Jessica Willis Fisher Talks New Love, Old Wounds and the Painful Reality of Her Past: 'I Was Dying Inside'

"I've lived each and every word of this album," Fisher says of her debut album, Brand New Day

Jessica Willis Fisher
Jessica Willis Fisher. Photo: Sean Fisher

Jessica Willis Fisher had put on yet another good show.

And as she walked off the stage alongside the members of her family's touring group The Willis Clan, the fiddle player with the angelic voice was soon surrounded by the praise of her fans.

"I remember people coming up to me after shows and saying, "I wish I was part of your family,'" Fisher, now 30, recalls during a revealing interview with PEOPLE. "Our music left them feeling inspired and made them feel good. But, at the time, I was dying inside. There was such a gap between what I was experiencing and what I was leading people to believe I was experiencing."

Indeed, the happiness that the family displayed on shows such as TLC's The Willis Family and NBC's America's Got Talent was just a piece of the life that Fisher and her siblings were experiencing. Sadly, there were things happening that the camera did not see, ultimately resulting in Fisher's father Toby Willis being arrested and jailed for sexual abuse.

Jessica Willis Fisher
Jessica Willis Fisher. Sean Fisher

"I remember just filling my journals and notebooks with the pain of what I was going through," Fisher remembers. "I was just going through some stuff that I really had no other good way of processing. Or even surviving."

She draws in a deep breath.

"I read those journals now and it's like I can see that 13-year-old Jess saw it all but didn't know what to do with it. But now I do."

She went and turned her pain into a musical masterpiece.

"I've lived each and every word of this album," says Fisher of her brand-new debut solo album Brand New Day, in which she wrote nine of the album's 10 songs, some of which she began writing more than a decade ago. "I wrote these songs because I needed these songs. And I believe other people need them too."

Of course, the painful details of Fisher's past are not something she likes to dwell on, either in her music or in any sort of casual conversation for that matter. The artist says that although she previously incorporated fiction into songs for her family band, the tunes that make up her solo work are all based in truth. The emotional awakening of sorts comes through album tracks such as "Fire Song," "The Lucky One" and "My History."

"This music comes straight from the veins," says Fisher, who has long been inspired by the likes of artists such as Allison Krauss and Jason Isbell. "Opening up like that is risky, and I feel quite vulnerable in doing so, but the rewards are great if someone feels seen when listening to these songs. It's a risk that I'm committing to taking. I have come to learn that every single day is, in fact, a brand-new day."

Jessica Willis Fisher
Brand New Day Cover Art. Sean Fisher

And it is these brand-new days that not only inspired the album's title track, but also other parts of the album, parts that speak of true love and happy endings. And it's this that she has now found in the arms of husband Sean Fisher.

"It's a wonderful, happy, ridiculously, romantic relationship that I find myself in," explains Fisher, who lets listeners in on that much overdue feeling via the song "Hopelessly, Madly." "I love his spontaneity and his enthusiasm for life and how he has no problem being unabashedly himself, no matter what."

Granted, Fisher — who will release a book this fall — admits that her journey of healing continues.

"I have spent a number of years in trauma therapy, trying to make sense of what I've been through," explains Fisher, who says she has become an "avid TV watcher" as of late since that was something not allowed in the Willis household. "I'm learning to embrace my inner child. It's been hard to look back at that little girl who went through that horrible thing and realize that is me. But then, there's also this resiliency and joy that's been here this whole time."

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