Jill Sissel releases “Tell the Truth” blues album

By Dave Carew

Jill Sissel has been writing and performing her acclaimed Americana music in the Nashville area for more than 20 years. In 1999, Just Plain Folks nominated her for Americana Album of the Year, and she has garnered numerous other awards and honors since. Jill has just released a soulful, evocative blues album, Tell the Truth, and Underground Nashville caught up with her for this exclusive interview about it:

UNDERGROUND NASHVILLE: What were you particularly thinking about or feeling as you wrote the songs for Tell the Truth?

JILL SISSEL: I began this blues project in the fall of 2011. Before that, my co-writer Mike Kuhl and I had written “Minimum Wage,” and, as we wrote it, I sang it in first person.  Next, I began to notice things were breaking, falling apart. My car broke down, my AC unit went out in the house, and I started to freak. I remembered wondering why was I so drawn to the blues? I had always written positive, uplifting, and sometimes sad love songs, but the blues went around the corner, man.  I found the culture so primitive yet so free. This paradox kept driving me on, so I bought a book by William Ferris entitled Blues from the Delta (Anchor Books, 1979), and marveled at the symmetric nature of the “blues man” and the preacher man.  Both had driving forces that the layman thinks is Good vs. Evil.  I mean, the very duality in human nature is expressed in the blues, and this is what I was feeling. I broke out of a box of conformity, I cut up my credit cards, I quit cable, I sold my comfortable home, and moved into a smaller space to live within my means. The illusion went away and the blues moved in to stay.

UN: How did those thoughts and feelings affect the album and/or make it distinctive?

JS: I became a pilgrim of the blues and my partner and producer, Liz Ficalora, and I went to the Delta. We went down to Clarksdale. I had to go. I went to see the first one-strand in the Delta Museum. It’s the first slide guitar! Muddy Water’s original cabin is reconstructed, and on the outside was the one-strand.  I felt like I had seen the Holy Grail.  So as I continued writing the songs for the album, I started to express and focus on the inequalities in my own life, as I experienced them.  I wrote the song “Sticks and Stones” after someone told me they hated me because I was gay. What do you say to that?  The story “Change” came when Mike Kuhl had seen a homeless veteran downtown and he didn’t need just loose change, he needed real change in his life and the societal attitudes of homeless people.  I just started listening to the sounds of oppression, and giving it a voice. It’s not unique, but it was a first for me.  I usually write “to the solution,” but this time I wasn’t afraid to see my shadow side and embrace it.

UN: What do you feel is MOST important for people to know about Jill Sissel as an artist?

JS: I guess I would want people to know that not everything is as they see it.  I certainly am a walking contradiction, and that tension and dynamic is what makes me who I am. I honor the souls who reach beyond their comforts, and when expressing something like a song, they make someone think and see something from another’s perspective. I always write what I know.  I want them to know me as a seeker of truth.

For more about Jill Sissel, please visit:


David M. (Dave) Carew is writer/editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter,” both now available at XLibris.com. Dave also is a freelance book editor, publicist, seminar and workshop leader, journalist, and advertising / marketing / public relations writer.

Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville by Dave Carew—which was praised by The Tennessean as “beautiful, haunting, powerful”—is now available in an all-new paperback edition. For more information, please visit and “like” the page on Facebook:

Do you want to help homeless people in Nashville learn culinary arts and other employment skills that provide a specific, effective path off the streets? Please visit Lambscroft.org and consider making a financial contribution. Any amount is very helpful and appreciated. Thank you.


Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective, offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”

Dave Carew


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