Jennifer O'Connor (born November 8, 1973) is an American singer-songwriter. She has released a series of well-regarded solo albums, and has either toured or played with Wilco, the Indigo Girls, Feist, Yo La Tengo, Dump, and the Mountain Goats, among other bands and musicians. Paste Magazine has called her a "songwriter's songwriter," describing her albums as "master classes in economy and clarity."
While she is one of a limited number of notable independent musicians who is publicly out as gay, she does not write music obviously targeted to a gay audience. She is based in Brooklyn and in addition to writing and performing her own music, she also runs a record label, Kiam Records, with seven other artists on its roster.
Her first recording was an EP that she self-released in 2000 called Truth Love Work. Reviewing the disc, Time Out New York wrote: "O'Connor is another Liz Phair or Elliott Smith waiting to happen" and praised her "understated guitar-based songs" and "matter of fact lyrics."
She followed the EP with a self-titled full-length CD in 2002, which she self-released on an imprint she called Kiam Records. Her next album, The Color and the Light, was released by Red Panda Records in 2005. Later that year, she signed a deal with Matador Records, based on her performance at the SXSW music festival. Her Matador debut, Over the Mountain, Across the Valley and Back to the Stars, was written in the aftermath of a personally difficult year, during which, among other things, she lost her older sister to brain cancer. She had previously lost a sister in a car accident in 1998. The album was generally well-received, with critics noting a pervasive sense of loss throughout the album. The music web site Pitchfork called the song Sister "one of the most genuinely affecting pop songs you'll hear all year, capably expressing adult pain without any delusions that pain makes you particularly soulful or special."
Even though she was signed with Matador at this point, O'Connor kept her own Kiam Records label running, and had begun releasing albums by other artists on the label. She also used the Kiam imprint to release a couple of 7-inch vinyl singles in 2007.
Her second album for Matador was 2008's Here With Me, a more upbeat album that was also given a largely positive reception. SPIN magazine wrote that her "unflinching lyrics and stunningly strong voice leap from distressing folk ballads to buzzing rock with ease." CMJ wrote that Here With Me "is so understated, that its almost too easy to take for granted how good she is at what she does."
O'Connor has always been out, but it became a bit more visible when the cover of Here With Me featured a picture of her planting a kiss on the cheek of her girlfriend. She has never actively sought a lesbian audience, however, telling the web site AfterEllen.com: "I think I have avoided it in some ways, literally," while adding, "I mean, I'm gay and I'm completely comfortable with that, but it's never been a thing that's been related to what I do musically. It didn't seem relevant. With this record, it just kind of happened."
O'Connor was dropped from Matador after Here With Me succeeded critically but not popularly. O'Connor felt burned out and discouraged, and went back to working odd jobs around New York, including bartending on Broadway. After she got back to recording, she decided to release the album I Want What You Want on her own label largely because she did not want to wait to have to find a record deal somewhere. "I happen to have a record label, so I figured why not?" she told NBCNewYork.com in October 2011.