Along with fellow blonde Jessica Simpson, singer and actress Mandy Moore was among the second tier of teen queens to follow the massive late-Nineties success of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. But Moore had a more serious streak and by 2003 had gone from blonde to brunette and was trying to change her teenybopper image into that of a real actress and interpretive adult-contemporary pop/rock singer in the vein of Linda Ronstadt. By 2007, Moore was writing her own songs.
She was born Amanda Leigh Moore on April 10th, 1984, in Nashua, New Hampshire, and raised in Altamonte Springs, Florida. Her journalist mother and pilot father are a combined mix of Irish, English, Jewish and Cherokee, and though Moore was raised Catholic she doesn't practice any particular religion today. Moore attended the Catholic Bishop Moore High School in nearby Orlando and Lake Brantley High School in her hometown. After she saw the musical Oklahoma!, Moore's grandmother encouraged her to pursue her own dreams of music and theater. As a child, she frequently sang the national anthem at sporting events in the Orlando area. When a FedEx man heard her singing at a recording session, he told his friend, an Epic Records A&R man, about Moore and she soon signed with the label.
Epic at first cast her as another Britney Spears, sending her on tour with the Backstreet Boys in support of her first album, So Real (Number 31, 1999). By the following year, the album had sold more than a million copies and yielded the hit "Candy" (Number 41, 1999). Inexplicably, the label released a reconfigured version of the album the following year titled I Wanna Be with You (Number 21, 2000); the title song reached Number 24 on the Billboard 200. The true follow-up, Mandy Moore (Number 35, 2001), was a more mature dance-pop album, utilizing the sitar in the Indian-flavored single "In My Pocket." Though it failed to chart on the Billboard 200, the single reached Number 21 on the trade magazine's Top 40 Mainstream chart. Its follow-up single "Crush" also failed to chart, although MTV aired its video frequently.
Between 2001 and 2003, Moore matured and decided she wanted to pursue more serious music. With its Seventies-style soft-focus cover, her next album, Coverage (Number 14, 2003), found Moore interpreting classic tracks by respected songwriters such as Carole King ("I Feel the Earth Move"), Joni Mitchell ("Help Me"), Elton John and Bernie Taupin ("Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters"), Andy Partridge of XTC ("Senses Working Overtime") and Joan Armatrading ("Drop the Pilot"). The album received generally positive reviews, and the King cover wound up appearing on a gay rights tribute disc, Love Rocks. However, none of the singles charted and Epic dropped Moore. To fulfill her contract, the label issued a greatest-hits collection that tanked. The following year, parent company Sony released another compilation, the budget-priced Candy, via its Special Products division. It was a commerical failure, too.
Warner Bros. picked up Moore but also dropped her when she expressed interest in writing and recording her own songs. Meanwhile, the singer had posted her version of the Lori McKenna song "Beautiful Man" on her MySpace page. In interviews, Moore began distancing herself from the teen-pop of her past, going so far as to call it "crappy" in a ROLLING STONE interview. It was a hint of what was to come. In 2006, she inked a deal with the new EMI Records imprint the Firm and released Wild Hope (Number 30, 2007), which she recorded at a studio in Woodstock, New York. She co-wrote all of the songs — two with previous collaborator James Renald, three with McKenna and the rest with indie-folk duo the Weepies. Wild Hope was similar, instrumentally and melodically, to the songs Moore interpreted on her covers album, and her voice had grown into a much stronger and deeper instrument. With Wild Hope, Moore telescoped her fanbase to listeners of more serious singer-songwriter music, and the album was generally well received and produced a Number 25 Hot Adult Top Forty song, "Extraordinary," with an accompanying video that features the singer in 120 different roles. Moore went on tour to support the album in late 2007.
Moore has had simultaneous careers in the film and fashion industries. In addition to her early 2000s MTV talk show Mandy, she appeared in the 2001 movie The Princess Diaries and starred in the popular but critically panned 2002 movie A Walk to Remember. Moore's role as a nice Christian girl won her three awards that year including Breakthrough Female Performance at the MTV Movie Awards and two Teen Choice Awards. She also provided the voice for a character in the video game Kingdom Hearts and acted in an Elton John video. Those appearances landed Moore roles in the romantic comedies How to Deal (2003) and Chasing Liberty (2004), and the critically lauded religious satire Saved! (2004). The following year she had a short-lived role in the popular HBO series Entourage. In 2006 she guest-starred in Scrubs (she also dated the show's star, Zach Braff, for nearly two years), voiced a character on the Simpsons and appeared in the film American Dreamz, a parody of both American politics and American Idol. In 2007 she starred alongside Diane Keaton in Because I Said So as well as License to Wed. Additionally, Moore has modeled, appearing on the cover of Cosmopolitan, started her own fashion line, Mblem, as well as the women's social network Upumpitup.com.