Interview: Mandy Moore

Moore to Love

Mandy Moore returns with a crafty new album that proves some “Candy” can mature into more substance than sugar. On topics from her gay brother’s pre-Prop. 8 marriage to those Britney comparisons, Mandy doesn’t hold back.

BY DAVID MICHAEL CONNER

for The Advocate

MOOREXLARGEUnless you’re Courtney Love — who made headlines recently for her bizarre verbal attack (“Christ ugh igh ugh Mandy Moore ick the thoufghg of her sticking her toungue downthat filthy hatch…”) — you like Mandy Moore

There simply isn’t any reason not to: She somehow manages to be intelligent and entirely positive at the same time. From her self-mocking role on Entourage to her hilariously vitriolic performance as a hypocritical religious teen in Saved! Moore is good at being loved. While Britney is busy recovering and relapsing and Christina Aguilera is still learning that her huge voice is best when it’s less, not more, Moore is taking the slow and steady route along her chosen path and not looking back.

Amanda Leigh is in many respects Moore’s most accomplished album, though her previous release, Wild Hope, was a pleasant surprise to most critics.

Moore knows her reputation. “I’m fully aware,” she writes in her press notes, “that when some people hear my name in a musical context, it’s not often equated to anything earth-shattering.”

It’s true, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good music. Think Natalie Merchant: That’s the sort of sonic artist Moore has become — a sincere, nuanced writer whose songs can settle your mood after hearing just a few notes.

Yes, world, little Mandy Moore has grown into a sophisticated singer-songwriter whom Sarah McLachlan would be smart to tap for the next edition of Lilith Fair. Now, if only we can get Moore to believe it as much as we do …

Advocate.com: Do you find that you’re still compared to your early-career contemporaries?Mandy Moore: I don’t think so — not so much anymore. The only time that comes up these days is in this sort of interview. [ Laughs ] We’ve all sort of found our own clear paths. We’ve been able to differentiate ourselves from one another over the years. I think if we all started doing music today, then I don’t think we’d really be compared to one another.

You’ve become quite a singer-songwriter. What pushed you in that direction? I guess we can attribute that to taste. I love that sort of music. I knew pretty early on — I wouldn’t say when I was 15, necessarily, but pretty soon thereafter, when I started listening to Carole King and Joni Mitchell and Todd Rundgren and all those singer-songwriters of a certain era. I knew that one day I wanted to write my own music. But to continue to discover music like that … I don’t know, I wanted to follow suit, follow that path. I wouldn’t say that my … contemporaries [ laughs ] have followed the wrong path. They’ve certainly found plenty of success doing what they do best. This is just what I loved.

You mention Joni Mitchell and people of an older generation quite a bit … maybe it’s mostly the instrumentation on this album, but I also hear certain affinities to Fiona Apple’s music, something even a little Rufus Wainwright-like in the sound. Oh, wow! Thank you. Cool. Thanks, well, that’s … I love both of them, so I take that as a compliment. I really gravitate toward people that have a distinctive voice. I tend to really go toward stuff from the ’70s — Todd Rundgren, I love Wings, I love Paul McCartney. Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman, the Beach Boys. All that stuff, I think, was sort of put into the melting pot and was infused into the record.

Why did you title the album Amanda Leigh ? Is this a different side of you from the Mandy Moore everyone knows? No! Nope. I’m definitely content to stay Mandy. I’ve always been Mandy. To be quite honest, there wasn’t like a huge, tremendous thought behind naming the recordAmanda Leigh. It just felt like a straightforward, simple choice. And not because it’s like the truth about who I am as an artist and that sort of excuse that people tend to give. It’s my given name, and my friend Mike [Viola], who produced the record, called me that. It just reminded me of making this record.

Congratulations on your marriage to Ryan Adams! How are things going? Everything is great, thank you very much!

You come off as a totally genuine and sweet person — and that’s something to love about you. But if you had something vicious to say, what would it be, and would it be directed toward Courtney Love? Oh, no, no. I think I’m OK. [ Laughs ] That sort of stuff, when it gets brought to your attention, you just, you know, consider the source. You just take it with a grain of salt and move on about your day.

You’ve said of being married, “Wow, OK, this is really being an adult.” [ Laughs ] That sounds like something I would say.

How would you feel if you hadn’t gotten married? Would the relationship be any different?No, to be completely honest, it’s not necessarily the state of mind. I guess it’s more … other people’s perception of you that feels different. The relationship feels exactly the same as it did before. I don’t know … truly, it’s just the idea. You know, when you’re a kid? You think of the idea of being married — that’s truly being an adult. So when I took the step, it was the bizarre feeling of, “Wow, I guess I really am an adult.” And for someone who’s been living as an adult for quite a while, it’s kind of a goofy feeling.

The song “Merrimack River” is named after a river in Massachusetts, which recognizes same-sex marriage, and New Hampshire, your home state — one of the few states that offers full civil rights to same-sex couples. Are you surprised that California voted to deny these rights? Yes. Unbelievably surprised. And saddened. Unfortunately, I was still a Florida resident during the election because I grew up in Florida and I still spend a lot of time there. So I didn’t get to vote as a California resident, which is a bummer. Although they had a similar vote on the Florida bill as well. I have to say I’m … I’m still shocked that California voted against it. And in fact, my older brother and his boyfriend got married right before the election just in case things ended up going the way that they did, and I think my family was all the more disappointed that things went the way that they did with the decision.

Everyone I’ve talked to about you wants you back on Entourage. Seriously, every single person I know. Will you be back? I don’t think so. I think because … I broke many hearts. I probably wouldn’t be asked back. I would go in a heartbeat because I had a lot of fun doing that show. But there’s no plan to do that as of now.

I think everybody fell in love with you on that show. That’s so sweet. That’s very, very sweet. And funny, because I was playing some bizarre version of myself, although I wouldn’t have made those decisions in regard to my love life. I thought I was very flippant. But I had no choice in the matter … I mean, it’s the way I was written. [ Laughs ] I would read the script and I was like da-a-amn! I’d break up with Vinnie to get back with my fiancé and then I’d break up with him to get back with Vinnie. It was all very convoluted, I thought, but you know, what are you gonna do.