Between 1999 to 2009, Mandy Moore released six albums spanning pop and folk, including a record of classic cover songs. But then she stopped. Nearly 10 years later, we have an idea about why.
In a New York Times story that reveals allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior and emotional abuse by her ex-husband, alt-country musician Ryan Adams, Moore revealed that “music was a point of control” for him. He allegedly “discouraged her from working with other producers or managers,” which she says effectively held her music career hostage. (Adams has denied the allegations in the story, and his lawyer told the Times that Moore’s description of their marrid life was “completely inconsistent with [Adams’] view of the relationship.”) While they wrote music together on a regular basis, Adams “promised to record [them], but never did.” Moore even claimed that she considered Adams’ behavior “psychologically abusive,” saying, “He would always tell me, ‘You’re not a real musician, because you don’t play an instrument.’”
But this couldn’t be further from the truth. While Moore is perhaps best known now for her acting and voice work, with starring roles in Disney’s Tangled and NBC’s acclaimed This Is Us, music first introduced Moore to the public and has been a huge part of her career as she successfully forged a rare path from bubblegum teen pop star to acclaimed singer-songwriter.
While people may initially think of her 1999 debut single, “Candy,” when they picture Moore’s musical career, her tastes went well beyond the post-Britney pop that ruled the era. After releasing So Real in 1999, she dropped I Wanna Be With You just one year later: a bundle of both remixed versions of songs from her first album and the title track, which was featured on the soundtrack for the film Center Staged. In 2001, Moore debuted a more mature pop sound with her self-titled debut, which featured Middle Eastern influences and the hits “In My Pocket” and “Cry” as well as her first co-write (“When I Talk to You”). She’d also provide songs like “Only Hope” and “Someday We’ll Know” for the A Walk To Remember soundtrack, still beloved by many fans of turn-of-the-millennium pop to this day.
Yet Moore aimed to diversify her sound beyond radio-friendly tunes. In 2003, she did something unexpected and released Coverage, which saw her Moore put her own spin on tracks from the 1970s and 1980s that she grew up loving, like “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” from Elton John and “Have a Little Faith in Me” by John Hiatt.
That transition prompted a new beginning for her: Though it would be four years until she’d release a new album, when she returned with 2007’s Wild Hope, Moore wielded full creative control, straying from sugary pop tracks and instead collaborating with artists more in the country-folk vein like Rachael Yamagata, The Weepies and Lori McKenna. Artistically, Wild Hope was a milestone for Moore, who co-wrote all 12 tracks on the record and, critics noted, found her groove musically. In 2009, she continued writing her own music with Amanda Leigh, which was released the same year she married Adams and drew some of the strongest reviews of her career.
Despite the positive momentum, a follow-up never quite materialized. Moore revealed in 2012 that she was working on her seventh studio album, collaborating with her husband. By 2014, she said she had made “real progress” on the record and hoped to record it later that year. In 2015, she said she “had a new zest” for what she wanted to sing — that same year, she and Adams announced their divorce, citing “irreconcilable differences.” (Last fall, she married Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith.)
Moore hasn’t been totally inactive, however: She’s released two songs from This Is Us and contributed to the soundtracks for Tangled (in 2010) and Sheriff Callie’s Wild West (in 2014). And new music at least appears to be on the horizon again: In 2017, she said still wanted to make music and even tour. Last fall, she brought up her desire to make music again in an interview with Glamour that seemed to allude to private struggles. “I feel ready now,” she said. “I allowed other people’s perception of who I am and what I should be doing and how I should be doing it to permeate my relationship to music.”
With the Times’ investigation, Moore reiterated her intent to make music again, saying, “I’m not going to let Ryan stop me.” And while it’s unclear what her future releases will look or sound like, the arc of her career suggests she’ll forge ahead with a blend of classic folk, Americana and raw ballads. In her 2017 conversation with Glamour, she laid out her vision for the next phase of her career. “I’m not looking to be a pop star,” she said. “I want to go on tour with a band, and I want the music to reflect that.” (However, she did suggest she would play “Candy” with a live band.) Whenever she takes that step, the fans who have followed her career for 20 years now will be right there listening.