Jessica Simpson Album Shifts Gears Along With Personal Life

Singer working with R&B producers, looking back at high school love on long-delayed disc.

Jessica Simpson's back in the studio this week — but she's not leaving the drama of her divorce behind.

The singer's long-delayed album, And the Band Played On, was originally due in November but was pushed back shortly before the news of her split from husband Nick Lachey was announced (see "It's Official: Jessica Simpson And Nick Lachey Split"). Up to that point, Simpson planned on making the album a country-club combo (see "Jessica Simpson Mixes Country Flavor With Club Tracks On Upcoming LP"). But now that she's gone through so much, she's reconsidered what kind of statement she wants to make.

"I think that with my music, you can't help but tell people a story about your life," Simpson said. "I believe that every artist, that's their artistry — it comes out of them naturally, through lyrics, through music, through instrumentation. So with this next record, you will see and hear a lot of things I've been going through. And if that can offer any inspiration to anybody else going through the same situations, so be it. That's why I'm here."

So far, Simpson — who's executive producing the project — has recorded with a host of producers known for their hits in R&B: Corey Rooney, Scott Storch, and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

The latter pair are collaborating with Simpson on about seven songs, she said. "They are angels, they are amazing, they're so talented," she gushed. "You are in awe just sitting next to them and being able to write with them. And Janet Jackson, who I absolutely adore, is down the hall. She's such a sweetheart, and they've got such a great vibe. We've had a great time working together."

Having Janet down the hall helped inspire the sound of one track, called "Back to You." "It's a ballad that reminds me of Janet," Simpson said. "It's a really raw, stripped, kind of naked song that's just honest." Despite all the current things Simpson could be writing about, the song is a flashback about her first boyfriend in high school, inspired by rereading old journal entries.

"When you persevere through so much, when you go through so much, you want to show that in your music," Simpson said. "Music is my soul, and when I ever want to express myself, I'm either writing or singing. I can't imagine not having music be a part of my life."

And the Band Played On is due by the end of this year, Simpson's rep said.