Mandy Moore is more famous these days as an Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated actress on the hugely popular family drama This Is Us, but she’s never stopped thinking about the music that came first. Moore, now 35, became a TRL-era superstar at 15 with the bubblegum-pop hit “Candy,” and made a series of more-adventurous, indie-inspired albums like 2007’s Wild Hope. But she put music on hold after marrying Ryan Adams; Moore told The New York Times last year that his controlling behavior led her to stop releasing songs.
Moore found a new teammate in Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, whom she married in 2018. Together they wrote and recorded Silver Landings, which includes Fleetwood Mac-inspired highlights like “When I Wasn’t Watching,” a sparkling, folky song about personal growth. “I’m looking at the mountains, and it’s a beautiful sunny day with beautiful skies,” she says from her home in L.A. “That’s what I imagined this record to be like.”
Your new song “Fifteen” makes being thrust into fame at that age sound overwhelming. How do you feel about that time now?
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve looked back with greater affection. Anybody would look back on their high school years like, “Why did I choose to wear that outfit?” But in my case, it wasn’t just the clothes I was wearing — it was the music I was recording. I didn’t have a ton of creative control. Gaining a little bit more wisdom and distance 20 years on, I’ve learned to embrace that part of me too. She still lives in me. I was doing my level best. There’s people out there that really enjoy those records and that music. It’s not necessarily my cup of tea!
You were constantly compared to Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson back then. Did you feel like you were always fighting for respect?
I was always third or fourth in line, in terms of being mentioned in the gaggle of gals — Britney and Christina [Aguilera] and Jessica Simpson. I think because I never found the degree of success that those women did, that allowed me the freedom to continue to make music that I wanted to make — but also as an actor. I was able to find some success in that arena because I wasn’t a one-name pop star that people would watch onscreen and just go, “Oh, I know everything about her life.” I was a little bit more of a mystery.
Did your roles as an actor, in turn, help you grow as a musician?
Everybody’s always going to put everyone in a box. I want to be able to do something I’ve never done before. That was something I found more troubling until recently: Not being able to get in the room, because people only saw me in one light. For what it’s worth, nobody ever told me how to answer questions or what to wear. They certainly told me [what to] record, but nobody gave me any direction otherwise.
You joined several other women in speaking out against your ex-husband Ryan Adams’ alleged emotional abuse in 2018. Were you hesitant about coming forward?
It’s so tricky to talk about. I never had any hesitancy, especially once I realized how many people were speaking out. I feel really heartened that emotional and psychological abuse is a topic of conversation that women are very hungry for. The outpouring that I received on social media, DMs on Instagram…I’m still getting stuff. Women are fighting to be heard and to be understood and to be recognized. A story like this can make people feel a little bit less alone and recognize that it is not an anomaly. I feel good to be a part of something like that, but it’s horrific, and I’m glad that it’s behind me and I can move forward.
What was it like to work so closely with your current spouse on the new album?
Taylor is truly one of the most unbelievably talented people on the planet. I feel so lucky to be under the same roof with him. For the past five years that we’ve been in each other’s lives, he is always at a piano or holding a guitar in his hands — just noodling or practicing or writing a song. It was a foregone conclusion that we were going to make music together, but he has been my biggest champion. He was like, “I just want to play guitar on your record. It may be fun to go on the road together!”
You’ve campaigned for Pete Buttigieg, and you’re close friends with his husband, Chasten. What makes Mayor Pete your ideal candidate for president? [Editor’s Note: This was before he dropped out of the race.]
I’m not the most publicly vocal about politics, but I remember when Pete ran for the DNC chair in 2017. That’s when I first heard about him, and he was captivating to me then. I’d never heard him publicly speak until about a year ago, here in Los Angeles, and I just was blown away. I was like, “He’s our next president.” He’s a Rhodes scholar who speaks eight languages. He’s a veteran. He’s unbelievably qualified — but he’s also a real human being. I think he can be the one to bridge the gap and bring people from both sides together. I’m excited to see how the rest of this campaign season evolves. And I’ll be right there championing him along the way.