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Featured Article - Jennifer Knapp Live in Stores - January 24
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Jennifer Knapp Live in Stores - January 24

The story behind JENNIFER KNAPP LIVE is pretty amazing with the benefit of a little background. My work with Jennifer started with a buddy of mine, who was her manager at the time, asking if I could join up with Jen in support of a few Lilith Fair dates that were obviously important to make an impact on. After some crash rehearsals, it ended up that the shows went extremely well and were well received by patrons and critics alike. I'll never forget Jen at the press conference sitting there after Sheryl Crow made some comment on the Reverend Falwell and then a reporter asks Jen if she was taking heat for being at the festival. She simply said that every artist there was asked to play and share their beliefs through their music, so why should she be any different, even if she sang about Christ. It was a simple and poignant statement that hit home with everyone there, myself included.

Over the next 2 years we did a ton of touring that ran the gamut of everything from arena shows to acoustic sets at Borders. They were all a great time, even if it was a lot of work. One of the outstanding things about Jen is that she encouraged us to hold nothing back as a band and to bring whatever signature we had to the music. For Tony, Derek and myself, it wasn't like "you guys stay on your riser and play the part exactly like the record"; it was more like "bring your best ideas and performance to the show and we'll do something cool for the fans each night". She allowed us a lot of musical liberty.

Her first headlining tour was called "The Back Forty Tour" as most of the shows were outside of major cities and took place the winter/spring of 2001. The idea was to bring top-notch production and lighting into towns and venues that might not get as many big shows as some other places. Jen had already released 2 successful albums in KANSAS and LAY IT DOWN and was working on songs for THE WAY I AM while on the tour. At this point in time, I was already starting to make a change in life from a guitarist to a producer and was building up a studio full of gear. Just for my own benefit, I brought a rack of tape machines on the road and recorded a handful of shows that I was planning on taking back into my studio and mixing just for Jen, myself and the guys to have as a tour memento. The idea seemed good enough but at the end of the tour I went home and left the tapes behind figuring I'd catch up to them later. When I checked back, no one knew where the tapes were ... I figured no big deal, as it was just for us anyway, so I left it at that. I went back on the road with dc talk and didn't think of it.

As God would have it, the tapes surfaced in the fall of 2005, in random fashion in a box buried under cartons of tee shirts when management was cleaning out a storage facility. They were graciously entrusted to me to check out and see if 1) they would play at all and 2) if there was anything suitable for the public to hear. Mix engineer JR McNeely and myself spent a day tracking down machines to play the tapes and then listening to them. To our amazement, they did in fact play and the recordings were not bad at all. I then sat down with Grant and Brad at Gotee Records and discussed how to go about assembling this into something for the fans. We decided that going back and fixing anything in the studio was not an option we wanted to pursue and that it was going to be a "real" live album, mess ups and all. That meant if things were out of tune or someone made a mistake, we were going to leave it. This also meant listening through the different shows and picking the "best take" based on Jen and the moment. None of these performances are musically perfect, as we were trying to put on a good show and not just stand there and play. Things are off here and there because we were knocking around on stage and Jen was sometimes out of breath from the effort, but it's a true representation of Jen at the time and the songs are still great. In the end I think you'll love this CD as I do.

Source: Gotee Records

Author: Mark Lee Townsend

Date: 12 January 2006

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