Joe Simpson tells his daughter is collaborating with Robert Smith on her new album, as well as with Timbaland, John Legend, Kenna, and Chad Hugo of the Neptunes

Credit: Smith: Robert Knight / Retna; Simpson: Sara De Boer / Retna

What happens in Austin, stays in Austin? Not when it’s new-album news about Ashlee Simpson, straight from the horse’s mouth! (Or, more accurately, the mouth of the horse’s dad-slash-manager). At a late-night SXSW showcase by Ethiopian-born alt-pop artist Kenna, two of EW’s intrepid reporters spotted Simpson père Joe, who filled us in on his daughter’s plans for her upcoming 2007 release. The album involves Kenna (whose own album is due this June) and his buddy and producer Chad Hugo — a.k.a., the member of production über-duo the Neptunes who is not Pharrell Williams.

Mr. Simpson tells us Ashlee, Chad, and Kenna were in the studio writing songs earlier this month, and that she’s also working with Timbaland, John Legend, and Tim Rice-Oxley of Brit sensations Keane, who teamed up with Gwen Stefani on ”Lonely Winter,” one of the strongest, most reflective tracks on her recent Sweet Escape album.

The bigger shocker? Ashlee’s also reportedly collaborating with Robert Smith. Yes, as in the legendary frontman of Alternative Nation icons the Cure. Could their mutual buddy, Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz, be the connection? When asked by our west-coast counterpart Shirley Halperin, Wentz demurred. ”I doubt I had anything to do with it, ’cause they were friends since she was performing in Chicago [in London last year]. But I definitely only have good things to say about Ash — I think the collaboration could be great!” Indeed; whatever these two Lovecats come up with, it’s bound to be interesting!