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 later 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 tells Billboard. "Everybody's felt that before."
Columbia Nashville VP of promotion Jimmy Rector says 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 pre-conceived 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 says.
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."
For her part, Simpson says the process of recording and releasing a country album is exciting. "I feel like a brand-new artist," she says. "It's a great feeling."