ILLUSTRATION BY HANOCH PIVEN
When Mandy Moore was just 20 years old, her record label at the time released a best-of collection of her bubblegum pop ditties. “Yeah, it’s insane,” she says with a laugh, calling one stormy December morning after a late-night shoot for her NBC smash This Is Us. “I’m like, ‘Don’t you have to have more than one quasi-hit to constitute a best-of record?’ I’m sure you can imagine I had zero-point-zero say in that decision.”
On March 6, Moore, now 35, releases Silver Landings, a breezy but emotionally deep collection of California folk-rock. It’s her first album in 11 years and, notably, the first on which she’s had 100 percent say in every decision. Getting to this point hasn’t been easy for the former teen pop star. Last year, she opened up to The New York Times about her fraught seven-year marriage to rocker ex-husband Ryan Adams, who stunted her music career “during a very pivotal and potentially lucrative time—my entire mid- to late 20s.” But she came out the other side, scoring the role of everyone’s dream mom, Rebecca Pearson, on This Is Us, and then marrying Taylor Goldsmith, frontman of folk-rock group Dawes. These major life changes, she says, helped rekindle her love of music and her confidence in her abilities. “I’m a big believer in ‘Things happen for a reason,’” she explains, as one of her cats meows in the background. “I had to go through that tumult in my life to get me to this point, and I would a million times over again—in every aspect, personally and professionally. There’s something so unendingly beautiful about finding your people.”
The title of your new album is Silver Landings. I feel like you’ve coined a new term, because if you Google that, nothing comes up besides a road in Michigan. I bet it’ll become commonplace now, thanks to you.
Oh, wow! I hope so!
What are silver landings?
It’s another way of interpreting the idea of a silver lining, but it’s something that’s exponentially more grounded. It’s moving through to an end result. I feel like this record typifies that idea to me. It’s over 10 years of a life lived and a story made and finding my way to this point where I was ready to make music again with the right people. I finally ended up at this silver landing, and that’s what all this music is: that end result.
Was there a precise moment when you realized you were ready to start making music again?
It was a bit more in fits and starts. It’s been something in the making pretty much the entire 10 years. I’d write a bunch of music and then nothing would come of it, and then I’d go through another bout of writing more music and nothing would come of it. The last time I made a record, I still had somewhat of a framework of the machinery of the business and some semblance of a music career to pattern this idea off of. But not having a record label, not having a music manager—all of those things that I was so used to from 15 years old—that gave me a bit more of an excuse, like, “I don’t even know where to start.” Emotionally, I was even more lost. There was so much written in that vein. Even [the single] “When I Wasn’t Watching” was birthed from that place: “I have so much to say. I have so much that I want to do. I have a million ideas. I just don’t know how to put pen to paper yet.” That is the most overwhelming feeling, which I think everybody can relate to.
You wrote this album with producer Mike Viola and with your husband, Taylor. Working with Taylor must have been an amazing experience.
Yeah, being in a healthy, supportive relationship and also feeling a true partnership with my husband was a huge factor in me wanting to make music again. I spent nearly the last five years watching him on the road and playing every night. There was no way that wasn’t going to influence the idea of making music—and making music together. And to ultimately be able to share that with one another? I was like, “This is the dream! This is what I always wanted and never knew that I was capable of having!” I didn’t even know it was possible to share this sort of connection and have this celebration and collaboration. To have a partner who’s confident enough to stand beside you or stand behind you and is like, “You go do your thing and I believe in you,” is … oh my god, it’s incredible!
Were you scared to start writing with him? Or was it natural from the get-go?
He’s an intimidating presence to be around—just musically, not as a human [laughs]. I mean, he’s sitting right next to me! [To Goldsmith:] Can you go do your crossword puzzle somewhere else?
I can imagine it would be intimidating to put yourself out there like that.
I had to put my stuff aside: my fear and my slight intimidation and the mixed bags of feelings that I had been carrying with me for the last few years about my worth as a musician, my worth as a singer, what value I added to the process. Lots of therapy later, I was ready to embark on this musical journey. I’m the only person that’s holding me back, so I either have to fully absolve myself of all of those feelings and all of that history and just move forward, or I’m going to be crippled by it forever. So I dropped the bags and I was like, “Let’s do this.” I was all in.
Speaking of therapy, it definitely sounds as though you’re working through things on this album. My favorite song is “Save a Little for Yourself.” Your lyric, “The love that you give is only as good as the love that you keep” is my new mantra.
That’s the overwhelming theme: “I will never again not have a piece of myself for me.” I’m always going to, first and foremost, look after myself. And just that idea that you can’t fully give yourself to somebody else if you’re not there for yourself first. So that’s where that song was birthed. No matter what, I’m always going to save something for me.
You launch your first tour since 2008 next month. Is touring like riding a bike—something you’ll remember how to do?
Let’s hope so, right? Everybody’s like, “Are you nervous?” I’m like, “Well, yeah, because everybody keeps asking me about it!” We made this record live, so theoretically I should be able to go and play it live. I want the show to feel real and human. I’m not this groomed, touring musician—I’m me, and I want to tell stories and talk about how these songs originated and who the band is and sing some acoustic songs with Taylor. And I want to have old music and new music. I want it to feel real.
What old music are we talking about?
I feel like we have to give people “Candy.” We’ll give them our spin on it. People love those songs from A Walk to Remember, so I want to figure out how to incorporate that in a way that feels organic. I want to have songs from Wild Hope and songs from Amanda Leigh…
I want to hear “When Will My Life Begin?” from Tangled.
I feel it’s harder to incorporate Disney into it! But maybe … I’ve been thinking about when we have these different stops, maybe if Zach Levi [who played Flynn Rider in Tangled] is home—he lives in Austin most of the time—maybe he wants to come on stage and we can figure out a version of it. It’d be fun!
It really annoys me that Frozen is so huge when Tangled is obviously better.
I mean, I joke, but we kind of opened the door for Frozen. I have such an affection for our movie. Sometimes I’m like, “Man, it would have been fun to do a Tangled 2,” but I think that ship sailed.
No, let’s make it happen!
I know! I’m like, “Can we at least get a ride? Can there be some sort of bathroom at Disney?”
Looking back at your early pop career, do you think that not being able to dance saved you from a life of pop-star hell?
[Laughs.] Yes! I mean, those are just the facts. It was never going to happen. I think early on it made the record label sit up and take notice, like, “OK, well, this is going to have to be something different than we imagined, because she’s not going to be Britney with a microphone or Janet Jackson doing choreography with backup dancers.”
In an old interview you said you would never become a Britney-level star because you wouldn’t show your midriff. And then, in your new video, you show your midriff.
I mean, at 35, I feel like I’m comfortable enough in my skin to show my midriff!
You grew up in the spotlight at a time when the tabloids wrote your story. Now, with social media, how does it feel to be in control of your narrative? I love your Instagram—I know I don’t really know you, but it feels very you.
Thank you! It’s all me. I love it now, because, like you said, you have so much more control over your own story. I love being able to have that direct communication with people. And I love being able to show parts of my life that probably would’ve never [been shown], like what goes on behind the scenes of a television show.
Speaking of This Is Us, I have a very important question: How do you all stay hydrated when you’re crying that much every week?
I mean, there are lots of different hydration stations [laughs] … Yeah, we laugh because we’re not immune to it either! But I feel like there’s a balance, and there’s a lot more levity than I think the show gets credit for. It’s very rarely a heartbreaking cry. It’s more nostalgic. It pushes that bruise in the best way and helps you reflect on your own life and your own family. I love feeling that way.
Do you consider yourself a naturally maternal person?
I hope so. I’m not a mother, obviously. I love nurturing and taking care of people, sometimes to my own detriment, but I feel like I’ve tried to find a balance in the last two years. But I’m excited for that chapter, whenever it does happen. In the meantime, yes, I love being a faux mother and grandmother on television. Chrissy [Metz] and I were shooting this intimate scene last night. I’m younger than her in real life, and we goof off and talk about stuff when we’re not working, but when the camera’s rolling and I’m looking in her eyes in a scene, it’s like, I am her mother. And when she cries, it takes everything in me not to squeeze her and tell her that everything’s going to be OK. So yeah, it’s a weird feeling. It’s the same with Justin [Hartley] and Sterling [K. Brown]. I really feel this deep, maternal affection for them now.
In this age of streaming, how does it feel to be a part of a show that still brings people together every Tuesday night?
We have a ton of gratitude about that—being one of the last bastions of appointment television. It’s the greatest compliment to meet people and they’re like, “No matter what, Tuesday night, my son or my daughter and I, we always watch it together. We won’t do it without each other.” I love being a part of entertainment that brings people together.
BY THE NUMBERS
Moore’s age when
a FedEx delivery man overheard her singing and passed her demo on to a friend at Epic Records
Her chart peak on the Billboard Hot 100, with the 2000 single “I Wanna Be With You”
YouTube views of the music video for her 2019 single “When I Wasn’t Watching”
Hours she spends in the makeup chair to become the 70-year-old Rebecca Pearson on This Is Us
People who tuned in for the post–Super Bowl episode of This Is Us in 2018
Height, in feet, of the Everest base camp in Nepal, which Moore hiked to in 2019
Amount she helped the United Nations Foundation raise to provide mosquito nets in Africa