Jessica Simpson

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Jessica Simpson has returned to her Southern roots. If ya haven't heard by now, the former pop-singing, reality-television star is about to release her first country album, Do You Know.

But it was less than two years ago that Simpson thought her music career was over. The 28-year-old Texan blond bombshell filled me in on exactly what happened as we sat down earlier today for a little chitchat about the new album at the Casa Del Mar hotel in Santa Monica.

Read on to find out why she almost called it quits, why we probably won't see her acting again any time soon and why we shouldn't be thinking about Tony, John or Nick when listening to the lyrics of her many new songs about livin' and lovin'...

During the Kennedy Center Honors tribute to Dolly Parton, you messed up singing "9 to 5," but now Dolly not only wrote the title track of your album, she sings on it, too. Did you ever think you'd go from the Kennedy Center drama to being friends with Dolly?
You know, what happened at Kennedy Center, I really thought I was done singin'. I was just at a place where I’d lost a lot of confidence and I didn’t even know who I was. But Dolly totally took me under her wing and helped me up and over the cares of the world.

It went from the Kennedy Center to her being a part of this record and getting letters from her of encouragement. She told me she’s never been more proud of anything in her whole life. And I have it written down in her handwriting! I do owe a lot of my confidence to her.

During your recent concerts, you've been thanking your fans for giving you a second chance. Did you ever think your real fans left you?
Um, no, but sometimes I feel like I close myself off so much to the fans. But at my shows, it’s not just fans. It’s people that are skeptics, critics. It’s, you know, all different kinds of people interested to see what I would actually be doing on stage, and if I could carry my own, and if I could stand up there as a woman with something to say. Be up there with a sense of purpose, you know. So I think more than anything, when I say, “Thank you for giving me a second chance,” I feel like I’m having a comeback. I’m on solid ground again. They can look to me for inspiration. I wanna be a role model.

I have to admit I've been analyzing some of the songs, trying to figure out which song is about whom. Are you worried that people are going to overdissect everything, like this song is about this boyfriend, and this song is about this time and the ex-husband?
People are gonna dissect it, but I hope they give the album a chance first. I hope they listen to it, and my biggest hope for this record is that people aren’t listening to it and thinking about me and somebody else. That they can actually listen to it and relate to it…I think that it’s important for people to give it a listen without thinking about any of my relationships.

So you’ve done a song with Dolly. You do Shania Twain and Dusty Springfield in your shows. But who else you lookin' to sing with? How about someone like fellow Southerner Miley Cyrus?
Miley’s adorable. She looks up to my sister so much. She’s so cute, yeah. You know, when it comes to duets, I really can’t top Dolly Parton. That’s always been a dream of mine. So I really don’t know who I’d duet with.

How about acting—want to do more?
Hopefully there’s more acting to come. I’m not closing that chapter of my life by any means. But I am all about the music right now…When it comes to acting, it’s gotta feel right for me at this point in my life. It’s gotta just be a really incredible director and production with an awesome studio and great cast…But for me right now it’s just Jessica Simpson is music.

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