MANDY MOORE: From Pop to Art

“I wouldn’t know any other way,” she says with a laugh about her wide-open approach. “Farther down the road, I might be exposed to more obscure stuff, but now I don’t have a clue. I just show up and put it all out there.

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“The whole process is completely vulnerable, especially because of what I do-and the fact that people know things about me. They’re going to take what they want from the songs, but I can’t worry about that. I had to worry about the songs.”

She pauses, considering the notion and if there was any bravery involved. “It doesn’t seem too much…it was mostly cathartic, maybe a little selfish, because I was getting to say these things, and with these people…to have my world meet theirs was incredible.

“And after the fact, I found I understand a lot more in the moment. I learned a lot about myself in the process of writing. Now when I hear some of these songs, it’s like ‘I can’t believe I ever felt that way…’ Looking back, you see it, and it is like, ‘Wow…'”

Acclaimed writer/artist Lori McKenna seconds that admission. “The thing about her that’s so brave is that she expressed herself that way. Dark songs are easy for someone who’s a little bitter or has a dark place, but they are the truth for someone who’s basically bright and optimistic like Mandy, too.

“She came in and was willing,” McKenna continues. “‘I’ve been through this. I want to express it…’ I was amazed at how strong she was in wanting to express herself. Listening to the whole record, it’s about as brave as you get. And not only did she have the balls to write the songs, but listen to the performances! She taught me a whole lot about the human spirit.”

Having spent time (without a record) supporting herself as an actress, she became clearer about who she was and what was happening to her-growing up, the collapse of what she’d believed she was building in relationships, the responsibility for one’s dreams.

The need for true self-expression permeates the lyrics. Whether it’s the celebration of emergence and ownership of one’s best self in “Extraodinary,” the power of letting go when “over” truly becomes over in “Looking Forward” or the truth of what can’t be and the chill of recognition of what really is (“Nothing That You Are”), Moore squares up.

For her, a line like “I keep pushing the bruise/’cause I don’t wanna lose/what I loved about you…” in the Fender Rhodes-basted “All Good Things” drops the veil of dignity amongst the wreckage, even as it embraces the taxes a kind heart pays so to not betray itself.

When it comes to music, especially in the process of creating songs, there’s no higher treason for the fresh-faced young woman than to calculate, pose or go for an attitude that isn’t true to her essence.

Some of that purity of purpose comes from odd influences. As much as she worships Joni Mitchell (listening to Court and Spark incessantly during recording), Patty Griffin (“I’d cut off an arm to write with her…”) or co-writers The Weepies (“I found them on iTunes-and I stalked them”), some of her brightest guiding lights come from film.

“When you’re trying to figure out this stuff  (making records), I’ve looked to people I’ve worked with…Diane Keaton, Dianne Wiest, Billy Crudup, Mary Louise Parker…,” she says ticking off a who’s who of actors whose choices define integrity. “I look at the choices they made, and the reasons, and that made me really think about my music…because they don’t compromise if they don’t feel what they’re doing.

“If you spend time portraying characters-or even just in your imagination-you get more of a craving to put yourself back into your life. You know? It’s great to take on characters and emotions…but who…are…you?

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