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July
20th, 2014

The Making of Ashlee Simpson’s ‘Autobiography’

If you are a true Ashlee Simpson fan you HAVE TO read this article where John Shanks, the producer of Ashlee’s “Autobiography” talks about the process of making the album. I had a blast reading this because it represents the main reason why I love Ashlee, her talent!

ashlee simpson autobiography making of the album 10th anniversary classic album myspace a decade john shanks

Forget ‘SNL,’ and the critical shade that came with it—Simpson’s debut LP is a certified classic. To honor its 10th anniversary, producer/musician John Shanks recalls putting the pieces together.

More than most pop stars over the past decade, Ashlee Simpson was unfairly maligned. Yes, she flubbed Saturday Night Live, and yes, she was booed at the Orange Bowl. And yes, her post-debut releases caught plenty of flack, despite the fact that much of it was good.

What you forget, though, is Ashlee had a chart-topping debut, Autobiography, a collection of pop-rock gems that helped Ashlee establish her own as a musician. The album, released July 20, 2004 via Geffen, has sold more than five million copies worldwide and spawned a number of hit singles including “Pieces of Me,” “La La” and “Shadow.”

To boot, she had her own (surprisingly entertaining) MTV reality show, The Ashlee Simpson Show, that documented the album’s creation process. While in some respects it was, well, amusing to see her transform from a bubbly blonde into a dark-haired Urban Outfitters-chic rocker, it nonetheless provided a glimpse at her undeniable hard work and dedication.

Despite the post-SNL backlash, Ashlee went on to release two more albums—2005’s I Am Me and 2008’s Bittersweet World—and record a second season of her reality show. Though the future releases didn’t match the success of Autobiography, her debut still has a lasting influence as one of the best pop outlets of that year.

To commemorate Autobiography’s 10th anniversary, we spoke with John Shanks (Miley Cyrus, Bon Jovi), the album’s producer and primary songwriter, about Ashlee’s true musicianship, the SNL debacle and why the album’s music to this day has fans running the gamut from heavy metal rockers to John Mayer and Haim.

ashlee simpson john shanks autobiography he talks baout the album 10th anniversary myspace

[When I started working with Ashlee], I think I got a call from a person at [her record label] Geffen and I think her dad at the time. They wanted to have a meeting and wanted to bring her in and wanted to play me stuff. Basically what happened was all these kind of managers and executives [came in] and they’re telling me who she is and what she is and what she sounds like. Personally for me, I said, “Can I just spend 10 minutes alone with her?” and they left the room. I said to her: “First of all, do you want this? Is this their dream or your dream?” And she said, “It’s absolutely my dream.” So I said, “What do you listen to?” We talked about influences: we were talking about Blondie, Cheap Trick, Depeche Mode and rock and the Pretenders—all these bands. And I was like wow, not Fiona Apple, not blah blah, whatever those references [her team] was bringing up.

I said, “Ok let’s start tomorrow.” I changed my schedule of stuff I was working on at the time. I said, “Let’s spend two solid weeks and let’s write. Just you and me and write. Let’s go for it.” The first couple of weeks we wrote basically the five first songs on the record. I think the first song we wrote was “Surrender.” Then there might have been another song, and then I went home and I started writing “Pieces of Me.”

I had the beginning of “Pieces of Me.” I knew the title, I had the music, I had the structure. I knew what I wanted it to be about. I knew the melody. It felt to me that this song had the potential to be, for me, to be a hit song. I suggested to Ashlee at the time that there’s a writer I work with together a lot and we work together really well, this girl Kara [DioGuardi]. I think this song is important to really make sure the lyrics are dialed in on. Nothing against “Surrender”; nothing against one other song she and I wrote. But this could have the potential. Three hands are better than two. I’d rather write a great song with three people than a good song with two, that’s always been my thing.

I called Kara and she was literally going to some other session, and I said, “I think I wrote a hit song. I think I have the start on a really strong song and I need you NOW.” She’s like, “You’re crazy. You can’t just call me at five [minutes] to 1:00.” She’s pretty feisty, you know. But I go, “No, this is one of those moments, I swear to god, it’s worth it. I want to bring you in. I want you to be part of this record. I think the three of us would really get a good rhythm.” She showed up. We wrote “Pieces of Me” that day. I played her what I had. I had the melody and we kind of sonically filled in the blanks. Then we kind of got the angle lyrically. It happened quickly. It was really one of those [songs that happen] in an hour, hour and a half. But unfortunately, I said, “When you’re coming in here get ready because they’re filming us. I forgot to tell you they’re filming [The Ashlee Simpson Show].”

What was nice about the guys who were the producers of MTV, they were very supportive with me. I think Ashlee had a couple bad experiences before me. She and I had this quick rhythm. I was able to play everything, program stuff, play the bass, guitars, help her with the harmonies. It was like, oh, we have a little partnership. I’d walk out and the producers were watching everything. After a while you forget the cameras are there, and I’d walk out into the hall and they’d be like, “You’re doing great. This is awesome. You guys have this really wonderful chemistry. We want you to win, and the song is awesome.” When we were doing “Pieces of Me,” I went outside and went to these guys and said, “You gotta do me a favor. You gotta fuck off for an hour. You gotta just turn the cameras off. This one you’ve got to give me the time, cause we [John and Kara] are gonna argue. I know it’s going to make for good TV, but you have to give me this. This will pay for everything. I’ve done this long enough to know you gotta give me this.” They were really great. They were always respectful. You’ve got to let me work with her alone. Once I have the song, the essence, the lyrics, the melodies—then you can come in. And that’s what happened. Then from that we got [the song] “Autobiography.”

[Before writing “La La”], Ashlee and Kara were like, oh it’d be great to have like a jam, like a rock, lick-oriented [song]. I think they went outside and smoked a cigarette or something, and they came back in and they were like [sings “La La” guitar part]. We wrote “La La.” Again, it happened really fast. It was like a jam. We turned it up really loud. The guitars were really loud; the drumbeats were really loud. There was actually a verse in “La La” that we had to change because it was so graphic. There’s one line, “I’m like a boomerang.” What it DOESN’T say is “I’ll come back and get you off.” That line, [the label] was like, “Yeah, that’s not gonna work.” It was so graphic. It was one of those kinds of [writing] nights. We went there lyrically. We had the imagery of Madonna where she’s crawling on the floor and drinking milk out of a bowl. We kind of went there. But other than that, I think just two lines we changed.

Sometimes albums like that, when no one is standing over your shoulder but you have the green light. I had a green light to do the record because it was this new artist. They gave me full control. I knew I could bring in Kara and a couple people in. That’s what happened with Michelle Branch’s first two records, too. They just kind of let me do it. Nowadays, it doesn’t work that way. You can do it on your own, but you have to pay for it on your own, and then go sell it. But this, I had a track record, we’re giving you her, the whole thing, no other people, no other writers. Which to me is great because that feels like a record — it’s a fucking album –- not like a collection of singles. There’s a conscious effort to sequence a certain way. Every song doesn’t have to be a single.

To this day, unfortunately with what happened with Saturday Night Live should have never happened. My recollection of everything, and my belief in her and my commitment to her was 110 percent. Unfortunately, I didn’t know she was doing SNL. No one called me to tell me. That would have never happened if I was there; there’s no way that would have gone down. How it went down was unfortunate because I know her because I spent 12 weeks in a room with her. I know how to get the best out of her, protect her voice. She needed something like that. That was just my vote or the way I see it. When she played the second time on SNL I was there.

Here’s the thing: Ashlee is an artist. She is. She’s as much an artist as any one of these—I want to curse here, but… To me, I’ve been in the room with all these girls—all of them—every single one of them I’ve been lucky to be around. Ashlee earned her stripes on that record. She put in the time. She put in the effort. She was there eight, nine hours a day working her ass off, tweaking the lyrics and singing, singing, singing. That was a labor of love, and when somebody’s coming from that place, as a writer or producer, I’m in, I’m there. It was a joy that first record. It was a lot of work, but it was creative and fun.

I think the highest compliment of this record is that years later rock dudes, guitar players come up to me and say, “Dude, man, I loved that Ashlee fuckin’ Simpson record. The guitar tones on that song.” I actually had John Mayer call me up at one point and say “What’s the voicing of the chord at the beginning of ‘Pieces of Me?’ Where’s he playing that? It’s a B minor but you’re not playing a B minor.” So I showed him, and he’s like, “Ah, that chord.” It was just one of those moments, it was just good music, and that’s why it sold almost five million copies.

We worked hard on the second [album], too. Unfortunately, it was just a backlash. What happened to this poor, beautiful soul was not fair, it was not just. I don’t want to say it’s bad management or what. It’s like Lana Del Rey—if she had never gone on [SNL], she’d be Pink or Kelly Clarkson. She worked just as hard as those girls.

The thing I loved about Ashlee was that she was the underdog. Going in she was the underdog; she wasn’t [her sister] Jessica. I’ve worked with Jessica. I love Jessica. But I related to Ashlee. I’m the youngest, and she’s the younger sister. We’re scrappers, we have to fight. To me that album—she’s like look, I can do this. I’m a fighter. And that’s what I loved about that record. She just was an old soul. To this day, she would have a big career. She’d still be doing it. She’s talented, she really is. People are just haters. Every time I’m out somewhere or speaking on some panel and people are like, “Fucking Ashlee Simpson,” I’m like: “Yeah, fuck you. Trust me, you come in my room and you work as hard as that girl did for 12 weeks.” That girl deserved every record that she sold. And she wrote every song. She was there and she was a part of it—some days more than others—[and] like all of us we all have good days and bad. She deserves the success on that record, and if it wasn’t for that one moment…

At Coachella [this year], I’m watching Haim, right in front of Este, the bass player, and they were awesome. After the show I’m backstage talking to a friend, and Este was standing there I said, “I just wanted to say hi, you guys are awesome. I’m John Shanks.” She starts hitting me like we’ve known each other a thousand years. She goes, “OK, so let’s just start with that I’ve been sick for two weeks in bed—I’m just gonna start there—and all I did for the two weeks I was in bed was watch seasons one and two of The Ashlee Simpson Show. So let’s just start there. So then of course I’ve been listening to albums one and two. So I’m gonna give you a big hug and you’re a bad motherfucker. We’re going to write in August.” I’m just like wow.

When someone like that gets it, and guitar geeks come up to me, real guitar players, they kind of go, “Man, I gotta tell you, I love that album”—I’m telling you heavy metal dudes—it’s timeless. To me, that album personally was the third extension of Michelle Branch’s second record [The Spirit Room]. I’m proud of that record. If someone comes up to you and goes, “I think that album sucks,” I go, “Oh really? Well I got four million reasons why it doesn’t.” That was a different time. It’s unfortunate that that approach is not used more, where you find this artist. I guess Katy [Perry] did it with [Dr.] Luke and Max [Martin].

Ashlee’s getting married again. I just talked to her mom yesterday. It’s like you went through the war together. I will always love Ashlee. There was something about [the fact] that we created something together and that will never change, and I hope that people can really feel that within the record and that becomes timeless.

Source: My Space – Written by Jill Menze

Posted under: News and Rumors | Posted By | 1 Comment

July
20th, 2014

Ashlee Simpson Attends Ex Ryan Cabrera’s Birthday Party With Fiance Evan Ross, Talks Music Collaboration

ashlee simpson ryan cabrera birthday party

Once upon a time, Ashlee Simpson was all Ryan Cabrera wanted, all he needed. These days she’s engaged to Evan Ross, but her spiked-haired ex certainly isn’t out of her life. In fact, on July 13, Simpson and Ross attended Cabrera’s 32nd birthday bash at the Kia Motors Malibu Estate, a source tells Us Weekly.

“They were both super cute with one another, very affectionate and very touchy feely,” the source said of the bride and groom-to-be. “At one point Ashlee even had Evan sitting on her lap as they conversed with their friends.”

Don’t worry, the “On the Way Down” crooner has clearly moved on since dating Simpson back in 2004, working hard on new music. Cabrera, who is no longer managed by Ashlee’s father, Joe Simpson, is planning to release a new album this fall with Dynamite Music.

At the birthday bash, the insider tells, Simpson encouraged Ross, the son of recording legend Diana Ross, to listen to her ex’s new work, “urging Ryan to play his new record for Evan so he could listen to it and maybe give him some insight on some lyrics that Ryan was struggling with. Evan and Ryan talked about collaborating and getting in the studio together. Both of them sounded super stoked on the idea and will be making it happen sooner than later.”

This wasn’t the first interaction between the three pals. On July 9, Simpson and Ross visited State Social House’s Wednesday Night Laugh Attic Comedy Show on the same night that Cabrera happened to be there. The couple joined his table, chatting for the rest of the night.

Simpson and Cabrera were close pals before dating on the reality series The Ashlee Simpson Show. Her song “Pieces of Me” was written for him, and his single “Photo” was an ode to Jessica Simpson’s little sis.

Source: USMagazine.com

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July
15th, 2014

New Candids: The Ivy

Ashlee Simpson and her fiance Evan Ross went to eat out at The Ivy in Los Angeles, California on July 12, 2014 and photos have been added to the gallery. Enjoy:

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July
14th, 2014

New Ellen Von Unwerth Photoshoot Outtake

Thanks to the awesome Bubble, a new Ellen Von Unwerth Photoshoot Outtake from the “Jessica Simpson” Collection Fall 2013 Campaign is now on the gallery. To see it full-size just click the preview below:

ashlee simpson 2013 jessica simpson collection fall campaign photoshoot  Ellen von Unwerth

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July
14th, 2014

People Magazine: Jessica’s Wedding Edition

jessica simpson 2014 wedding ashlee simpson evan ross where there simpson family people magazine exclusive

People magazine has all the exclusive details on Jessica Simpson’s wedding, and new scans of the July 21, 2014 edition, which features photos of Ashlee at the wedding has just been added to the gallery. She looks beautiful in each one of the photos! Remember that next month is going to be Ashlee’s wedding so, we better be ready :)

Posted under: News and Rumors and Photo Gallery | Posted By | No Comments

July
14th, 2014

Ashlee as Jessica’s Bridesmaid

A new photo of Ashlee as Jessica’s Bridesmaid has been released via instagram. She looks gorgeous, enjoy:

Posted under: News and Rumors and Photo Gallery | Posted By | No Comments

July
9th, 2014

New outtakes: Ellen Von Unwerth Photoshoot

ashlee simpson jessica simpson collection 2014 photoshoot

New outtakes taken by Ellen von Unwerth for the “Jessica Simpson” Collection Fall 2013 Campaign are now part of the gallery and Ashlee looks gorgeous in each of them. Be sure to check them out!

Posted under: Photo Gallery | Posted By | No Comments

July
9th, 2014

New Candids: Leaving “DBA” Nightclub

After spending last weekend celebrating Jessica Simpson’s wedding, Ashlee and her man Evan Ross spent some thing at the “DBA” club in West Hollywood, CA on July 08, 2014. Photos of the couple leaving the club are now at the gallery. Enjoy:

Posted under: News and Rumors and Photo Gallery | Posted By | No Comments

July
8th, 2014

Beautiful Ashlee

Joe Simpson just posted on his Instagram account a very beautiful picture of our favorite girl. The photo was probably taken during Jessica Simpson’s wedding : ) She looks gorgeous isn’t she?

Posted under: News and Rumors | Posted By | 1 Comment

July
6th, 2014

New Candids: California

New candids of Ashlee with her boyfriend Evan Ross are now on the gallery. Enjoy:

Out & About in Los Angeles, California – July 03, 2014

San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara, California – July 04, 2014

Posted under: News and Rumors and Photo Gallery | Posted By | 1 Comment

June
30th, 2014

New Candids: New York City

New photos of Ashlee and Evan in New York City are now in the gallery. Enjoy:

Morandi Restaurant in NYC – June 24, 2014

Leaving her hotel in NYC – June 25, 2014

Shopping in Soho, NYC- June 25, 2014

Posted under: News and Rumors and Photo Gallery | Posted By | 3 Comments

June
26th, 2014

New Candids: New York City

Ashlee Simpson carries a chic bag while grabbing lunch with her fiance Evan Ross on Tuesday (June 24) in New York City. Later in the day, the 29-year-old entertainer and the 25-year-old actor held hands while stepping out together in the Big Apple.

The day before, Ashlee was pretty in pink while grabbing some grub with a close gal pal in Beverly Hills Calif.

It was recently reported that Evan‘s legendary mom Diana Ross will be performing at their upcoming wedding, according to E!.

Source: JustJared.com

Posted under: News and Rumors and Photo Gallery | Posted By | 1 Comment

June
24th, 2014

Diana Ross to Perform at Ashlee Simpson and Evan Ross’ Wedding

23jun2014

Diana Ross is very hands-on about planning Ashlee Simpson and Evan Ross‘ upcoming wedding.

E! News has learned that the music legend will actually be performing at her son’s nuptials—now that’s one top-notch wedding singer!

Not only will the groom’s mama take center stage during the couple’s big night, but her daughter Rhonda Ross Kendrick will be joining her as well.

But Diana won’t be the only major icon in the room that night…a source tells us that Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson have also been invited to the wedding.

And while the special occasion is bound to be both beautiful and memorable, the 25-year-old dished told E! News that he’s more focused on a lifetime with his ladylove.

“Honestly, we could go and get married right now, wherever,” he explained while promoting his indie, The Wilderness of James, at SXSW.

WATCH: Ashlee Simpson talks about her pre-wedding workout!

“We just want to be married. We’re in love. This is the most incredible time I could ever think of in my life and I’m young, but the same time, I’ve lived a different life than most and I can’t think of a happier moment.”

Ross, who plays Messalla in the upcoming Hunger Games: Mockingjay, says he knew he wanted to marry Simpson “really quickly.”

He gushed, “I was giving it time only because I wanted to give it time, but I would have asked her a month after I was with her.”

Source: EOnline.com

Posted under: News and Rumors | Posted By | 1 Comment

June
23rd, 2014

New Candids: Studio City, CA

New candids of Ashlee leaving the gym in Studio City, California on June 20, 2014 are now part of the gallery. Enjoy:

Posted under: Photo Gallery | Posted By | No Comments

June
16th, 2014

Jessica Simpson Planning “Classic” Wedding, Doing Lots of Prep With Sister Ashlee

16jun2014

Jessica Simpson seems to enjoy doing her planning in pairs—even if that wasn’t part of the original plan.

First, the mother of two was pregnant at the same time as best friend CaCee Cobb. Now, she and sister Ashlee Simpson are both in the thick of wedding planning—and of course they’re totally in it together!

“Jessica and Ashlee are very close and really supportive with each other, especially since both weddings are coming up,” a source exclusively tells E! News.

“They have been doing lots of wedding stuff together. During this wedding process they both have been talking to each other about their ideas, even though they both are having very different weddings.”

Jessica, who will be tying the knot with fiancé Eric Johnson over the July 4 weekend, is planning a “classic and modern” wedding, our source says, while Ashlee is shooting for more of a “Bohemian-style vibe” when she swaps vows with Evan Ross on Aug. 31.

Each plan sounds totally in keeping with the personalities of the brides-to-be, both of whom will be tying the knot for the second time.

The sisters appear to have done their research as well, going out on dates together and otherwise sizing up their future brothers-in-law. While Jess is super-excited for her sis to marry Evan, her family also is “a big fan” of Eric.

They think “he is such a kind-hearted person and dad,” the source says. “Ashlee gets along with Eric very well and is so excited for them to tie the knot…She considers him like an older brother.”

As for Johnson, a former NFL player, he’s taking a step back and letting his future wife put the finishing touches on their wedding.

She is “all hands-on for her wedding and her husband…is sitting back and enjoying letting Jessica make a lot of the decisions for their wedding day. He is a very laid-back guy and just loves seeing Jessica happy, especially on her big day.”

And we love that about him!

Back in January, Jess talked about her upcoming nuptials and how it’s important not to forget the real reason why their guests will be in attendance.

“It’s easy to get wrapped up in things when you are planning your wedding,” she said during a Google Plus live chat. “It’s easy to get stressed out about it, and put pressure on yourself. I mean your man proposed to you, so you don’t have to do anything for him, he already likes you the way you are. So, really it’s just about finding the love within yourself, and accepting the love that everybody is basically there giving you.”

Source: EOnline.com

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