Mandy Moore is smiling — at least, that’s how it sounds over the phone.
“I’ve been living with this hole for the last 10 years...The fact that I’m getting back to [music], that I’m going to spend two months on the road playing every night, that’s going to fulfill me in a way I haven’t felt in a very, very long time,” Moore tells me, a hint of giddiness in her voice.
It took nearly ten years for the 35-year-old to find her way back to music, but now, she’s going full rockstar with her new album, Silver Landings. Following a residency at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles, Moore will start a nationwide tour March 20. The first stop? Pittsburgh, the home of her beloved This Is Us character Rebecca Pearson. The fourth season of the NBC family drama wraps filming just before Moore enters strictly music mode for the first time in years.
For the past decade, Moore — who released six studio albums before Silver Landings, the most recent being 2009’s Amanda Leigh — has worked primarily as an actress. In addition to her time on This Is Us, which was almost an instant hit for NBC in 2016 and skyrocketed its stars to fame, she voiced Rapunzel in Disney’s animated film Tangled, appeared on shows like Grey’s Anatomy and the short-lived Red Band Society, and starred in movies like The Darkest Minds and shark thriller 47 Meters Down. To anyone on the outside, it appeared that Moore simply pivoted away from music. This Is Us, after all, earned her an Emmy nomination — hardly a consolation prize.
In fact, it was This Is Us that reminded Moore of a path she could have taken. In the series, the younger version of her character aspires to become the next Joni Mitchell. In a season 3 episode, she’s told by a record executive that she’s merely “Pittsburgh good” — meaning, “find another way to make a living.” But Rebecca never stops singing, even if she is thrown off a musician’s path by life's complications. Rebecca wasn’t initially written with Moore in mind, but it’s easy to see the parallels.
“Rebecca definitely inspired me,” Moore confirms. “Even on a practical note, with the show making Rebecca a performer, it meant I could go back into the recording studio and make music and sing live. It ignited something in me: I do miss this. I needed all the prodding necessary to get back out there.”
In a February 2019 piece for The New York Times, Moore detailed how her former husband and collaborator Ryan Adams allegedly halted her much-desired music career and subjected her to psychological abuse that led to a sharp decline in her confidence. Songs Moore claimed Adams promised to record never happened; he allegedly told her she wasn’t a “real musician” because she, a singer, did not play an instrument. They finalized their divorce in 2016. Adams denies all of Moore's accusations.
Moore is now married to Taylor Goldsmith of indie rock band Dawes, and he and his bandmates will join Moore on tour. Goldsmith collaborated with Moore on songs for Silver Landings, which was produced by Moore’s longtime friend, the Grammy-nominated Mike Viola, who is currently the VP of A&R for Verve Records.
The first single Moore released off Silver Landings, “When I Wasn’t Watching,” reads like a response to her relationship with Adams. (“My favorite version of me disappeared/Through longer days and shorter years,” she sings.) When I inquire about the meaning behind the track, though, Moore is quick to share that it’s not about “one experience.”
“That song is speaking to the confusion of knowing how to start doing something again,” she says. “When I wanted to start making music again, with the eye towards making an album, I felt an overwhelming pressure. I had so much to say but I could go in a million different directions. The song is about the mixed emotions of the past decade, and recognizing that it took all of that to get to where I am now.”
As a whole, Silver Landings is a reflection of Moore’s life and career.
Moore burst onto the music scene in the late ‘90s with bright blonde, flat ironed hair, a contrast to the brown hair she’s had since first dyeing it for her role in 2002’s Nicholas Sparks adaptation A Walk To Remember. “Candy,” the 1999 single she released when she was just 15, is still her most memorable track, and she knows it — a new version of it is included in Moore’s upcoming tour set: “We’re playing it live with a band and putting our own spin on it.”
"Reflecting on that time has caused me to start really looking back on that wild ride...It’s hard to imagine that those things really happened to me — it’s like I’m a totally different person."
Moore opens up about her early career days on Silver Landings song “Fifteen.” On the track, Moore sings that while she thought she was making music, she was really just “filling seats.” Still, Moore is no longer “embarrassed” as she once was of her early career.
“I’ve come to have such gratitude for that girl. She’s the reason I am able to exist today and still have a career 20 years later,” Moore says about her early singing career. “I don’t have to sing every single song from that first record [1999's So Real], but it got me to where I am today.”
On “Fifteen,” Moore cryptically sings that she has “no regrets, with a few exceptions.”
“Basically, [my regrets are] the bad fashion choices,” Moore laughs, thinking back. “The glitter eyeshadow. The MAC Lipglass that my hair would stick to. It’s the sillier things. I don’t have any regrets about the life-altering, bigger choices that I made.”
Moore, who recently signed a development deal with 20th Century Fox Television, is producing 90’s Pop Star, a new TV series based on her early career which has a put pilot commitment from ABC. This Is Us showrunners will executive produce, and The Bold Type’s Amanda Lasher will write. The future star of the series will likely sport Moore's regrettable sticky lip gloss.
“Reflecting on that time has caused me to start really looking back on that wild ride,” she says of working on the TV series. “It’s hard to imagine that those things really happened to me — it’s like I’m a totally different person.”
All those things led here: To Moore’s most personal album to date, to collaborating with Goldsmith, to finding her voice after feeling silenced for so many years. Though Moore tells me that “everything that happens in life is going to get infused into the work,” there are certain things that Moore won’t sing about on her Silver Landings tour, strictly by design.
Moore wasn’t interested in having to “relive certain experiences or trauma over and over,” which is why, she explains, some personal songs she wrote never made it onto the album. Silver Landings was a “conduit for going back on tour,” Moore says, and performing songs night after night about her worst experiences wasn’t appealing. One may wonder if songs detailing her relationship with Adams — whom Moore recently told the New York Times “gets off by being talked about” — were among the tracks written solely for her.
“At this juncture, it’s about trying to make sense of situations, good, bad and everything in between,” she says. “I’m definitely going to write music about my husband and our life together, and everything that happened in my past as well. It’s all going to factor in. Sometimes the music will make its way into the recording studio and end up on an album, and sometimes the work was really just writing it and having it exist without anyone hearing it.”