MANDY MOORE: From Pop to Art

Moore’s circumstances with each collaborator speak to her adaptability and her curiosity. She and Rachael Yamagata shared friends, resulting in the young women hooking up to write eventually; and they did what girls do-hung out talking about life and guys, music and whatever, eating delicious snacks, catching bands and lazing around, “except there’s always a guitar around if you need it.”

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Lori McKenna was spotted at a small writers’ club in L.A. by LaShay, who informed his client, “I just heard the most amazing woman…” Moore concurred and badgered her manager for a meeting, an e-mail address, the chance to co-write, etc. Though McKenna had never co-written specifically for someone’s record, the mother of five from Stoughton, Mass. signed on.

And then there were The Weepies, late to the party, dubious about the girl who was so impassioned about their work. Rather than schedule a writing session, they suggested maybe a meeting, talking, lunch-and Moore agreed, “playing them the music, laying it all out and telling them here’s where I’m at, what I’m missing and what I want to say…’

“Deb [Talan] and I went for a walk, came back for lunch and talked some more. Four or five days later, I came back, she sat down at the Wurlitzer and played the opening of ‘All Good Things.'”

McKenna talks about Moore’s strength of contribution, demonstrated on “Can’t You Just Adore Her,” succinctly. “I showed up with nothing in my brain…and we started. I really wanted to talk about the moon but couldn’t figure out how to say it, and she figured it out for me!

“I said, ‘The moon begs the question…,’ but couldn’t make it work, and she says, ‘Will you have the answer yet?’ That’s how it was. I’d have a melody and play some chords, and she’d start writing things down.”

In a scene right out of Lost In Translation, a sleepless Moore watched day break morning after morning in Tokyo as her traveling companions slept, and in the desolation, gave birth to the title track.

“I was in Japan…and Deb and Stine and I had been working on the song, but all we had was ‘Wild hope,'” she recalls. “I’d just tagged along with some friends who were working. So there I was, and I kept waking up at 4 a.m., opening the blinds over this city that wasn’t really moving and watching the day coming on. “Something in all of that…I remember feeling lonely, getting in the minivan with my friends, just listening to this song on my iPod over and over…until it just came.

It’s as if birds just come and sit on her window, the easy way Mandy Moore explains her process. But it’s as much the unforced course of letting songs bob like corks on the water, and that weightlessness of being is reflected in the knowing when it’s happening-and knowing when to stop.

“This record really happened as my life unfolded…what was happening in that moment,” she declares brightly, defining the master plan. “It’s how certain situations ended up unfolding. Then I got to a point in September, and it was done. This journey of self-discovery was done.”

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