Before she attained worldwide recognition for tugging at your heartstrings every week on NBC’s “This Is Us,” Mandy Moore was part of that shiny, new generation of pop stars that hit in 1999 and 2000 — like Britney, Christina, N’SYNC and the rest. As Moore’s confidence and artistry grew during the aughts, she blended in more of her deep love for the Laurel Canyon school of pop and folk rock on top of the new millennium sheen. However, until her sixth studio album “Silver Landings” in 2020, she had not released new music or performed in over a decade. Covid-19 hit right as she was releasing that new record and trying to re-introduce herself as Mandy Moore, the musician. But she continued to write and record throughout the pandemic, all while filming “This Is Us” and giving birth to her first son Gus, to craft a new batch of songs in a 21st century Linda Ronstadt energy, “In Real Life.”
Moore is hitting the road for the first time in a long time with Goldsmith and a dynamite band of musicians from the Dawes family this summer, including a stop at the 9:30 Club before she performs at the legendary Newport Folk Festival in July. We caught up with Moore in May, before the start of her tour, to talk about her return to the stage.
District Fray: Does it feel like the “In Real Life” tour is a double album tour because you didn’t get to do the “Silver Landings” tour?
Mandy Moore: Yes. Very much so, yes.
On top of that, it feels like the past three years have been a period where you are re-introducing yourself to the world in a lot of ways. How does all that inform how you’re preparing for it?
I don’t feel like my plan had to deviate or change too dramatically from a couple of years ago. I think the night will still be intimate and it’ll be fun to revisit stuff from my past and, obviously, acknowledge the music that I’m making now, all through the lens of this incredible group of musicians. But yeah, it will be vulnerable. It will be fun to talk about my life and how I got to this point and be able to do that, illustrating that with songs. I don’t know! I’m excited to remember what it feels like to be onstage.
Is being vulnerable fun?
It is. I don’t really know any other way to be when it comes to being creative; you can’t really hold anything back. Sometimes if you’re an actor and that’s what the part calls for. But I’ve only known how to just put it all on the line.
That line you open the new record with — “I just got a front row seat to real life” — feels like a punch in the gut. There seem to be 10,000 tons of emotions behind those words; could you talk about where that is coming from?
Half of that song was written before Gus and the other half was written when he got Earth-side. It’s my favorite song on the record and it’s why I think the record is named “In Real Life.” Once the song was finished it was like, ‘Oh, this is the album title as well.’ I think it just encompasses everything I wanted this album to be and to say. I’m glad that it feels like a punch in the gut or at least there’s a strong reaction because that’s how it felt for me: my personal experience of finding out I was going to become a parent and then becoming a parent, it’s like there is nothing more real…I wanted that to infiltrate what that song is and what this record is.
I wasn’t going to ask about your acting career to keep this focused on music, but when you’re talking about being creative and true to yourself and drawing on your own experience, is there a way your acting career informs your stage presence? Is there a relationship between those sides of your creativity?
I think so. I think there’s a sense of presence and being comfortable in my skin that having the consistency of a job for the last six years brings; a steadiness to things. It’s like there’s a belief and self-awareness that can be married together from having one side of your life that feels very active and activated that will hopefully inform the other side. I’m excited. I’m just finishing this very seminal chapter of my life and there’s a lot to process. I think had it not been for the music and the idea of taking the show on the road, I wouldn’t have a way — except through therapy or something — to process my feelings. Now I get to use the music every night to feel everything, because it’s really emotional; and this record is emotional. It’s kind of perfect timing, to be quite honest: there’s a lot of synchronicity in that and I’m excited to use it.
Mandy Moore plays 9:30 Club June 14. Her new album “In Real Life” is available for streaming on all major platforms.
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