Evan Ross Talks Upcoming Music, Growing Up Famous and Collaborating With His Wife, Ashlee Simpson [EXCLUSIVE]
There's something to be said for being born into fame and coming out the other end totally well-adjusted, down-to-Earth and career-driven. But that's exactly the case with Evan Ross, who -- in case the surname wasn't a massive hint -- is the son of the legendary Diana Ross. He grew up close friends with the Jackson family and had an automatic in into the music industry, but you would never know it just talking to him.
Instead of using his connections to put out a quick album of whatever was popular at the time (depending on the decade, it could've been anything ranging from bubblegum pop to EDM), he decided to wait it out until things were exactly right, finding a sound that was all his own. And while he's been making music for years, it wasn't until recently that the pieces fell into place just perfectly enough for him to release it.
Evan is incredibly close with his mother, completely in love with his wife Ashlee Simpson, and totally enthusiastic about his upcoming debut album. We had a chance to sit down and talk to him about his burgeoning music career, growing up with a famous family and a collaboration with Ashlee that we can't wait to get our hands on.
Check out our full interview with Evan below!
You released a lyric video for your song “How to Live Alone” in December and you have plans for your upcoming debut album. Can you tell me about your album since you had to put on hold for a while to focus on your acting career?
I was always doing music, but I wanted to find the right team to be doing the album with. I feel like a lot of times when you have a specific sound that you want and are searching for, you want the right group to help you put the kind of music out that you want. It kind of all came back into play. I had a meeting with Rodney [Jerkins] and he talked about wanting me to just do my thing and he fell in love with the music the way it was and the sound that I was trying to get. He had some ideas from there and we just started working together and it was kind of the perfect match. We both were close with Michael [Jackson] as well, and I liked the way he worked with Michael and the way he’s worked with a lot of people and it was kind of a match made in heaven. It can be a frightening thing, putting your music out — especially with the family I come from, you know? I wanted to be in love with everything about putting the music out. And the music is so unique and different, but at the same time it feels like right now.
How would you describe your sound?
It’s a mix, really. The music's all really soulful and my whole vision behind it is kind of bringing back the excitement of what love is. I think a lot of times — and there’s nothing wrong with this — but a lot of young men are really singing about getting more and more bi---s or poppin' bottles at the club which is all fun, but I think there’s something about being able to bring back the idea that love is exciting and it’s amazing. So that was something that I really wanted to get across lyrically in the songs.
You mentioned that this is the right time for you to focus on releasing music. Do you think your relationship status has influenced what you’re writing about now? That five years ago you would’ve been writing about something else?
For sure! Five years ago, I would’ve been writing about something else. Most of this album is about being in love and right now where I’m at in my life. I’m in such a good place. Even the stuff I like listening to now — good music, positive music, exciting music.
What are you currently listening to?
I love a lot of things right now! I’m a fan of Miguel’s, he’s a friend of mine, I like melodic music, you know? Bruno Mars is great. I still love listening to the old stuff - Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, you know. I stick to the old school stuff, but I love Mark Ronson. I love John Legend.
You obviously come from a famous family, your mom is Diana Ross. Has that made you feel any pressure when it comes to your own music? Do you feel like you have to prove yourself or is it something you don’t think about?
[My mom] never gives me pressure. Whatever I’m doing — music, acting — it doesn’t make a difference to her, as long as I’m happy. But I think in general there’s always a feeling of “It’s gotta be the best," and I feel like people look at it like that, and you definitely get judged a lot more. But it’s not the scariest thing, because I grew up with it so it’s kind of normal. The good thing about it is it makes me not be so easy on it and take more time with it and want it to be perfect. I really want it to be great, and I think I learned that from my mom because she was always working hard.
It can be a frightening thing, putting your music out — especially with the family I come from, you know?
I read that she’s stopped by your movie sets before.
Yeah, she always comes! I think with every film she’s stopped by.
Does it ever get awkward? Especially if you're filming a romantic scene or something intimate?
Yeah, I mean romantic scenes are always awkward with movies anyway, no matter what! But she’s so cool and comfortable and she’s so fun to be around that she never makes it weird. I love my mom being there, the only thing I wish was different is she comes on set and everyone acts a little different, but that kind of comes with the territory, I guess.
Who would you say are your biggest musical inspirations?
My mom and Michael Jackson, for sure. That whole era is definitely my favorite.
I can hear that in your music, too. When I was listening to “How to Live Alone" your voice reminded me of Michael’s.
It’s funny though, because it’s not forced at al!. Even when I was little people always thought there was a resemblance, you know? But the whole family — the Jacksons — were friends of mine and we grew up together. We all kind of resemble each other. There’s a lot in common! I used to talk to Michael on the phone and I would think it was mom because they sounded kind of alike. I really think it’s more that I sound like mom and mom and Michael sound a lot alike.
Did you watch the Oscars this year? I know you started off acting.
Yeah! We had a bunch of people come over and watch the Oscars and I was excited that Eddie Redmayne won because he was incredible. I do have a film called All the Wilderness coming out and we’ve got a bunch of different projects coming out, but I’m definitely focusing more on music right now. You can do both but, well, I thought I could do both at the same time, but I wish I could be home with my wife while she’s pregnant.
How do you manage to balance acting and music?
I chose music right now, but if something great, movie-wise, comes up I'll do it. I find a way to do the music nearby my home so I can be back and forth. And the great part is Ashlee’s musical too, so she comes to the studio and works and helps me with stuff and she’s also working on music, too, so it’s good.
Would you guys ever consider collaborating?
We did! We did an amazing song together, and we’re trying to figure out what to do with it because I feel like it’s got its own feel to it. It’s called “Permission to Love" and at first we were like "Oh, we should put it on the album," but I almost think it should have its own thing. So we’re trying to figure out what that is. But yeah, it’s a real powerful song and we’re gonna keep making music together, you know? We love doing that. It would only make sense because we sing together all the time.
It’s unbelievable how talented Ashlee is, and her writing is amazing. She just has such an ear, and I know she’s working on music now and she’s going to be deciding how she wants to put it out, but yeah, she’s incredible.
Well I’m insanely excited the hear that.
It’s my favorite song! We did it with Rodney, and it’s about permission to love and how you don’t need permission to love. it’s about everything coming into relationships — whenever you feel like you don’t have the permission to love, you don’t need that. Whoever you love, enjoy. I’m excited about that.