Jessica Simpson stakes claim in country genre

Track debuts at No. 41 on country songs chart

NASHVILLE -- Suffice to say there was healthy skepticism at country radio and on Nashville's Music Row when word began circulating last year that Jessica Simpson was recording a country album, due this year via Columbia Nashville.

But at least by early indications, Simpson is on her way to swaying opinion in her favor. As reported yesterday, her first single, "Come On Over," makes a historic debut at No. 41 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart this week.

A flirtatious, uptempo song, it was co-written by Simpson with Rachel Proctor and Victoria Banks. "The fun thing about the song is that anxiety of wanting the guy to come over right then and there," Simpson said. "Everybody's felt that before."

Columbia Nashville vp promotion Jimmy Rector said radio is responding positively to the single. "More than anything, people are pleasantly surprised. A lot of people didn't want to like it, but when they heard it, regardless of preconceived notions, they realized this is a really good record."

One unnamed programmer went as far as to tell Rector, "'God help me, I really like this song.' That's the reality of what we were facing," Rector said.

Comments like that surprised Simpson, who remembers thinking, "Oh, my gosh, people want to hate me," when first told of radio's feedback. "That's kind of hard to grasp, but at least they're supporting it. At least they know good music and they play good music. I can't believe the single's doing what it's doing."

Simpson said the process of recording and releasing a country album is exciting. "I feel like a brand-new artist," she said. "It's a great feeling."

And early skepticism aside, Simpson feels like she's found a home. "I did a lot in the pop world and I had a great time doing it, but this just feels so much easier," she said. "There's a lot of soul in country and while I was making this album I discovered that. I can't imagine myself anywhere else, to be honest with you.

"I look in the mirror and I know I'm doing the right thing with my career and my life," she added. "It's a great place of comfort."