents for the first time…for which I received the most beautiful, sweaty kisses. Seriously, how much better can you get…

A few pics HERE

Behind the Scenes video HERE

Priming the pump

A few years ago I joined a weekly group with several other artists. There were painters, photographers, writers, and actors. Few made a living through their chosen form of expression, but all were drawn to try and comprehend this compulsion we seemed to share: Creativity. To help our conversations along, we chose the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Little did I know what kind of impact this book would have in my life.

As I talk to more & more artists, I am comforted to know that few are eternal wellsprings of constant inspired creativity. Frankly, some days it feels like I’ll never write another thing again, and worse, can convince myself that perhaps it doesn’t even matter. Fears, irrationality, irritability can trick me into long periods of inactivity. If it’s not ‘inspired’, I don’t want it. I stop writing, when what I should be doing is anything I can to get the pump working again.

Generally, I know I need to take some purpose to my creativity when I start pacing around the house, eating cookies for breakfast and muttering to myself: “You should be writing. You haven’t written anything in while. What’s your problem?”  I avoid. I mope.

But the jig is up. Now that I’ve been through this a few times, I realize I can sit there and atrophy, or get up and start moving. Everything I create doesn’t have to be gold, nor does it have to be shared, but I do have to keep the muscles moving. Knit a sweater, draw a bowl of fruit, listen to music, write a letter to an inspiring person…

The Artist’s Way has been a good tool for me to grease the wheels of my creativity. It keeps me moving and mindful. I’ve been revisiting this book lately and it has been a great reminder to me that I needn’t fall over in a heap when I’ve nothing inspired rattling around in my head. The exercises get me writing and thinking. I hate to admit it, but sometimes the structure does me good.

Sometimes, Cameron reaches a little far into the realms of self-help for my liking, but at the very least, this series has equipped me with the notion that a moving mind is more likely to create than an idle one. What I like is that she doesn’t teach you how to write or paint or sculpt, that’s not the point. It’s not about launching oneself into an explosion of productivity so that we can be world-renown songwriters or the next Picasso. It’s about the need for expression that we all have and getting onto the business of exploring just how creative we all can be.

Knapp / Webb Tour Debrief

So, the Jennifer Knapp, Derek Webb and Amy Courts ‘no name tour’ has come to an end!

I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to Derek and Amy for their time, encouragement and flavorful company in helping me get my tour ‘chops’ back in shape! It is always a pleasure to share the load and the wonderful moments with friends.

As with any tour we need people to play, places to perform and people to come. A warm thank you goes out to all that helped make this happen, including the venues, their staff and of course our wonderful fans!

On a personal note, I feel like I’m starting to hit my stride. My legs have stopped shaking, the chords of the new songs are well on their way to being fully engrained in my muscle memory…but even more, it must be said, I am overjoyed at the opportunity to be reunited with so many familiar faces. It has been the overwhelming sincerity of each of you who have come out that keeps me going. I am grateful for your presence! So many nights I choked back tears of joy when greeted by your shining faces.

Thank you all for helping me get back ‘out there’ and for your support in generating excitement for the Letting Go release. I’ll see you soon!


  1. Straight Road Jennifer Knapp 3:46
  2. New Day Jennifer Knapp 3:49
  3. Love Comes Back Around Jennifer Knapp 3:05
  4. Roman Holiday Jennifer Knapp 3:33