Jessica Simpson’s punky kid sister Ashlee Simpson is a survivor. After her trajectory for a 2004 debut disc “Autobiography” was hampered by a notorious “Saturday Night Live” incident in which she got caught lip-syncing her single “Pieces of Me, she refocused on her love of theater, appearing on Broadway in several “Chicago” runs. She also delved into film voiceover work and continued on her reality TV shows. The latest, 2018’s “Ashlee + Evan,” covers her return to recording, after a decade away, with her husband of four years, Evan Ross, son of Diana Ross. Their duets EP, also dubbed “Ashlee + Evan,” reveals a confident, soulful new Simpson, tearing it up on “Home,” “I Do” and “Safe Zone,” all produced by Earth, Wind & Fire’s Verdine White.
Was Verdine a mom connection for Evan?
Evan Ross: They knew each other, but I was a huge fan of his anyway, and our publicist also works with him. And the publicist told him, “Oh, you should hear what Evan and Ashlee are doing! And I think they’d love to meet with you.” So we sat down with Verdine one day and ended up talking for hours. I just wanted to listen to all of his stories, they were so cool. Then we finally played him our music, and now we’re like the best of friends. He added such a special quality to this project, and we recorded a lot of this album on analog because Verdine wanted to do it that way.
Hindsight being 20/20, as horrible as that “SNL” debacle was, it helped mature Ashlee into the no-nonsense performer she is today, no?
Ashlee Simpson: Yeah, I think so. It was really not a fun moment. In fact, it was truly terrible. But life throws you curve balls, and I feel like moments like that can be important if you read them the right way. Because right after that happened, I had to then go out on national tour, and that’s something I’d never done before. I had a vocal problem on “SNL” (acid reflux) and I had to get through that and go on tour. [Being] young, all these people around me were saying, “Look, this is an important moment here; this is ‘SNL’ and it’s a really big deal. So I learned to not listen to other people’s opinions so readily anymore. I know what I’m doing now, and I weigh every decision carefully.
How did you guys meet?
Simpson: We me though a friend of a friend, and we immediately knew we had soothing special, both musically and romantically. We were fully connected from day one, and we really inspire each other.
IF YOU GO
Ashlee + Evan
Where: Slim’s, 333 11th St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Jan. 17
Contact: (415) 255-0333, www.eventbrite.com