Mandy Moore Opens Up About Music, Acting

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By ERIN CARLSON
The Associated Press
Thursday, July 5, 2007; 10:58 AM

NEW YORK -- Mandy Moore, the angel-faced actress and sometime singer, interrupted her recent concert in Manhattan to grumble for a moment about the men who did her wrong.

"You know, guys suck," she proclaimed, her sweet facial expression diluting any post-breakup bitterness. "I don't want to make a sweeping generalization, but some guys suck! And I've come across a few."

The statuesque 23-year-old, who split from TV star Zach Braff last year and has dated tennis hunk Andy Roddick and man-about-town Wilmer Valderrama, sings through some heavy stuff on "Wild Hope," her first studio album in more than three years.

The folk-pop disc, released last month and recorded in New York's rustic Catskill mountains, is a departure from the bubblegum music of Moore's not-so-distant past. Produced by John Alagia, who's shaped albums by Dave Matthews and Liz Phair, its acoustic sound and mature themes of heartbreak and personal growth would be more at home in a coffee shop than on popular radio. And Moore, who has had more success as an actress than she ever did as a singer, is fine with that.

After all, her star continues to rise in film, overshadowing her singing career and forays into fashion design. She currently co-stars with Robin Williams in the new comedy "License to Wed," and will appear later this summer in the art-house romance "Dedication." Music, however, remains her biggest passion.

"It's just where my heart really is," Moore told The Associated Press during an interview in a trendy Manhattan hotel, wearing a casual black dress and nibbling on cashews. "I love going back and forth and doing a little bit of (singing and acting). I feel fulfilled creatively by a little bit of both."

Getting to the finish line was the hard part. As she branched out into movies _ playing against her goody-two-shoes image as a judgmental teen in 2004's "Saved!" and as an ambitious reality TV star in last year's "American Dreamz" _ Moore parted ways with two record labels, Epic and then Warner Music Group, over the organic direction she wanted to take her music.

"Basically, it was me being adamant about wanting to write a record and not wanting to perform somebody else's material onstage anymore," she said, adding that higher-ups at Warner wanted to make a "very, very different pop record" than she had envisioned.

Moore, who tackled classic songs in her 2003 album, the low-selling "Coverage," eventually signed with the Firm Music, a new label run by her management company. As part of the deal, in which artist and label share ownership of each record, Moore gets full creative control. She co-wrote every track on "Wild Hope," bringing little-known singer-songwriters Lori McKenna and Rachel Yamagata into her team of collaborators.

Recording the album last year, she said, was "completely cathartic" and helped her sail through a low point in her life following her breakup with Braff.

"I just was, like, ugh, why do I feel so icky and why do I feel confused?" she recalls. "Who am I? What do I want to define me? Just a bunch of questions on top of, like, working really hard and going through a breakup and _ you know what I mean _ living alone and, just, like, having all this stuff sort of hit me all at once."

The bottom line, she noted, was to "try to feel better in general and less confused and less like perplexed by life and everything that sort of comes along with it as you enter adulthood. Because that's what it was for me."

Her spell of sadness was only temporary. During this interview, Moore reveals herself to be outgoing and chatty _ and, yes, wholesome. She sips apple juice. She introduces her new boyfriend, singer Greg Laswell, who sits at a laptop computer inside the hotel suite. She offers to set this reporter's old-school tape recorder on her lap, to improve the sound quality.

If she's all smiles, it's partly because she had a CD and two movies to promote. There's "License to Wed," about a newly engaged couple forced to undergo a marriage prep course, and "Dedication," directed by Justin Theroux, slated for limited release in August. In the latter, she sports heavy eye makeup as an illustrator who falls for a misogynistic children's book author played by Billy Crudup.

Two very different romantic comedies; two very different versions of Mandy Moore. The actress, who previously co-starred with Diane Keaton in the critical flop "Because I Said So," said she'd rather challenge expectations than be pigeonholed as The Girl Next Door.

"I don't mind that people are like, `Ah, you know, you're wholesome and you seem like a real good girl,'" she said. "That is who I am, that's quintessentially who I am, but there are some times where you don't want to exactly feel like someone can pin you down, or pinpoint exactly who you are."

Moore looks up to Reese Witherspoon, whose eclectic career she hopes to emulate.

"You can lose yourself in the work that she's doing and you're not sort of sitting there, thinking about her life and what she ate for breakfast," she said of the Oscar-winning actress. "Unfortunately, there are those celebrities _ and it's not their fault, but you can't really detach yourself from their persona. And it works to their detriment, you know?"

(Cough. Lindsay Lohan. Cough cough.) Indeed, while her famous peers are in rehab or freshly sprung from jail, Moore lays low and out of the tabloids _ except for her relationships. The lyrical content of "Wild Hope" has set off speculation that Braff was the inspiration; Moore claims "it's not about one specific person."

Had Braff shown up during her intimate set of "Wild Hope" songs at a well-known music venue _ the one where she expressed her distaste for the male sex, as Laswell and her father sat in the audience _ he might have been the recipient of dirty stares. Moore laid it all out there in the final number, "Gardenia," a stripped-down, wrenching ballad that speaks to her evolution from child pop star to serious artist.

"I'm the one who likes to make love on the floor," she sings. "I don't want to hang up the phone yet; It's been good getting to know me more."


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© 2007 The Associated Press

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