Jessica Willis Fisher Brings Willis Clan Trauma to “Fire Song”

There are songs that resonate from the way the songwriter takes some bit of inspiration and weaves it into the words. There are songs that are so personal in nature that it doesn’t matter if you can’t relate to the experience, you can palpably feel the emotions behind them. Then there is Jessica Willis Fisher’s “Fire Song,” which takes all of these musical maxims, and sends them into hyperdrive.

The 12 children and the two adults of The Willis Family—known by the stage name The Willis Clan—presented the perfect picture of the functional family when they began performing together, including moving to Nashville and making regular appearances on the Grand Ole Opry beginning in 2001.

The Willis Clan became national and international stars when they appeared on Season 9 of American’s Got Talent in 2014. Then in 2015 and 2016, the family starred in their own reality TV show on TLC. But in a development that almost feels like a cliche, it was ultimately discovered that the father of the clan, Toby Willis, had been sexually abusing a number of the children over multiple years.

After fleeing from Nashville to avoid arrest, Toby Willis was eventually apprehended in Kentucky on September 9, 2016 on rape charges from incidents dating as far back as 2004. He ultimately pleaded guilty to four counts of child rape, and was sentenced to two 25-year sentences on two counts and two 40-year sentences on the other counts.

Jessica Willis was the oldest of the 12 siblings, the bandleader, and the fiddle player, and says she was abused starting at the age of three. Four months before Toby Willis was arrested and at the age of 23, Jessica fled the family after he father beat her with a belt. It was a tip from a family friend that ultimately resulted in the revelations of the sexual abuse within the family. It is not known publicly how many of the Willis Family children were abused.

The children of The Willis Clan eventually addressed the issues as a family, and continue on as a performing group, but Jessica Willis (who married in December of 2016) has moved forward as a solo artist, though says she will always be part of the family as well.

Jessica Willis Fisher will release her debut solo album Brand New Day in April. Ahead of the album, she’s released the track “Fire Song,” which addresses Fisher’s personal story in no uncertain terms, and in a way that’s hard to not be stirred by.

“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,”
Fisher says. “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!’ So, we’re starting with ‘Fire Song,’ because in my story, I didn’t get to start over until I went through that fiery part.”

“Fire Song” is an excellent track on its own, with the ferocity of emotion pulsating through the verses, and Jessica’s fiddle sawing through to your bones. Knowing the real life story and pain behind the song makes it cut even harder.

Aside from one cover song on the upcoming album Brand New Day, Jessica Willis Fisher wrote all the songs herself, except “Fire Song,” which she worked with co-writer Jon Randall on to get everything just right.

We all carry baggage from our pasts and upbringings that hang around out necks like a yoke, weighing us down, and often keeping us at arm’s length from our dreams or full potential. Unburdening yourself from that weight is a difficult endeavor, but one worth the work. Using it as fuel to propel you forward and stoke your inner fire is even more advantageous. This is what Jessica Willis Fisher sets out to accomplish, and fulfills on “Fire Song.”

© 2022 Saving Country Music