Ashlee Simpson and Evan Ross on making music together and their new reality show
Noughties pop star Ashlee Simpson is back with new music for the first time in several years, this time in a duo with husband Evan Ross - Diana Ross's son. The couple are also starring in a new reality show, writes Lucy Mapstone
Ashlee Simpson and Evan Ross are thrilled to be spending time in London. The married couple, both members of some of the most famous families in the world but also stars in their own right, are relaxing on a sofa in a luxuriously modern hotel in the capital.
Ross went to a casino the night before, they've been to a few fashion parties and they've also visited some of his UK-based siblings, among other things.
"I haven't been over here in so long," Simpson says. "We need to make it regular. We've totally got to bring the kids out here."
The duo are stunning, despite their jet lag, combined with the previous late night.
Ross is clean-cut and handsome, clad in a tailored jacket with a polo-neck top, and Simpson is wearing an expensive check-print suit, her flawless make-up and bright blonde hair adding a touch of California dazzle to a grim UK day.
But it's her strappy heels with a magnificent feathered detail that dominate the room. They really are quite something, and she giggles her gratitude when told how wonderful they are.
We're not here to talk about her statement shoes and London experiences, though, so we move on to the topic at hand - their new double project of a reality TV series and their first foray into music as a couple.
The working partnership comes after their 2014 marriage, and after welcoming daughter Jagger Snow in 2015 (they also have Simpson's son, Bronx Mowgli, from her first marriage to Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz).
It might seem like an unusual collaboration: Simpson, the sister of Jessica Simpson, is a pop-rock singer at heart.
Actor Ross, the son of music icon Diana Ross, starred in the Hunger Games films and teen series 90210 among other things, but he also previously dabbled in a bit of R&B music.
They released their first music together last year as an EP, alongside a reality TV series documenting their musical endeavours.
"We started working on music together and were already documenting going to the studio. It was just the right time for us to make a show," Simpson explains.
It's a return to the small screen for the 34-year-old who, along with her pop career, had her own reality series back in 2004 and 2005, a spin-off from her sister's pop culture favourite Newlyweds.
It also marks her musical comeback, years after the release of her third album, Bittersweet World, in 2008. Although she initially "hesitated" at the idea, she "thought it would be good if people can catch up and see where I am in my life".
Ross (30) chips in: "We weren't like, 'let's make a TV show'. We thought, 'it's kinda cool we're making music together, we should probably document it'.
"We wanted to make something that was more like a docu-series. We didn't want a gossipy, dramatic reality show."
While the series, called Ashlee + Evan, to match their moniker as a musical duo, is largely about the music, it's also about "family and love", and has cameos from relatives, including Diana.
Jagger and Bronx are in the show a little bit too. "You see our lives and you see our friends, and our daughter and son are so cute," Simpson says.
Simpson and Ross released one track from their EP along with each episode when the show aired in America, and the second half of the EP is due to be released later this year.
Their music, Ross says, has a "hip-hop and soulful vibe" to it, which is at odds with Simpson's earlier style.
"Because we do different genres, we were very clear that the music was going to be more about being love songs," Ross explains.
"Songs that are just us, that fit both of our vibes, and what we listen to. It wasn't one particular sound," Simpson adds.
Given this amalgamation of their styles, and the fact they are husband and wife, are they at all worried about how their musical partnership is perceived?
Simpson shakes her head. "Evan grew up in this world with his mum, and I grew up in it too," she says. "We don't ever focus on that."
It's also worth noting that Simpson has already endured one of the most humiliating things a singer could ever face: being caught lip-syncing during a seemingly live performance.
She was caught out when the wrong backing track, complete with vocals, was played during her performance on US TV show Saturday Night Live in 2004. She then did a bizarre jig on the stage in an attempt to steal the moment back.
The cringeworthy incident made headlines across the world, and has followed her ever since, but nothing could bring her down now.
"That moment definitely made me strong," she insists. "It was fight or flight, and I learned to fight, get up and go on tour the next day.
"Moments like that, they make you strong. I can look back and say, 'Gosh, I am so proud of all the records that I made, and I'm so proud of all the tours that I did'. But I just wanna go and give that 19-year-old me a hug. It's so sad... I was so young."
The admittedly awkward moment didn't affect her career too much, though, and she went on to have a string of pop hits, including Pieces Of Me and Boyfriend.
Her first two albums also topped the charts in the US.
Following her extended hiatus to focus on motherhood, Simpson is delighted to have returned to music alongside Ross. She is also going to start working on a fourth solo record.
"I'm definitely going to have a more a pop-rock kind of thing for my album," Simpson teases.
"But I feel like now, if I don't have Evan with me, I'm like, 'Where are you?' It's so much fun working with you," she says, turning to face her husband.
"Because I'm like, half-assistant, half-husband," he quips.
"No, you're my best friend!" she fires back.
Ross chuckles. "We work well together, so it's fun, and I think it's going to be weird to work separately for a while.
"But it's nice to be able to create together for now. It's fun."
- Ashlee + Evan airs on Sundays on E!. Ashlee and Evan's debut EP, Ashlee + Evan, is out now