Mandy Moore went out in search of herself and came back with her first new song in a decade. The singer released the midtempo track and music video for “When I Wasn’t Watching” on Monday (Sept. 16), giving her fans a preview of her first new music since 2009. The chilled-out pop ballad with a rocking edge finds Moore taking a deep look inside to figure out what kind of person she’s become. “Where was I when this was going down?/ Maybe sleeping in, maybe outta town?/ I spent my whole life waiting patiently/ Convinced it all would come to me,” she sings over a chugging beat and a chorus of backing vocals.
With the exception of a cover of Little Feat’s “Willin'” in 2017 for the soundtrack to her hit NBC drama This is Us, Moore hasn’t released new original material since her 2009 album Amanda Leigh. After revealing the allegedly heavy-handed role former husband Ryan Adams played in her musical career during their troubled marriage, Moore wrote in an Instagram post last summer that she was getting back to her first love with no strings attached. “I’m not scared anymore. No more excuses,” she said. “No more allowing someone’s else insecurities to dictate my relationship to music and singing.”
Moore revealed in June that she’s working on the album with the aid of her husband Dawes singer/guitarist Taylor Goldsmith, and his influence can be felt on the song’s warm California pop vibe and dreamy chorus. “To who we are/ When no one is looking/ What I became/ When I wasn’t watching/ When I wasn’t watching,” she sings in a husky voice on the tune produced by her longtime collaborator Mike Viola. Her as-yet-untitled album is due out on Verve Forecast early next year.
In a statement accompanying the song, Moore explained the depth of feeling she shares in the lyrics. “The idea of diving back into music after so much time and personal change was really intimidating to me for a while,” she said. “But then I finally realized: I’m the only person who can make this move. It all has to start with me… I think everyone’s had the experience of feeling lost and not quite understanding how you’ve found yourself at a certain point in your life. And I think the key is not to judge yourself for that. I’m a big believer in the idea that what you’ve journeyed through is ultimately going to factor into the person you become, and how you’ll greet whatever big challenge you face next.”
The statement also notes that the new album is a “purposeful departure” from the high-gloss pop of her past, with a focus on a full band playing live in the studio. “No one’s playing to a click track – it’s all happening live on the floor, which gives everything a magic and spontaneity that’s so different from what I’ve done on any other record,” Moore says. “And on top of that we’re recording to tape, so there’s no reworking or editing: a take is a take. At first that was scary, but now it’s become a fun sort of pressure that really fuels me.”
Another new single is due out before the end of the year and Moore says her new sense of control is empowering. “I very much feel like I’m at the helm of the ship now, where I’m stepping back into music completely on my own terms,” she says. “Everything that’s happened up until this point has gotten me to where I am today, and I’m so excited to just keep moving forward.”
As she preps her seventh studio album, Moore will take to the big screen in November when she joins Nick Jonas, Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans and Woody Harrelson in the WWII epic Midway.
Watch the new video below.