Ashlee Simpson And Evan Ross On The Challenges Of Creating Music Together

Photographed By Amanda Demme.

We chat with the couple about their upcoming EP

The Ashlee Simpson of today isn’t the Ashlee Simpson a lot of us remember—at least not stylistically. She’s traded her black hair for blonde, she accessorizes with wide-brimmed hats rather than Converse, and she has retired those low-rise pants. Her music is different, too. Which, yes, she’s making new music, much to my delight, since I declared earlier this year that it’s the perfect time for Simpson to make a comeback. But that comeback isn't exactly a solo endeavor, because Simpson also has a new singing partner: her husband, Evan Ross.

As Simpson and Ross tell me, their sound can be described as “soulful pop rock.” The new music might not be recognizable on the first listen for early-aughts Simpson fans, but there are still hints of her signature raspy voice, which is balanced nicely by Ross’ own soothing vocals. It proves that different isn't always a bad thing.

The couple has been rolling out their six-track long EP, which comes out in full this Friday, after every episode of their reality television show Ashlee + Evan. Oh yeah, they have a reality show now. They also have a new clothing line named after their daughter, Jagger Snow. I guess if you’re going to step back into the limelight after 10 years, you might as well go all out.

Ahead, I chat with Simpson and Ross about the challenges that come with making a joint album, love, and what Simpson learned from her SNL snafu. For OG Simpson fans, worry not, after their EP is released and the pair goes on tour, they each plan on releasing separate solo albums, which Simpson promises will have that rock flair we’re used to from her.

It's my understanding that the idea for your reality show, Ashlee + Evan, came about because you wanted to document making your music together. 
Ashlee Simpson: Yeah, I think it was a fun outlet for us to release our songs with each episode. And also to bring these people into our lives and let them know what's been going on.

What was it like going through that process in front of cameras? 
Evan Ross: Truthfully, until it comes out, you don't really feel like it's anything. But it was a nice way for us to show where our inspiration was coming from, and we got to document working with Verdine White [of Earth, Wind, and Fire], which was such an amazing experience. And the fact that we got to get it all on camera was really special. To do something like this that I feel like hasn't been done in a really long time—to do duets together—and things that I grew up loving and listening to, as well as Ashlee did, from like the Sunny and Cher to Marvin [Gaye] and my mother [Diana Ross] and all these people… And it's kind of its own kind of sound, but it was something that was compiled by stuff we liked listening to growing up. 

Love is a big theme of the album. Obviously, there are many projects out there on the subject, what do you think differentiates yours from others?
AS: We just wanted to do something that felt organic and right to us. For me, it was definitely a departure from my sound in the past, and this was something that we were creating together. I've always loved soul music, and I don't think we were like, Oh, let's make this different than the typical love song. It was just kind of writing about our experiences at that moment or places we've been or moments in our life that would trigger those songs.

ER: If anything, I think what was different was the fact that there were a lot of live instruments… We did things with analogue and tape, which people don't do much anymore. We wanted to have that authentic feeling, especially with the fact that we had incredible players and people that we worked with.

AS: And I think that if we continued to write that, for us, we always go back to these conversations of love. And that it’s not always perfect. So I think for us it's always coming from a place of that and that real place where we go through things. And for me and our love and our love story, I feel like Evan really brought a whole new light to my life, and I think that's something that I definitely wanted to write about.

Outside of The Carters’ most recent album, joint projects [between couples] aren’t something that’s done a lot anymore. I’m imagining it’s probably because it’s pretty challenging. What are some challenges that you both came across? 
AS: There definitely were certain challenges. Evan always says it's my schedule of what time I like to go to bed [laughs]. I like to go to sleep pretty early. But, no, there were challenges also when we were creating. We were like, "Okay, is it done this way or that way, and to what tune and what melody to go with." What was nice about that is I feel like we both were able to have our own spins and do our own melodies in our own way and our own sound, which was nice. What were your challenges, Evan?

ER: Probably the same thing you said. Trying to stay late in the studio.

Ashlee, there is a scene in one of the episodes of your show where you make it very clear that you don't want to put out a song before it's ready. It seemed like a very real moment, and you go on to talk to your friends about your SNL snafu and how that's related. Would you say that taking your time with your creative process and making sure that you’re ready is one of the big takeaways that you had from that moment? 
AS: Definitely, I learned a lot from that and wanting to be prepared and wanting things to be right. But what I also learned from Evan in this process is that music is in a different place, too, and letting go. What I did enjoy about doing this is the releasing of songs every week. And I think that there was a sense of freedom in that for me.

Do you feel more ready now?
AS: I'm feeling good. I feel ready, and we have been playing shows together which has been so fun, and we are looking to do a tour together soon which will be so amazing. And I think what's so fun about this and the album is that we will do one song that’s mine and one that’s Evan's. And then we'll go on to do our own.

There’s one more track that you're going to release from the EP. What can we expect from that song? 
ER: It's probably one of our favorites, I think. It’s kind of explaining our love in some way.

AS: And it's simple.

ER: And simple, yeah. I'm probably actually most excited for that.

AS: I really love that song.

You mentioned a tour, what can we expect next from you two? 
ER: We are actually right now in rehearsals and getting ready for that part of it, putting together what that's going to look like. We want to do something that feels intimate and fun and sexy and those things, so that's where we are at right now. We're in the process of looking at dates that would work and figuring out how we are going to also bring the children with us as much as possible and do all that kind of stuff.

Photo courtesy of TNT.

The gang takes on a casino this season

For its third act, the TNT series Claws is here to prove that it's still the gaudiest show on television.

Claws follows a criminal underworld in Florida that lurks just beneath the surface of a local pain clinic, a strip club, and, most prominently, a nail salon. Despite wanting to make a legit business out of her nail salon, HBIC Desna (Niecy Nash) has spent the past two seasons getting deep into a life of crime. She has had the help of her autistic brother Dean (Harold Perrineau) and the four women she loves the most—Southern belle and con artist Polly (Carrie Preston), silent possessor of Big Strap Energy Ann (Judy Reyes), restlessly sober Jenn (Jenn Lyon), and former stripper Virginia (Karrueche Tran)—who are all back together in the new trailer.

Spoiler alert: Virginia was shot trying to protect Desna at the end of last season. But she survived, and now she's rocking a bedazzled eye patch as the gang takes on their next venture: a casino. "We own a casino," says Desna in the trailer, as we see shots of people gambling and money thrown in the air. "If we play this right, we can all level up." As always, trouble follows, the manicures are over-the-top, and, as an extra treat, Dean is still pursuing his dream of being an adult dancer.

Claws returns for Season 3 on June 9. Check out the trailer, below.

Claws: New Season Sunday, June 9 [TRAILER] | TNT

Photos by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for WE Day, Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

He also thought Lana Del Rey telling him he would be guillotined was a compliment, so we don't think he understands women

In a new memoir called Then It Fell Apart, singer Moby alleged he had a relationship with actress Natalie Portman when he was 33 and she was 20. But, in a new interview with Harper's Bazaar, Portman set the record straight, saying that his description of their relationship is false and contains other factual errors, that makes his behavior seem even grosser than it already did.

Not only did Portman say that the two didn't date, but that he also misrepresented her age. "I was surprised to hear that he characterized the very short time that I knew him as dating because my recollection is a much older man being creepy with me when I just had graduated high school," she said. "He said I was 20; I definitely wasn't. I was a teenager. I had just turned 18."

She says that they met when she went to one of his shows: "He said, 'let's be friends'. He was on tour and I was working, shooting a film, so we only hung out a handful of times before I realized that this was an older man who was interested in me in a way that felt inappropriate."

Portman also stated that she was not contacted to fact check this information, noting that "it almost feels deliberate." "That he used this story to sell his book was very disturbing to me. It wasn't the case," she said. "There are many factual errors and inventions. I would have liked him or his publisher to reach out to fact check."

Another part of his memoir describes a conversation with Lana Del Rey, in which she joked about how wealthy he was. "You're a rich WASP from Connecticut and you live in a five-level penthouse. You're 'The Man.' As in, 'stick it to The Man.' As in the person they guillotine in the revolution." His response: "I didn't know if she was insulting me but I decided to take it as a compliment." This only further proves that Moby doesn't understand women at all, which may explain how he took a couple of hangouts with Portman to mean that they were dating.

Moby has since responded to Portman's statement in an equally creepy Instagram post with a photo of him shirtless with the actress, calling the interview a "gossip piece." "We did, in fact, date. And after briefly dating in 1999 we remained friends for years," he said. "I like Natalie, and I respect her intelligence and activism. But, to be honest, I can't figure out why she would actively misrepresent the truth about our (albeit brief) involvement. He also said that he backs up the story in his book with "lots of corroborating photo evidence, etc." He then ends with this: "I completely respect Natalie's possible regret in dating me(to be fair, I would probably regret dating me, too), but it doesn't alter the actual facts of our brief romantic history."

Among many other things that are questionable about his claims, if you have to have "corroborating evidence" to prove a relationship that one person claims didn't happen, you're doing the whole "dating" thing wrong.

Photo by Jerritt Clark / Stringer / Getty Images.

She's been wonderfully honest about the ups and downs of her procedures

There is a good chance that, right now, Cardi B is wearing really something really tight. I'm not talking about one of the pieces from her Fashion Nova collection, either. Instead, she's probably cooing at baby Kulture while swaddled in a compression garment, a necessary part of the healing process after certain cosmetic surgery procedures.

As reported by E! News, Cardi B has had to cancel several performances after her doctor ordered her to rest and allow her body to recover following cosmetic surgery. A rep for Cardi explained to E! that "Cardi was overzealous in getting back to work" and that "her strenuous schedule has taken a toll on her body and she has been given strict doctor's orders to pull out of the rest of her performances in May." This followed an admission by Cardi herself, at the Beale Street Music Festival earlier this month, that she should have canceled her performance because moving too much would mess up her lipo.

Cardi's transparency about plastic surgery is nothing new for her. She has opened up in the past about her underground butt injections, including the financial pressure she felt and the risks she took to get them. She's been open about both of her breast augmentation procedures as well, most recently getting them redone after giving birth to her daughter. But Cardi's transparency about the ups and downs of plastic surgery is still rare amongst celebrities and is therefore refreshing.

And it's not just celebrities who keep quiet about these procedures. The first person I knew to get a butt augmentation was a friend from high school. We reconnected as adults, and I remember going to her apartment after her surgery, and seeing her pace the floor in her compression garment, since it was still too soon to sit and put pressure on her backside. But even in the comfort of her own home, she seemed to speak in a hushed tone about having had the surgery. Before I'd arrived, she just told me she'd had a "medical procedure," and didn't say anything more. This has been the case for other women I've met who have gotten "work" done, including my aesthetician, a colleague who got a nose job, a darling YouTuber with whom I had the pleasure of having dinner; all of them would only acknowledge their enhancements in secret—the shame was palpable, and unfortunate. It's clear that women who get plastic surgery might be celebrated for the results, but there's an expectation that they should keep quiet about it, and feel bad for having made a choice about their own bodies.

So it's no surprise that, in the pop culture realm, people like Cardi are exceptions to the rule. Thanks to the internet, we can easily track the fullness of a celebrity's lips or backside over the course of time without them ever explicitly acknowledging the medical intervention that took place. And while people, of course, have the right to privacy, and should be able to do whatever they want with their bodies without offering explanations, it would still be nice if they opened up, if only to take away the attached stigma that affects so many people. Which is why I hope Cardi's willingness to lay it all out there becomes a trend. No one should have to harbor shame for investing in having a body that looks the way they want it to.

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Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

"In my head I thought, This is how it ends"

Kit Harington almost lost a lot more than the Iron Throne while filming the final season of Game of Thrones. According to an interview with NowThis News, the actor almost lost one of his balls while riding a mechanical dragon.

Harington revealed that the incident took place when he was filming the scene where his character, Jon Snow, takes a ride on Rhaegal for the first time in the Season 8 premiere. Since dragons aren't real (sorry), Harington was filming the scene, where Jon almost falls off the dragon and then swings around to pick himself back up, on a mechanical contraption.

"My right ball got trapped, and I didn't have time to say, 'Stop,'" Harington said in an interview. "And I was being swung around. In my head I thought, This is how it ends. On this buck, swinging me around by my testicles, literally." We see shots of the fake dragon he's riding in front of a green screen, and it does look pretty terrifying.

Luckily, his testicles remained intact through the near-disastrous event, and he's survived with quite the story to tell to unsuspecting journalists.

Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for goop

"I had to create a harder shell about being a woman"

In a panel discussion during Gwyneth Paltrow's In Goop Health summit, actress Jessica Alba revealed that she "stopped eating" to avoid unwanted attention from men when she was first starting her career in Hollywood.

According to People, Alba said that she "had a curvy figure as a young girl" and, as such, was made to feel as though her body was the reason that men may be inappropriate toward her. "I was meant to feel ashamed if I tempted men," Alba said during the panel discussion. "Then I stopped eating a lot when I became an actress. I made myself look more like a boy so I wouldn't get as much attention. I went through a big tomboy phase."

She continued, "In Hollywood, you're really preyed upon. They see a young girl, and they just want to touch you inappropriately or talk to you inappropriately or think that they're allowed to be aggressive with you in a way."

Alba also noted that she was raised in a conservative household. "My mom would say, 'You have a body, and it's very womanly, and people don't understand that you're 12,'" she said. "I wasn't allowed to have my nalgas out, which is butt cheeks [in Spanish], but I was born with a giant booty, and they come out of everything. So, I didn't get to wear normal things that all my friends wore."

She said that these reactions to her body really affected her attitude. "I created this pretty insane 'don't fuck with me' [attitude]," she said. "I had to create a harder shell about being a woman."

According to her, her relationship to her body only changed when her first child, Honor, was born in 2008. "[After she was born,] I was like, Oh this is what these boobies are meant to do! Feed a kid!" she said. "And that was the dopest shit I'd ever done. So, I came into my body as a woman finally and I stopped being ashamed of myself."