With her lilting and expressive vocals, her eloquent lyrics, and dynamic arrangements (she plays fiddle throughout the album), every track on her debut solo record is stand-alone beautiful, even before the listener knows her story.
They’re songs of hope, strength, renewal, overcoming, and finding love. And they help document Jessica Willis Fisher’s personal and triumphant journey. From the rousing “Fire Song” to the inspirational title track “Brand New Day,” to her emotive cover of “You Move Me.”
“I’ve truly lived every word on this album,” she says.
Fisher grew up one of 12 siblings, singing and playing music in her family’s touring group The Willis Clan. The band was featured on “America’s Got Talent” and later TLC’s “The Willis Clan,” performing on stages across the country, until Fisher’s father was arrested and sent to prison for sexually abusing his own daughters.
Fisher, who dramatically left her family’s band, has stayed out of the public eye for years, and even put aside music, until now. There was a time, she thought she might have lost music forever.
“I didn’t write or do much of anything in the musical sphere after I walked away from my family band and got out of that situation,” she explains. “And the family band ,and the music, was never the bad part. I got to the point where I went straight into trauma therapy, took a break from everything I’d known, and it was the best thing I could have done for myself.”
But as she worked on her own healing, she began writing. In 2018, she resurfaced, first with a blog detailing some of the traumatic events of her abuse, and then the music followed.
“I eventually had to come back and re-examine everything in my life,” she says. “I finally had the chance and the freedom to say, is this good for me? And it didn’t take long for music to come back around.”
One of the first songs she wrote, featured on Brand New Day is “My History.”
“It was like, this is something I’m going to reclaim and star over, while also integrating my past and that’s what you hear in “My History,” she says. “It was a way to kind of mark the closure I was feeling and the progress I was making, and then it was like a whole new world.”
Fisher wrote eight of the 10 songs on the album, each telling a different part of her story. “Fire Song” co-written with Jon Randall, dates back to what she was going through when she was still living with her family, but knowing she needed to break free.
“Right before I left, I was having these nightmares that the house was on fire and I was the only one who could tell and everybody else was going about their normal lives, she remembers. “I was shouting, ‘Wake up! Wake up! We gotta get out!’ And I realize now that that was me, trying to say to myself, “We have to get out of here.’”
Her song “Gone” shares her sense of finding freedom, “Brand New Day” embraces the new life ahead, and “Hopelessly, Madly,” as well as her cover of “You Move Me,” shares her feelings for her husband of five years, Sean.
For Fisher, creating and releasing the new album is a reclamation of both her voice and her music, but she’s also found that by stepping out and sharing her own story, she’s been able to encourage, and perhaps help, other trauma survivors.
“I’ve come to realize that a lot of the hardest things I’ve been through are not unique to me,” she says. “Many, many other people have gone through some of the same struggles, I also recognize my story is pretty crazy in some ways, so I’m just so glad people don’t need to have the same exact experiences to empathize with each other.”
She knows music can reach and connect with people in ways nothing else can.
“I think the magic is that someone can put their individual feelings and experiences into a song, but it can be a universal, uniting thing. Someone to listen to a song, find their own kind of meaning, and have it resonate with their life even with totally separate circumstances than mine. It’s very vulnerable, it’s very risky, but the rewards are also super high because when people resonate with any of these songs, they’re essentially saying, ‘Me, too,” and ‘I get it,’ and ‘Yeah, you got it right, this is exactly how that feels.’
The album, since it’s release two weeks ago, has been incredibly well-received. She hopes to start touring soon and has already been announced as a performer at Nashville’s annual five-day Americana Music Festival and Conference in September. She’s excited about her future and ready to embrace it with the same hope and optimism she shares in her songs.
“I’ve had certain things that have held me back and hurt me,” she says, “and given the opportunity, I would have chosen not to go through them, but that’s not an option. So, I’m going to take the best option I have which is to make the best thing out of the circumstances beyond my control, look at what I CAN control, and do the best with that, I can.”
And she’s so grateful, music will be part of it.”