MANDY MOORE: From Pop to Art

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Her hair is somewhere between cordovan and claret, and falls in cascades beyond her shoulders. Looking into the camera, there’s a poise to the 22-year-old that outdistances her age. Moving from posture to pose like some kind of transformative yoga series, she always connects with the mood she wishes to telegraph.Her hair is somewhere between cordovan and claret, and falls in cascades beyond her shoulders. Looking into the camera, there’s a poise to the 22-year-old that outdistances her age. Moving from posture to pose like some kind of transformative yoga series, she always connects with the mood she wishes to telegraph.

She’s equally adept at staring into the camera’s soul, shaking off the moment to sink into a ruminative state or flashing a smile that’s molten sunlight. Given that her name has launched several smash films, it makes perfect sense.

But even with all that, Mandy Moore is so much, well, more.

And now is, seemingly, the moment to claim her maturity and her destiny as something far more than a kiddie pop commodity, the confectionary hits that pulled her out of an Orlando high school in the fall of her freshman year-never to return. A series of contrived records were crafted to ride the Britney/Christina CHR (Contemporary Hit Radio) axis, while recent movie roles cast her in a variety of contexts, truths and personality quirks broadened Moore’s sense of the world and relationships with clarity; indeed, acting gave her a more intimate relationship with her own emotions.

Still, it was music-and songs-the unexpected scene-stealer loved.

After 2003’s intimately-culled Coverage, designed to expose a new generation to songstress/poets Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and Carole King, as well as Elton John, XTC, The Waterboys, Joan Armatrading and John Hiatt, she is ready to emerge as what she’s been fighting to be: an introspective singer/songwriter.

With a debut album called So Real, a breakout hit called “Candy” and an exile in the Barbie/kiddie marketing jungle; it would seem Moore would have her work cut out for her. Yet, the 5′ 10″ songstress seems perplexed why anyone would think that. Listening to her forthcoming album, Wild Hope, her confusion is almost justified.

Somewhere between the manufactured pop-confection of a little girl making formulaic music for teens and the young woman sitting across a table at the trendy Bar Marmont during the abandoned afternoon hours, her musical vision galvanized, and her sense of what needed to happen became clear. For Mandy Moore, it comes down to how she’s been making her living the past several years (lead roles in A Walk To Remember, Saved!, Chasing Liberty and Because I Said So) and following her true heart-music, and not frothy pop, but soul-delving organics.

It’s not what you’d expect, but then little about Moore is-beyond the exuberant way she talks with her hands and peppers her conversations with “Wow!” the way today’s teen and post-teen sirens bandy the “F-Bomb” like confetti.

“With my start in the music business at 15, who’d a thunk it?” she offers genially. “That I’d be able to sit here and be talking about this record, being able to make a record like this-considering where I started. It’s hard to imagine…”

She pauses, stabs at a bit of romaine-she’s starving, fresh from a charity luncheon where the stories of atrocities against women in Afghanistan rendered her incapable of eating-and muses, weighing the fear factor, the will to compromise and the reality of where she is now.

“I don’t feel I’ve had to make a ton of sacrifices for any part of my career, even this record. I knew what I wanted… so it was really pretty clear. Maybe that’s the wrong thing to say, but I…I was never scared, even when I left Epic and went to Warner Brothers…and then when I left Sire and no labels seemed interested in me and what I wanted to do. I just knew the music was going to find its way.”

Having been signed to Warner Brothers’ Sire imprint-home of Talking Heads, The Pretenders, The Ramones and Madonna-only three songs from a year of exploring musically survived. They are Wild Hope‘s “Nothing That You Are,” “Slummin’ in Paradise” and “Gardenia.”

“I don’t think they were happy with any of it,” she says without judgment. “Nothing about it-the producers, the songs-was how they saw it.  They wanted something other than what we were telling them we wanted to do, so they let me go.”

Like tapping directly into a vein and pumping at the rate of the human heart, these songs came from a period of foment and were borne from deep upheaval. Working with Lori McKenna, Rachael Yamagata, The Weepies and Chantal Kreviazuk, Moore stood naked in her pain, her doubt and eventually her ascension from the bits of a shattered relationship…making Wild Hope stunning in its vulnerability.

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