Moore to Love

By David Michael Conner

Originally published on Advocate.com May 25 2009 11:00 PM ET

Unless 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 record Amanda 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.

Maybe it was good practice -- an alternate universe version of you so you could learn how not to live your life. [ Laughs ] Luckily, it didn't factor into my real life. But, yeah, I got to pretend to get that out of my system.

Any new roles in the pipeline? There's some stuff in the works that hopefully will be solidified by the fall. It would be sort of fun to switch gears and put the acting hat back on and throw myself into something totally different creatively. But it's been fun to take a break from that and really concentrate on music. It will be nice, though; I look forward to switching gears.

I saw something about an audition a few days ago on your Twitter ... Oh, yeah, yeah. I don't really want to say what it was, 'cause if I don't get it, you know, then I'll just look like a loser. [ Laughs ] Yeah, I was auditioning. It's a great way to keep the fire going, to push yourself and challenge yourself to do something that's a bit frightening. To me, auditions are like standardized tests when you're in school. You just never look forward to them, but there's something fulfilling about getting it over with. And then you feel good about yourself if you did a good job when the results come back, you know what I mean? I have a love-hate relationship with it.

A standardized test ... so you walk away worried about whether or not you filled in the bubbles completely? You walk away like, "You know what, there's nothing else I can do. I've already finished it." I feel like I'm one of those people who are not necessarily the best at auditions. It's such a weird environment. But it doesn't necessarily mean that you're not good at what you do ... sort of like standardized tests. People can be quite intelligent, but the nature of those kinds of tests, you know, they're not for everyone. That's how I feel at auditions ... like I'm maybe not the best in the audition room, but I'm confident I can do the work when it comes down to it if I were to get the job.

Looking at your résumé, I would think people would have a good idea of what you're capable of doing. Well, that's very sweet of you. But the sort of thing I'm looking forward to doing in the future is stuff that would be challenging. You know, we're all put in a kind of a box and defined a certain way, and I'm happy to continue growing as an actress and as an artist and finding things that really scare me a little bit. Pushing myself to go to places and do work that I've not done before. Those are the sorts of roles that require a bit more work to even get into the room to audition for. For certain projects. It's an interesting world, but I'm happy to do whatever it takes to push me artistically.

Saved! is a camp classic. Oh, I love that movie.

Every time I see the big Jesus fall on you, I'm just ... [ Laughs ] It's very satisfying! I remember watching it at the premiere and going, "Yes."

So between Saved! and showing off your Mblem fashion line and dirty mouth on The Tyra Banks Show. you've done some really gay things. Ha ha ha ha! They are? All right, cool!

Well ... one could say that? Sure.

I may get in trouble if I write that down. Ha ha.

What's going on with your fashion line? I've actually put that on the back burner for the time being. It's a difficult time in the world to have creative control and be at the helm of something like that, especially when you can't be around all the time to see things come to fruition the way you envision them. I'd love to get involved in the fashion world again when the time is right and I can do things the way I envision them. I got into it to watch my vision come to life. It wasn't necessarily happening in the case of Mblem. It was fun. I had a great time, but I think my time and effort probably are best spent in other areas. I like having a full plate, but there are lots of other things that I can concentrate on.

In all seriousness, you're really becoming a true creative and multifaceted artist who keeps pushing herself. What would you like to do that you haven't done yet? Hmm. Career-wise, I'd love to do Broadway one day. It's always been one of the biggest goals for me. Not sure when, but one of these days when the right project shows its face. That's the ultimate dream for me. Other than that, I'm not quite sure. I want to continue on this path that I've found myself on ...writing music, touring the world, making films that I'm proud to be a part of. Whatever the next chapter has in store for me.

Broadway -- you kind of started out doing theater ... As a kid, yeah.

Who do you want to work with? Or what play would you want to do? Oh, my goodness ... I think if there's an original show, I'd be definitely interested to hear more about that. But I love classic stuff too; I love Guys and Dolls, and my friend Lauren Graham is actually playing Adelaide on Broadway right now, and I would love to see that next time I'm in New York. I love her. She is just ... a genius and a girl's girl and funny and talented and beautiful. I don't understand sometimes ... I have all these friends who are so talented and it's just like, good gracious, why aren't these the most famous people in the world? She's one of those people to me. Like, whoa! But yeah, Gypsy,Guys and Dolls. I guess when the time is right, I'll probably know.

Are you planning to tour with this album? Nothing's been solidified to this point, but I'm hoping that, come summertime, yeah, we'll take it on the road.

I heard Lilith Fair is coming back… Oooooh! That would be purr-fect. That's totally my cup of tea.

It would be perfect. Give Sarah a call. [ Laughs ] I know. I wish I had her on speed dial. I'll have to ... I'll have to track her down. And beg for a place on the tour.

You don't need to beg.