Ashlee Simpson & Evan Ross on Reentering the Spotlight and What They Learned While Making Their Joint EP
Ashlee Simpson's first musical project in 10 years is meaningful to her for many reasons -- not least of all because she's singing with her husband, Evan Ross.
This fall, the couple -- who record under the name Ashlee + Evan -- put out a new song each week to accompany a new episode of their E! reality series, also called Ashlee + Evan, culminating in a 6-song, self-titled EP that arrived on Oct. 12. The project allowed Simpson to depart from her pop-punk roots and showcase a more soulful side inspired by her love of Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu. But most importantly, it offered Simpson a chance to open herself back up to the public eye on her own terms.
“I've been wanting so badly to get back to music, and I feel like I never stopped writing music,” she says during a joint interview with Ross. “I feel like showing it [on Ashlee + Evan] was important because of the time that I've been gone. I wanted to also share where I'm at in my life, and the journey of getting back to what I want to do and what I want to share with my kids.”
Simpson and Ross eventually plan to release a full album together in addition to their own individual projects, which they think they'll eventually take on the road with a joint tour. As they celebrated their EP release, the pair chatted with Billboard about what they’ve taken away from this new chapter, plans for the future and what it means to open up after a long time away from the public eye.
When was the first time you two connected over music, and when did the idea of recording something together actually come to fruition?
Ross: I think music is what brought us together the first time we hung out. There's actually a photo of us sitting in the corner listening to music. I think music has always been a big part of our relationship.
Simpson: The first time Evan was working on his album and was in the studio, I got in the studio and started singing in the room. Or I'd start writing songs in the other room, and he'd be like, “If you want to sing, come sing on this song…” We did it together, and it was like, “Wow, that sounds good!”
How has music enhanced your relationship since you started working together?
Ross: It's awesome writing about each other and the experiences we have together. It's kind of like giving a love note to the person you love every time you write something.
Simpson: It was a nice moment -- just us and our love of what we listen to, what we like and how we feel. For us, this is not a genre of music. We just wanted it to feel like things that we were inspired by.
Have you played the music for your kids?
Simpson: Anytime we finish a song, we play it for them. They know all the words. Like yesterday, we were rehearing, and [our daughter] Jagger sits in my lap and is singing every word.
Ross: Right now, if you were to ask Jagger to sing one of our songs, she'd go [Sings] “Baby, I want you.”
Simpson: And I guess they still play the good Ashley jams at the trampoline spot they go to. She’s always like, “That's mom!”
Ross: I love that you call it “the Ashley jams.” [Laughs.]
Simpson: They never get old!
Speaking of the Ashley jams, how do you think this EP is influencing the solo music that you're both working on?
Ross: Even just the process of being in the studio and creating, you start thinking about the story and the feeling you're trying to create. I've heard Ashlee lately starting to get into what that sound might be for her as well as me doing the same.
Simpson: It's really just felt good. Music is definitely in a different place than when I left, so this felt so freeing to just release content every week. That felt so cool and so different for me. I'm in a really great place about it.
What have you learned from each other?
Simpson: We push each other. He'll go through a melody, and I'll go through a melody, and I feel like we really learned to work those together.
Ross: She's so good at words too, I think she's consistently thinking about what the content will be or what the actual story is, which I don't do as much. I'm usually just thinking about the melody. She’s a perfectionist and really doesn't stop until it's exactly the way she wants it. I feel like I've learned a lot about how dedicated she is to getting things right. Also, she’s always got no shoes on, sitting on the floor. She makes it her home. I'm like, “This looks more like a cabin than a studio.”
Simpson: Even when I rock out I like to feel the ground. [Laughs.]
In the past few years, you've kept your family life mostly out of the spotlight. Do you think about where'd you be today if you hadn't?
Simpson: I think I still would have been making my music and still would have been releasing music, whether we did this together or not. I think we both would have. I'm happy we [took a] leave from the spotlight. That moment away from everything was super important for me as a mother.
Ross: The most important thing will always be our children and our family, so I think that the added bonus is being able to create music that hopefully people enjoy.
Simpson: It was important to show my kids that it's important to follow your dreams and do what you love. I'm happy to still be able to do that, whatever the outcome is. I'm still enjoying myself, I'm loving everything, and I'm proud of it.