Mandy Moore apologizes a lot. When she's complimented on her perfume: "Is it overpowering? Sorry!" When she gushes about life with Ryan Adams, her husband of three months: "It's amazing, lovely. I think I say that to everyone. It's like, 'Does Mandy have any vocabulary?'" Even when attempting stage banter, like at a New York gig in early June: "I'm not good at this whole sarcasm thing."
But under that sweet Disney-princess facade lies some attitude, and Moore reveals it on her new album, Amanda Leigh, a set of stripped-down 1970s-inspired tunes — bulked up with vintage instruments like clavinet and Wurlitzer organs — that couldn't be further from the singer's Nineties teen-pop roots. "As a kid, I had no say in my music - I'd just show up at the studio and sing," she says. "It was so weird and limiting. With this record, I was in from the ground floor, and that's the way it should be." The disc — which Moore, 25, co-wrote with producer Mike Viola — features surprisingly melancholy anthems about "unsettled dreams" ("Everblue"), long-distance love ("Bug") and solitude ("Song About Home"). "I was really wrestling with the idea of home," says Moore, who penned the tune after her parents moved out of the L.A. house the family had shared since Moore was a teenager and got divorced. "My safety net split apart, and I felt like I wasn't really in my skin. It was fucking uncomfortable."
"I WASN'T MAKING A THROWBACK," SAYS MOORE OF HER SEVENTIES-INSPIRED DISC
Moore, who usually prefers to keep private details out of her music ("It's bizarre, people knowing bits of information about my life"), tapped into her anxieties during her writing sessions. "It was like therapy," recalls Viola, who holed up with Moore for six weeks in an engineer friend's Boston home to cut the disc, her sixth. "I'd start talking about Florida [Moore grew up in Orlando], and she was like, 'I don't want to talk about it.' I'd say, 'Really? Because we can write about why you don't want to talk about it.'"
After performing two New York shows in June, Moore — who hopes to tour more behind her album — headed back to L.A., where she lives with Adams and their dog, Joni (named after Joni Mitchell, Moore's icon). "I'd just like to veg out," she says. "Ryan and I are getting into The Real Housewives of New Jersey."