Mandy Moore On Self-Forgiveness And Her Musical Reawakening On 'Silver Landings'

Mar 6, 2020
Originally published on March 6, 2020 7:24 pm

Mandy Moore grew up in the musical spotlight: her 1999 hit "Candy" was released when she was just 15. But for the last 11 years, Moore hasn't released any new music; these days she's more known for playing Rebecca Pearson on the NBC drama This Is Us. Now Mandy Moore the singer is back with a reflective new album called Silver Landings.

Ahead of the release of Silver Landings, NPR's Ari Shapiro spoke to Mandy Moore about battling self doubt, singing about her own experiences versus acting out someone else's life and whether she's playing any of her old music on her upcoming tour. Listen to their conversation in the player above, and read on for highlights of the interview.


Interview Highlights

On returning to music after primarily working as an actor for a decade

I'm incredibly lucky to be part of a show and experience like this is This Is Us. But there is a vulnerability in being able to express yourself as an artist with your music and your own words; you're not necessarily hiding behind a character, per se. And that's what I think that I've really longed for and missed from making music for the last decade: There's a whole huge component to who I am that's kind of been dormant. And now I feel like this fully realized version of myself, making music again.

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On the gap in her musical career and battling self doubt

I think most of all, I'll take the brunt of responsibility and say that it really did boil down to a lot of self doubt. I think I found myself in an unhealthy personal situation and relationship, and that definitely didn't help matters. Editor's note: Mandy Moore has spoken openly about her marriage to the musician Ryan Adams. I think finding myself in a situation personally with someone that I held in such high regard, and working on things musically in a creative fashion and none of that ever coming to fruition also further instills the sense of self doubt and negativity. I was writing songs [that] never got released; a lot of songs were written during what I thought was a very fruitful time.

But I want to take the responsibility in being able to move forward and understand that I'm only in control of my side of the street. So I'm just interested in my role in why it took me so long to find my way back to music, and I've really made peace with that. And I'm also a big believer in things happening for a reason, and perhaps I wasn't ready to make music until now, until I found myself in the right situation and I had the right creative partners. And this just feels like the perfect time in my life to be revisiting this.

YouTube

On revisiting her earlier period and life as a teenage pop star

I think [in] the process of making this record, something that was important to me was coming to terms with that 15-year old version of Mandy 'cause she still lives in me; I carry her around. She's kind of the reason I'm here today and still have a semblance of a career. So I've made peace with the embarrassment I think I had over the creative choices that I'd made at that point in my life. And I also have an appreciation for the fact that I came out of that — what would have been a pretty tumultuous time as a young person in the pop music scene, thrust in this adult world — I've come out the other end kind of a functioning adult. [The line "No regrets, with a few exceptions"] is a bit of cheeky nod, I think, maybe to stuff that is a bit more surface, like some of the fashion choices I made. I'll still apologize for those; the '90s were not really kind to me.

Considering the fact that we're going on the road and I want to honor that part of my life and my career — and perhaps people and their nostalgic connection to that time in music, as well — I've been revisiting some of [my old music]. I mean, I know that people are coming on the road and want to hear "Candy," so that's a no-brainer to me. But listening back to that era of music, there's definitely some songs that I'm like "Okay, this wasn't so bad. I'm excited to figure out a new arrangement of this song." I feel like some of these songs — maybe not all of them — can lend themselves to an acoustic rendition, and I'm excited to see people's reactions if they come to see us on the road.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Mandy Moore grew up in the musical spotlight. Her 1999 hit "Candy" was released when she was just 15.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CANDY")

MANDY MOORE: (Singing) I'm craving for you. I'm missing you like candy.

SHAPIRO: Today, she's best known as the Emmy-nominated actress who plays Rebecca Pearson on the NBC drama "This Is Us."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THIS IS US")

MOORE: (As Rebecca Pearson) Sometimes making people forget about their worries or what comes next, that's the most important thing you can do for someone.

SHAPIRO: Now, 11 years after her last album, Mandy Moore the singer is back with a reflective new album called "Silver Landings."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAVE A LITTLE FOR YOURSELF")

MOORE: (Singing) Not all pain is black and blue. Strongest people come unglued.

I'm incredibly lucky to be a part of a show and experience like "This Is Us." But, you know, there is a vulnerability in being able to express yourself as an artist with your own music, in your own words, and you're not necessarily hiding behind a character, per se.

SHAPIRO: A character, right.

MOORE: And that's what I think I've really longed for and missed from making music for the last decade, is there's a whole huge, you know, component to who I am that's kind of been dormant.

(SOUNDBITE OF MANDY MOORE SONG, "FIFTEEN")

SHAPIRO: You did encounter fame from a very young age.

MOORE: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: And the song "Fifteen" really seems to speak to that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIFTEEN")

MOORE: (Singing) Young girl, up early, wasn't old enough to drive, took a trip from Seminole County with her mother by her side.

SHAPIRO: I mean, what's it like to sing to an earlier version of yourself?

MOORE: I think the process of making this record something that was really important to me was coming to terms with that 15-year-old version of Mandy 'cause she still lives in me. I carry her around. She's kind of the reason that I'm here today (laughter) and still have a semblance of a career. So I have made peace with sort of the embarrassment I think I had over some of the creative choices that I'd made at that point in my life. And I also have an appreciation for the fact that I came out of that and sort of the pop music scene, thrust in this adult world - I've come out the other end, you know, kind of a functioning adult, so - (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIFTEEN")

MOORE: (Singing) No regrets, with a few exceptions.

SHAPIRO: I love the line, no regrets, with a few exceptions.

MOORE: (Laughter) It's a bit of a cheeky nod, I think, to maybe stuff that's a little bit more surface, like some of the fashion choices that I made. I mean, I'll still apologize for those 'cause the '90s were not really kind to me.

SHAPIRO: I don't think they were kind to any of us. I had long hair parted in the middle.

MOORE: (Laughter) Sure.

SHAPIRO: I'll confess.

(SOUNDBITE OF MANDY MOORE SONG, "I'D RATHER LOSE")

SHAPIRO: Was there a specific moment that you learned to embrace and forgive that version of yourself?

MOORE: I think it was making this record.

SHAPIRO: Really?

MOORE: I mean, I think I battled with a lot of self-doubt, with regrets, with this idea of legitimacy and what I brought to the table, and perhaps this part of my life and this part of my career was over. I really - I wasn't sure that I was ever going to make music again.

SHAPIRO: So did the decision to forgive yourself lead you to write this album? Or did the process of writing these songs lead you to that forgiveness?

MOORE: I think it's a little bit of both. But I think it was an all-encompassing experience. Like, once I got there and I was in the midst of writing and recording, and I think that's where forgiveness and acknowledgement of what I've been through and what it took to sort of get here that it all kind of crystallized.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'D RATHER LOSE")

MOORE: (Singing) If the only way to win is by breaking all the rules, I'd rather lose.

SHAPIRO: Can you give us a sense of why you've been absent from music for so long?

MOORE: I think it's a combination of a lot of things. I think, most of all, I'll take the brunt of responsibility and say that it really did boil down to a lot of self-doubt. And I think I found myself in an unhealthy, you know, personal situation and relationship, and that definitely didn't help matters. But...

SHAPIRO: I want to just let listeners know, you have spoken openly about the destructive marriage...

MOORE: Yes.

SHAPIRO: ...You had to the singer Ryan Adams.

MOORE: Sure. I think also finding myself in a situation, personally, with someone that I held in such high regard and sort of working on things musically in a creative fashion and none of that ever coming to fruition also just further instills the sense of self-doubt and negativity and...

SHAPIRO: Because you were writing songs during your marriage to Ryan Adams.

MOORE: I was writing songs.

SHAPIRO: You had made music; it just never got released

MOORE: It never got released. A lot of songs were written during what I thought was a really fruitful time. But I want to take the responsibility in being able to sort of move forward and understand that I'm only in control of my side of the street, and so I'm just interested in sort of my role in why it took me so long to find my way back to music, and I've really made peace with that. And I'm also a big believer in things happening for a reason. And perhaps I wasn't really ready to make music until now and until I found myself in the right situation and I had the right creative partners, and this just feels like the perfect time in my life to be revisiting this.

(SOUNDBITE OF MANDY MOORE SONG, "WHEN I WASN'T WATCHING")

SHAPIRO: This song, "When I Wasn't Watching," seems to speak to this hiatus.

MOORE: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: I mean, the lyric says, my favorite version of me disappeared through longer days and shorter years.

MOORE: Yeah. That was the first song written for the record. But...

SHAPIRO: Oh, really?

MOORE: Yeah, it was. We - I wrote it back in 2016, even before "This Is Us" was greenlit.

SHAPIRO: Really?

MOORE: I was writing music in fits and starts for the last, you know, five, six, seven years. And to me, it so encompasses that time in my life where I just felt (laughter) - I felt like I didn't know which way was up or down but, ultimately, sort of freed by that notion as well, that, like, this is what happens to everybody. I'm not an anomaly, and I'm going to use this to my benefit and use this as fuel to sort of, you know, find momentum forward.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHEN I WASN'T WATCHING")

MOORE: (Singing) ...What I became when I wasn't watching - when I wasn't watching.

SHAPIRO: So now that you have accepted and forgiven the 15-year-old pop star that you were, do you ever pull out that music anymore and listen to it?

MOORE: (Laughter) Considering the fact that we're going on the road and I want to honor that part of my life and my career and, perhaps, people and their nostalgic connection to that time and music as well, for sure.

SHAPIRO: This is going to be in the set? Are you saying you're actually going to perform some of that?

MOORE: Yes. I mean...

(LAUGHTER)

SHAPIRO: Amazing.

MOORE: I know that people are coming on the road and want to hear "Candy," so that's a no-brainer to me.

SHAPIRO: Wow.

MOORE: But listening back to that era of music, there's definitely some songs that I'm like, OK, this wasn't so bad (laughter). I'm excited to figure out a new arrangement of this and make sure...

SHAPIRO: I was going to say, maybe an unplugged, acoustic version or something like that.

MOORE: (Laughter) Exactly. I feel like it's fitting to honor that time of my life and my career. And some of those songs, they need a little bit of an update.

SHAPIRO: Well, I look forward to hearing the new version of them.

MOORE: Ha, thank you very much.

SHAPIRO: Well, Mandy Moore, congratulations on your return to music-making. It's been great talking with you.

MOORE: Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.

SHAPIRO: Her new album is called "Silver Landings."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EASY TARGET")

MOORE: (Singing) Out in the light, facing the wind. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.