Believe it: Jessica Simpson has decamped to Nashville to begin work on her debut country album, due sometime in 2008 via Columbia Nashville.
Simpson declined to name songwriting collaborators, but tells Billboard.biz she will most definitely be involved in the creative process. "Writing is a release for me," she says. "It's a way for me to tell my story. That's not to say I wouldn't record a song that I didn't write. It's just that it has been a while since I have opened the book."
But why country, and why now? "I am a country girl," she says. "I grew up in Texas, and country music was what I listened to. I always wanted to make a country album, but I wanted to wait until the time was right."
"I think there is a strength in female country artists," Simpson adds, citing Martina McBride, Shania Twain, Faith Hill and Reba McEntire as some of her inspirations.
Asked what has surprised her most since starting the follow-up to 2006's "A Public Affair," Simpson says, "Nashville is a very warm city. The people are friendly and kind. There is a sense of community, which thrives on music. There is no animosity ... only respect for one another's talent."
It's unclear if Simpson will hit the road in support of the as-yet-untitled country project, but she says, "Since the record is in the beginning stages, there hasn't been much talk about a tour just yet."