Born Ashlee Nicole Simpson on October 3, 1984, in Waco, TX; daughter of Joe Simpson (a youth minister) and Tina Simpson. Addresses: Record company--Geffen, 2220 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404. Website--Ashlee Simpson Official Website: http://www.ashleesimpsonmusic.com.
The daughter of a former Sunday school teacher and Baptist youth minister, singer Ashlee Simpson grew up in a household of high religious values, a superstar older sister, and encouraged opportunity for creativity. Born on October 3, 1984, to mother Tina Simpson (who home schooled Ashlee) and father Joe Simpson, in Waco, Texas, life in the arts was a natural choice for both Ashlee and her older sister Jessica. While Jessica started singing at an early age, it was dance at which Ashlee excelled. Beginning ballet classes at the age of three, by the time Ashlee was 11, she moved to New York City to attend the School of Ballet as the youngest student ever admitted. Unfortunately, the pressure took its toll, and Ashlee developed a slight case of anorexia, which forced her to quit ballet and move back to Texas.
In 1999, the Simpson family relocated to Los Angeles, California, so Jessica could focus on her burgeoning singing career. Ashlee soon took a few acting jobs, including an episode of Malcolm in the Middle and a small role in the film The Hot Chick. Ashlee scored her big break with a role on the religion-based family drama Seventh Heaven on the WB network, where she was on and off the program from 2002 to 2004. In her down time, Ashlee also performed as a back up dancer for a few of Jessica's tours. While Jessica was becoming a pop star, Ashlee began to realize that she too wanted to sing. But she didn't want to be anything like her sister, who played up her religious beliefs, chaste values, and bubblegum personality. Ashlee wanted to find her own, more rock 'n' roll style.
"I've been singing since I was young, but I didn't always know that I could really sing--I kind of always thought that was Jessica's thing and that I was supposed to do something else," Ashlee told MTV.com. "Then, I started writing my own music and finally decided that I really liked my songs, and that I could do it too!" Ashlee's first released song was "Just Let Me Cry" on the soundtrack for the Lindsay Lohan movie Freaky Friday in 2003.
Between filming for Seventh Heaven, Ashlee began to cut demos and soon signed a deal with Geffen Records. Following in Jessica's television footsteps with Newlyweds, Ashlee also got her own MTV reality show, The Ashlee Simpson Show. The cameras followed the younger Simpson daughter around as she recorded her debut album and experienced the early stages of celebrity. In early 2004, Ashlee appeared in a video for singer Ryan Cabrera's single "On The Way Down," in which she played his love interest. The on-camera action soon turned into real life as the two became involved in a romantic relationship.
In the summer of 2004, MTV aired The Ashlee Simpson Show in conjunction with the July release of Ashlee's debut album, Autobiography. In one of the early episodes, on a whim, Ashlee dyed her blonde hair a dark brown. "I think it suits me better," she told Allure about the drastic change. "I didn't do it at all to set myself apart, but it has, in a way. It wasn't about the fact that I have to be the opposite of my sister. You have to be yourself."
Citing female singers like Alanis Morrisette, Fiona Apple, and Chrissie Hynde as some of her influences, Autobiography was miles away from the sugary balladry of Jessica's work. Ashlee's music and style was pop-punk and edgy--more closely aligned to the taste of teens at the time. Autobiography debuted on Billboard at number one and was certified platinum by September. The reality show was the ultimate commercial for Ashlee's music. By the time singles like "Pieces of Me" and "La La" hit the radio, fans already knew all the words from watching her record them on The Ashlee Simpson Show.
While reviews on the album were often split, one thing was abundantly clear--Ashlee was no Jessica Simpson. People wrote, "... On Autobiography, Ashlee proves to be a credible talent in her own right." Ashlee soon took her music on the road with a live band that included Ray Brady and Braxton Olita on guitars, Joey Kaimana (and later Zach Kennedy) on bass, Chris Fox on drums, and Chris James (and then Lucy Walsh) on keyboards and vocals.
Ashlee's year started off with a bang, but then dropped with a sudden thud on October 24, 2004. In what has become an infamous and disastrous live TV moment, Ashlee made a big mistake in front of millions of television viewers as she was caught lip-synching during a performance on Saturday Night Live. On that fateful Saturday evening, Ashlee was scheduled to sing "Pieces of Me" and her new single "Autobiography." The first song went off without a hitch, but when she returned to sing "Autobiography," as her band counted off to begin playing, a recorded vocal track of Ashlee singing "Pieces of Me" began to play. She looked shocked and embarrassed as her band continued to play music for the other song and she was shown clearly not singing. In a nervous reaction, she began to dance a little jig and then walked off stage as SNL cut to commercial. At the end of SNL, Ashlee apologized by saying her band had played the wrong song.
In the aftermath of her SNL debut, Ashlee called into MTV's TRL to explain further. "It's so embarrassing because it sucks," she told TRL. "The total situation was a bummer. I made a complete fool of myself." Once the press began to hound Ashlee, she blamed the lip-synching debacle on a bad case of acid reflux. She claims that earlier in the day before the taping of SNL, she was having trouble singing, at which point her doctor advised her not to sing that night. Her dad (who is also her manager) suggested singing along or lip-synching to a backing track at the evening's live broadcast. Ashlee had no choice but to go along with it. "I didn't know what to do. I just froze," she told MTV.com about the mistake of playing the wrong track. "My band kept playing the song, like they were told [to do]. We all went into a state of shock. 'Omigod, what do I do?' So I did the hoe-down and ran off."
Ashlee's career could have been over after SNL, but the young singer stayed positive despite the harsh reaction to her televised mishap. In December she won a Billboard Award for New Female Artist of the Year. She would even poke fun at her SNL flub at later appearances. Her spirit could have been further crushed when she sang "La La" at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida on January 4, 2005, where the large majority of the audience booed her performance. The young star kept her smile up and even took on a risky acting role in the independent film Undiscovered, which came out in late summer of 2005. Ashlee had to continue to defend herself in an interview with Teen People. "It's like people saying I can't sing when I know I can," she said. "Yeah, I messed up in front of everybody ... but I proved that I can sing by going on tour [and singing live]. I'm not Mariah Carey, but I love to sing. It's a joy to me. I don't do it for anyone else--I do it for me."
In October of 2005, Ashlee released her sophomore album I Am Me. Her personal life hit a bump when she broke up with Cabrera, but her career continued to grow. I Am Me, much like her first album, debuted at number one on the Billboard charts. Later that month, Ashlee was invited back to SNL to perform her new guitar-heavy single "Boyfriend," which People's Chuck Arnold described as a "feisty first single ... probably the best thing she's ever done."
Now that the second season of The Ashlee Simpson Show was over, Ashlee changed a few things including the color of her hair (she dyed it back to blonde) and her relationship status, as she began dating Braxton Olita, the guitarist in her band. I Am Me proved to be a stronger and more personal album than Autobiography. "Everybody has flaws. Everybody falls on their face. But flaws make you who you are," she explained to Teen People. "You have to go through negative experiences to become a stronger person. I found the strength to pick myself back up and write a new album."
by Shannon McCarthy
Ashlee Simpson's Career
Studied dance as a child; moved with family to Los Angeles and began acting career, late 1990s; released first song on Freaky Friday soundtrack, 2003; released album Autobiography, 2004; star of reality show The Ashlee Simpson Show on MTV, 2004-05; released I Am Me, 2005.
- Selected discography
- (Contributor) Freaky Friday (soundtrack), Hollywood, 2003.
- Autobiography Geffen, 2004.
- I Am Me Geffen, 2005.
- Allure, January 1, 2005, p. 109.
- People, October 31, 2005, p. 47.
- Teen People, December 1, 2005, p. 96.
- "Ashlee Blames Gastric Distress for SNL Snafu," MTV.com, http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1492993/10252004/simpson_ashlee.jhtml (February 1, 2006).
- "Ashlee Simpson," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (February 1, 2006).
- Ashlee Simpson Official Website, http://www.ashleesimpsonmusic.com (February 1, 2006).
- "Q&A: Ashlee Simpson," MTV.com, http://www.mtv.com/onair/dyn/ashlee/cast_qa.jhtml?pid=22 (February 1, 2006).