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— by Jennifer Vineyard

Ashlee Simpson is breaking out from her big sister's shadow — by living in it.

MTV's Wednesday night reality block — with "Newlyweds" leading into "The Ashlee Simpson Show" — helps give Ashlee a good position on the air, but also ensures endless comparisons to her famous sis. The only way Ashlee can truly separate herself from Jessica is by showing just how different she is, in both how she sings and how she manages her own career.

Ashlee's more of a rocker than her sister, but this has also made her start a little more rocky; she's criticized on the show for sounding too much like Courtney Love and not enough like Hilary Duff, or so she thinks. And in the midst of this, she's balancing the end of her romance with a boyfriend of two years (resulting in "Unreachable") and the start of a new one with singer/songwriter Ryan Cabrera (inspiring her first single, "Pieces of Me"). Even Jessica gets a song via Ashlee's second single, "Shadow." With so many people in her life ending up in her songs, it's no wonder she's calling the LP Autobiography. Ashlee talks about making the album, making the show and making her way.

  "Pieces Of Me"
MTV: What was it like trying to write your album with the cameras on you all the time?

Ashlee Simpson: There's extra pressure because you're like, "OK, I'm trying to lay my heart down and they're right there." It's kind of weird.

MTV: You co-wrote a lot of the songs on the record.

Simpson: I did a song called "Unreachable" with Stan [Frazier] from Sugar Ray and Steve Fox. I've been a huge fan of Sugar Ray for a while, so that was cool. I co-wrote with the guys from Good Charlotte and John Feldmann from Goldfinger and that was fun. I did three songs with them. It's just fun to collaborate with people that are like, artists, and kind of have a different perspective.

MTV: Usually, the younger sibling discovers a lot of their musical tastes from their older brothers or sisters, but you're more into rock than Jessica.

Simpson: We're different in a lot of ways. We can look at the same outfit and I'll rip the shirt up and do all that kind of stuff, where she's very glam. And Jessica loves music like Mariah Carey, and that's really what she used to listen to when we were growing up. So I would just go find records or listen to the radio, and be like, "Oh, who's this? Who's that?" I love Pat Benatar, Stevie Nicks, Deborah Harry, Chrissie Hynde, these women who were sexy and rocked and they just had this strong characteristic about them. Tough girls. I like that. They had something to say, and I like it when people really do speak truly, and I hope people hear that in my record.

  Ashlee Simpson exclusive photos
MTV: Why do you think there aren't as many strong women in rock today?

Simpson: You know, it's sad, because I miss seeing that. I mean, I love Gwen Stefani, I'm a huge fan of Courtney Love, but I'd like to see a good rocker. But I don't know why there's less women right now. I was probably like 11 years old when I went to the Lilith Fair and I saw Jewel and Joan Osborne, and I was like, "I want to be like them." And I used to love Joan Osborne, but for some reason, my parents didn't want me to listen to her, because she was religiously... she was making a statement. But it's interesting, because whenever I look to who I look up to as a role model, I do go back to the '80s. Women need to step up (laughs).

MTV: Your family is a big influence on you — how much of your family are we going to see on the show?

Simpson: I think you're definitely going to see a lot of my family. My dad is my manager and my mom is my best friend in the whole world. My dad and I, we'll like go head to head and fight. I have to admit it, and sometimes I don't want to, but I think that I'm him (laughs). Me and my dad are very strong-minded and what we say is how we feel and we're not going left or right of it. But two seconds later after a fight, I'm like, "Daddy, I love you! I'm so sorry!" Because we love each other at the end of the day, and I know even if I want to fight him for something, I know that he's not out to get me.

"My mom raised me and Jessica very free and open and not really feeling like we had anything to hide."
MTV: What is it about the Simpson family that makes the daughters so camera-friendly? You're both so willing to put your lives out on display, where a lot of people would be nervous or shy.

Simpson: My mom has really taught us to be ourselves and individual people, which is very cool. If I want my hair to be orange, she can go, "Oh God, don't dye your hair orange," but she lets me express myself however I want. So if I was to get a tattoo, I think that she probably wouldn't love it, but she knows that it's me and I'm gonna do what I wanna do (laughs). I think my mom raised me and Jessica very free and open and not really feeling like we had anything to hide.

MTV: Your next single, "Shadow," is about Jessica ...

Simpson: It's about my sister and it's about finding my identity and finding who I am as a person and what it is that I'm gonna be and all that kind of stuff. There was a while where I felt I was so sorry for everything and I was just like, "Oh my God, I'm so sorry!" And basically, it's like I'm stepping up and saying I have nothing to be sorry for, you know what I mean? It's about coming into my own.

MTV: What do you think of "Newlyweds"? Did you learn anything from it or do you feel like you have to measure up to it?

Simpson: I think "Newlyweds" is hysterical and I think the most amazing thing that Jessica has done for her career was "Newlyweds" because people needed to see that. She's gorgeous, but she's just normal like anybody else, you know? So I think that I definitely was influenced by that, but Jessica is always, no matter what she's been through, she's always stayed true to herself, and that's what I look up to. People are always like, "Oh, are you so afraid you're gonna be in competition with your sister?" I'm like, "Hell no, I would rather be in competition with my sister than anybody else." That's a good thing to know that two people in your family are out there doing it. And it doesn't matter who wins or whatever because we're happy for each other.

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Photo: Geffen

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 "Pieces Of Me"