She’s been spoofed for her “Chicken of the Sea” comments: “Is it chicken, or is it tuna?” (Although it seems clear her “dumb blonde” act really was just an act.) She’s been dragged through the celebrity magazine circuit for her tumultuous love life (she’s currently dating Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, after dating singer John Mayer and after divorcing singer/actor Nick Lachey). And she received lukewarm reviews of her last pop album, “A Public Affair.”
But America loves an underdog. Jessica Simpson comes to the Monterey County Fair Friday, August 15th, with a recent record-breaking country single she co-wrote: “Come On Over.” The Texas native is also riding on the successes of a highly profitable clothing and shoe line, and a new lingerie line and new perfume debuting this summer. She’s got a new movie, “Major Movie Star,” due out this year. Her new album, “Do You Know,” comes out in September. Simpson performs at the Fair the night before country legend Randy Travis’ Saturday show. Both singers’ acts will be opened up by winners of a local Central Coast Idol competition. Carmel Magazine caught up with Simpson shortly after she celebrated her 28th birthday with a trip to Lake Tahoe.
Carmel Magazine: You must be incredibly busy these days. Your new single, “Come On Over,” has already made Billboard history.You reached the highest spot on the chart for a solo artist with no history on the Hot Country Songs chart. What’s that feel like?
Jessica Simpson: It feels amazing to be accepted by country music the way I have been. One thing I love about country music is the way that the fans truly are interested in the music. They want to know the writers and producers, and the story behind each song. It’s so refreshing to get to talk about the music that I’ve worked so hard to make.
CM: Has it been a natural progression for you to move into country? Are you planning on still making pop albums?
JS: Country music was definitely a natural transition for me to make. I grew up listening to it back home in Texas, so it’s only natural that, when I was ready to tell my story after taking some time out of the public eye, the voice that came out of my mouth had a twang to it! I don’t plan on making more pop albums; I really feel at home singing and writing country music.
CM: How is it being a clothing designer? How involved were you in creating your new fragrance and your upcoming lingerie line?
JS: Being a designer is such a great outlet for me to be creative in a different way. My mom [Tina] and I get to work together on my different lines, and it’s a fun way to bond over our favorite thing—clothes! I am super involved in everything I put my name on. I take meetings from the conception to design to packaging process on everything—you can’t imagine how long it took us to get the bottle just right for my perfume, Fancy.
CM: You spend a lot of time with charity work. What have you learned about people around the world from being involved in Operation Smile and the Mexican orphanage Casa Hogar Elim?
JS: I had the opportunity to travel to Africa to work with Operation Smile. I got to assist on a surgery and was so touched by the joy the doctors brought to the parents and kids. Families walked for days just to get the opportunity to see the doctors. It was such an eye-opening experience that changed me forever. I have been involved with Casa Hogar since I was 15. My dad was a youth minister at church and we would go there on mission trips in the summers. I instantly fell in love with the children and promised I’d take care of them someday, and I honestly think they have a bigger impact on me than I could ever have on them, it is such a blessing for me to get to spend time there. I believe that the people that run the orphanage are absolutely angels.
CM: Let’s talk for a moment about your family. [Simpson’s father, Joe Simpson, is her manager, and her sister, Ashlee, is a pop star.] Can you describe a typical weekend or vacation hanging out with them? How do your parents and your sister collaborate with you creatively?
JS: We are always on the go so much, that when we can all get together, we like to be at my parents’ house and just relax! We love to barbecue and play Scattergories and catch up. Our family is so creative in such unique ways, it’s cool to bounce different ideas off each other because we all have such different perspectives.
CM: You’re on the road currently performing at many county fairs. Can you describe what it’s like interacting with your fans on a smaller scale? Does that feel like a good fit with your Texas upbringing?
JS: I love it! I feel like I’m a new artist again, which is an exciting feeling. I can’t wait to share my music with my fans that I had from before, and hopefully the new ones I’ll make along the way. I grew up performing at state fairs, so it’s like a flashback to my childhood. I can’t wait to get my hands on that funnel cake!
CM: How has Dolly Parton influenced you and your music? Any other major country influences?
JS: Dolly is such an inspiring person to me. I have received letters of encouragement from her, which is so surreal to me! I really admire her not only as an artist, but as the warm and amazing person she is, inside and out. Another influence that was basically the reason for my country start is Willie Nelson. He was the one that was with me when I was going through a harder time in my life, and he said that country music
was the best way for me to tell my story, and I did.They both hold such a special place in my life.
CM: Word has it you like to eat at Katy’s Place for breakfast when you visit Carmel. What other things do you like to do in the Carmel area?
JS: I have been to Carmel a couple times and I love the whole town. I spent hours at all the antique stores a few Christmases ago.
CM: How do you balance making movies, promoting your designs, your charity work, your family, your music, your personal life, and everything else you do? Do you have any advice for other working women on how to balance their lives?
JS: It’s really important, I think, to stay as grounded as possible. It’s so easy to get carried away, but I surround myself with my family and friends that really want what’s best for me and are honest with me, even if I don’t want to hear it.
CM: Describe a perfect day for you.
JS: A day of rest! I wrote a song on my new album called, “You’re My Sunday,” and I think it describes my perfect day best. I talk about laying around with my man, watching TV, never having to get out of bed to do anything if we don’t want to…it’s a rare occasion. I love hanging out with my friends at my house, sitting outside and having great conversation over a glass of wine.
CM: Can you tell us something about your personality that people wouldn’t guess? Any funny habits? Favorite foods? TV shows you can’t miss?
JS: Hmmm…well, I never really get to watch much TV since we’re always traveling, but my friends and I love to watch funny YouTube videos. I’m starting to get sporty lately to change up my workouts, and tennis is my new thing. I’m just a beginner, but it’s great cardio no matter how good I am. I guess a funny habit I have is that I have to salt my fruit when I eat it, there’s just something about that combination I love.
CM: What is a major moment in your life that has influenced who you are?
JS: Everything. I wouldn’t be who I am today without every moment I have experienced in the past.
CM: What do you predict your future holds for you?
JS: Happiness! I’m in a really good place in my life right now, I can’t wait to see what’s coming up next!
CM: Anything else…on any topic…that you want to tell your fans?
JS: I just have the best fans in the world! I’d love to tell them thank you again for their support and encouragement. I’ve got two websites that I go to when I want to connect with them: jessicasimpson.com,my label site, and sweetkisses.net, my fansite. It’s great to hear what they think about what’s going on and connect with them on a more personal level.