Out singer-songwriter Jennifer Knapp has a new album, “Love Comes Back Around,” coming out June 23 — but she isn’t waiting for it to drop before she hits the road for a string of dates that includes a June 4 performance at World Cafe Live.
Knapp started her career in music 20 years ago, gaining a considerable following and critical acclaim as a Christian-music artist. But she took a hiatus from music in the early 2000s, during which time she relocated to Australia. She came out as a lesbian in 2010 and left the Christian music industry. Since then, she has released two albums
Knapp said getting back into recording and performing after a long absence wasn’t necessarily a return to square one, though it did feel like starting over at times.
“I haven’t had to start from scratch,” she said. “The fan base that I have is a very educated fan base. A lot of those guys have hung with me even through a long break. They were really patient in trying to see what I was going to do after I left the Christian-music industry and if my art would still translate for them. And they’re still here. So that is super great.
“But at the same time it is like starting over,” Knapp continued. “I’ve had to reacquaint myself with the fans who are familiar with me and at the same time get to know some entirely new people and play some places I’ve never played before. I appreciate having to earn my keep. I always tend to say that every artist is at the mercy of people who want to listen to them. Whatever I write today has to still resonate with the people that are finding it no matter how long they have known you.”
Knapp currently lives in Australia and said she enjoys the less-constricting and accepting social atmosphere of the land down under, compared to the U.S.
“I’m a dual citizen in the U.S. and Australia,” she said. “The biggest thing about my Australian experience is culturally you can pretty much be whoever and whatever you are. Most Aussies will take you at your word but they just want you to be able to give an account of yourself. Australians want to you to be able to explain what it is that you are all about. In America, it’s all about the label and everybody judges you and assumes what that [label] means. In Australia, when I said I’m a Christian, they would ask me to fill in the blanks of what that meant. The same thing goes with any label you choose in Australia.”
Speaking of labels and filling in the blanks, Knapp said that leaving the Christian-music industry was as much an artistic decision as it was a necessary one, as there aren’t any openly gay artists on Christian-music labels.
“I’m not interested in propagating Christianity,” she said. “It’s part of my life and part of my story and I don’t deny it. As a musician I found that it was something that wasn’t part of my long-term trajectory. I wanted to be able to write the music without an ulterior motive as trying to make sure somebody believes in Christianity when they are done listening to my record. That doesn’t interest me at all. What does interest me is how people approach their spiritual selves and their psychological and emotional lives. I think that has served the course of my music. Fortunately I’ve been able to move on from that genre and not have to be handcuffed by it.”
Knapp’s new album, “Love Comes Around,” is a folk- and blues-influenced acoustic-rock record named after a song on the album.
“True to all my records at this point, it’s named after one of the songs on the record,” she said. “I felt like that was the one song that really encapsulated where this record is headed. I spent the bulk of the time thinking about love and all of its forms, and how it requires patience and kindness and generosity and forgiveness. It’s not just writing about love from a romantic sense, although I think it is romantic on this record. I’m trying to get to the nitty gritty of why love is so important and valuable.”
The first song streaming off the album, “New Day,” has a rawer and rockier sound than the last album.
But Knapp said the album itself has everything her fans have come to expect sonically.
“I keep trying to figure out what this record sounds like,” she said. “It’s one of the most lush and beautiful records that I’ve had. If you hear ‘New Day’ by itself, it’s a really slow and patient song, but it’s actually extremely aggressive at the same time. Yet, ironically, it fits in with some of the more lush songs that are on the record. When you piece the entire 10 songs together, there is something that is extremely familiar to the singer-songwriter pop style I’ve had in the past. I don’t think it alienates those who are familiar with the aggressiveness that I brought with some of that music being on the edge of rock. At the same time, it’s so folky with the lyrical content but it sounds new and refreshing at the same time. I don’t quite know what additional adjectives to put on it. At some point and time, folk is the consistent adjective that I’ve used traveling around for the last 15 years but at the same time it hasn’t quite really fit. If anyone comes up with some suggestion, I’d like to hear them.”
“Love Comes Back Around” will be available June 23. Jennifer Knapp perform 8 p.m. June 4 at World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St. For more information or tickets, call 215-222-1400 or visit www.jenniferknapp.com.