Ashlee Simpson - Biography & Career
Simpson was born in Waco, Texas, and raised in Dallas. She is the daughter of Joe Truett Simpson (a former Baptist youth minister who is now her manager) and Tina Ann Drew (a former Sunday School teacher who homeschooled Ashlee). An accomplished dancer, Simpson began studying classical ballet at the age of three, and was admitted to the School of American Ballet in New York City at the age of eleven. Around that time, she suffered from an eating disorder; the condition lasted about six months, and she dropped to about 31 kg (70 pounds) at 159 cm (5ft 2in), but her parents then stepped in and got her to eat more. After her sister Jessica Simpson landed a record deal, the Simpson family decided to move to Los Angeles, California, where Ashlee began appearing in television commercials. When Jessica became a star after releasing her first album, Ashlee became one of her backup dancers. Later, she began appearing in films and television series, including an episode of the sitcom Malcolm in the Middle in 2001, a minor role in the 2002 film The Hot Chick and a recurring role on the family drama series 7th Heaven. In the summer of 2003, Simpson briefly worked as an MTV VJ on TRL, and later recorded a song titled "Just Let Me Cry" for the soundtrack of the film Freaky Friday. Eventually, Simpson signed a record deal with Geffen Records.
Debut album and reality television
Ashlee Simpson's first album, Autobiography, debuted at number one in the U.S. in July 2004 with first week sales numbering around 398,000 copies. The album was certified triple platinum in September 2004. Simpson co-wrote all of the album's tracks and described it as "very true to my emotion" in one interview, but critical reviews were mixed. Rolling Stone magazine's Peter Relic characterised Autobiography as a "mundane melange of Avril-ish brat pop and Sheryl Crow cod rock". E! Online wrote "Even if it doesn't wow you, Autobiography may surprise you." The single that preceded the album, "Pieces of Me," was one of the biggest hits of the summer in the U.S. and sold well elsewhere. However, the follow-up singles "Shadow" and "La La" were less successful.
Simpson occasionally appeared on Newlyweds, a reality show about the married life of Jessica and her then-husband Nick Lachey. To accompany the beginning of her own music career, she got her own MTV reality show entitled The Ashlee Simpson Show, which aired in a subsequent time slot to Newlyweds. It ran in the U.S. for eight weekly episodes over the summer of 2004, and a second season of ten episodes aired from January to March 2005. The show dealt with the process of writing, recording, and performing Simpson's music as well as aspects of her personal life.
When appearing for live performances, Simpson performed live with a backing band consisting of Ray Brady (guitar), Braxton Olita (guitar), Joey Kaimana (bass guitar—from 2004 to 2005 Zach Kennedy filled this role), Chris Megert (keyboards and vocals—from late 2004 to 2005 Lucy Walsh filled this role), and Chris Fox (drums).
In September 2004, Simpson announced on her website that the band would be named "Ashlee Simpson and Submission," taking the name from the fact that they had received so many submissions of proposals for the name.
In addition to her own first album, Simpson sang "Christmas Past, Present, and Future" on the 2004 holiday album Radio Disney Jingle Jams and a duet of the Christmas song "Little Drummer Boy" with her sister Jessica for the album Rejoyce, which they had sung together during the ABC variety hour special "Nick & Jessica's Family Christmas". In 2004 Simpson received the "Song of the Summer" Teen Choice Award for "Pieces of Me," as well as the "Fresh Face" award. In addition, she also won a Billboard Award for New Female Artist of the Year in December and was later named Entertainment Weekly's "Breakout Star of 2004" in January 2005. Simpson also co-hosted Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin Eve along with Regis Philbin (in Dick Clark's absence) at the end of the year, hosting the West Coast portion of the show and performing three songs.