Artist: Jessica Willis Fisher
Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee
Latest Album: Brand New Day
Which elements of nature do you spend the most time with and how do those impact your work?
I spend a lot of time outdoors with my husband, Sean Fisher aka Mr. Bootstraps. He’s a wonderful adventure and lifestyle photographer and our work together has been such a huge part of my new life. Time out in nature has been extremely healing to me. I find the rhythm of seasons to be very grounding, and I believe travel widens my capacity for empathy. I recharge outside and feel most resilient when I can be close to the earth for long periods of time. Whether others can see it or not, I recognize strong nature themes woven throughout this Brand New Day record.
What other art forms — literature, film, dance, painting, etc — inform your music?
Ultimately, I love stories and I am fascinated by the power of ALL forms of art to help us articulate the wide range of human experience. So many things encourage me to explore and be creative. I’ve been an avid reader ever since I was young, and now also find inspiration in movies and TV shows, many mediums of visual art, fashion, preservation efforts, architecture, and textile crafts. The list is constantly growing!
What was the first moment that you knew you wanted to be a musician?
I sing because I am a writer and I feel compelled to share my work with people. However, being on stage or being a “performing artist” was never my strong suit or the end goal and I struggled to embrace it early on. I was inspired to learn to play fiddle and write tunes by attending Irish and folk festivals in my childhood. It wasn’t until I was maybe 17 years old that I ended up singing (unplanned) a 10-minute a cappella ballad on stage on St. Patrick’s Day in Irish pub that I truly felt the magic for the first time. The room of rowdy people was absolutely silent and I’d never felt simultaneously so vulnerable and powerful. It felt like being transported, transcending time and space and I was just lucky to be a part of it, a vessel for something much bigger than me. That hooked me for sure.
What’s the toughest time you ever had writing a song?
I think it’s the toughest whenever I am writing 100% truth, no fiction intertwined, no artistic liberties to hide behind. I’ve now written some excruciatingly honest songs and they are equally painful, beautiful, and rewarding to share. “My History” comes directly from some life-changing therapeutic breakthroughs after processing the trauma from my abusive past. “Hopelessly, Madly” was the first love song fully inspired by my happily married love life and it was so emotional and overpowering to write, it took me so long. I had to add a line or two and then take a cry break!
How often do you hide behind a character in a song or use “you” when it’s actually “me”?
I used to do this all the time when I started writing songs! I grew up in an environment where what I was allowed to say, do, and believe was heavily controlled and therefore plausible deniability was super important for me to have. I would usually feel like I could get away with only a seed of truth and the rest of the song had to be constructed to protect that seed. I wanted to get it out there and see if anyone could recognize it and if so, I would feel such a strong bond and connection, a bit like passing notes or sharing clues in ciphers. I don’t feel I have to do that anymore and tend to go forward with less protection these days. Changing the character or making historical fiction is still a great way to write and I’m sure I will do that more in the future, but I just had so much to say “for real” in this Brand New Day record.
Photo Credit: Sean Fisher