Valerie Simpson is learning to live without an ampersand before her name.
For over 40 years she was half of the legendary pop and soul songwriting and performing duo Ashford & Simpson, responsible for a passel of classic songs, including “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “I’m Every Woman,” and “Solid.” A year after her husband Nick Ashford’s death from cancer, Simpson is ready to go it alone, and comes to Scullers Friday in support of her solo album “Dinosaurs Are Coming Back Again.”
The album, coproduced and with songs co-written by Ashford, was a long time coming and features appearances from friends like Roberta Flack and Nina Simone, in her last recording before her death. We caught up with the resilient and cheerful Simpson by phone from her home in New York.
Q. The album was 11 years in the making. What was the holdup?
A. We kept arguing back and forth about this and that.
Q. Who is we?
A. Nick and I. (Laughs.) I just couldn’t get happy with myself. We had a really bad habit of rewriting songs over and over. So, it just got left on the shelf. And as it turned out, I needed it now, so I rethought and re-listened and was able to come to this point where I feel like I could let it go.
Q. How did Nina Simone come to be on the record for “Make It Up as We Go”?
A. We were good friends. She had been to our home and stayed with us and she performed at our very first club and we kept a friendship all through the years, so when this song came up, it was very easy to do and she just said yes. It was a dream come true.
Q. And to go from Nina to Roberta Flack. That’s a good Rolodex.
A. Is that the voice of all time? I just love her throat.
Q. You all wrote and performed so many hits. Were there any tunes that didn’t hit that you wish had received wider exposure?
A. There are certain songs that garner certain feelings, like “Gimme Something Real” and “(I’d Know You) Anywhere” from our first album. In fact, now in the show I’m using “(I’d Know You) Anywhere” and that’s when we roll the footage of Nickolas.
Q. Although I’m sure it is very difficult, are you finding solace in the music?
A. Oh yes, there’s so much solace in the music, absolutely. It’s almost like the words are the healing balm that I didn’t know they would be, but they are, they’re there for me and I find them in so many different lyrics. When I sing “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” now, I’m singing something altogether different. It’s all personal in a different way. It’s not the way the we wrote it but I feel it even more.
Q. At first, did you find that you were pausing to wait for his voice?
A. Oh, a lot! That was my biggest problem, remembering to keep going. Just getting used to having the full range of expression to have to emote. It’s so much harder. It’s like being new all over again and that part is exciting because I don’t know what I’m doing, and that’s interesting. (Laughs.)
Q. When did you know it was the right time to start work again?
A. Actually, I was moved that way because there were dates that we had in place. And then the people [from the venues] in San Diego and San Francisco came forward and said, “We want you to fulfill them and do a tribute to Nick.” And so it made me immediately think, “Can I do this? Do I want to do this? How will I do this?” And then that’s what made me think about the album, because I didn’t want it to just be material we had done previously. I wanted to have something new to offer, and that made me finish the album and work up the [live] program.
Q. The winner of the most recent season of “The Voice,” Jermaine Paul, used to sing at your restaurant The Sugar Bar. You must be proud.
A. I am so proud, it’s just unbelievable. Nick and I knew he had it and were such champions of his before he was called and we were just over the moon. But forget his voice, his writing ability — he’s got all of these original songs that the world doesn’t even know about yet — so he’s just a triple threat in every way.
Q. What do you do when you hear one of your songs on the radio? Do you crank that right up?
A. I sure do! My daughters and I just spent my birthday in Las Vegas, which I hadn’t done in years, and over the loudspeaker one of my songs came up and we were like “Turn that up!” It’s still a thrill.
.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeRodman.