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The Education of Mandy Moore

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If you can believe celebrity blogs and Twitter feeds, the two have a positively idyllic relationship: Star Trek double date, long hikes, flea-market shopping, eating peanut-butter pretzels in bed with their puppy at their house in L.A. “My husband put so many jalapeños on his burger that he is literally sweating from a few bites. Nerd!! :) love him,” reads one of her tweets. “My wife, my hero—halfway across the world saving lives—XOXOXO,” he wrote of her recent trip to the Sudan for child-malaria prevention.

Moore, who is now learning to play the bass, says Adams had nothing to do with Amanda Leigh—sweet, melodic, sixties-nostalgic pop about lost love and searching for home, laid over piano, acoustic guitar, French horn, string quartet, harpsichord, and even Clavinet. One can see the album fitting in nicely on college radio alongside previous collaborator Rachel Yamagata and current writing partners Inara George of the Bird and the Bee and the album’s producer, indie rocker Mike Viola. Viola admits he had a hard time pinpointing Moore’s musical raison d’être. “I asked her the day I met her, ‘Why would anyone want to buy a Mandy Moore album?’ And her answer was, ‘I don’t know,’ ” he says. “As an artist, she’s in flux. She’s just trying things. She doesn’t know where she’s going to land.”

She does have the goods, however. Viola was immediately struck by her voice. “It’s not the voice on any of her recordings. She’s like a soul singer. She really has it—great pitch, great tone, real range, incredible stamina.” It was Viola’s idea to use Moore’s birth name as the title, “because it’s almost like starting from scratch. She’s trying to make a real artistic record. Good for her! Good for fucking her!”

In the video for the first single, a fun alt-country track called “I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week,” Moore, a mixed-martial-arts fan, kicks her friend, UFC star Chuck Liddell, in the nuts. That feisty young woman seems worlds away from the one bustling around the Spotted Pig kitchen, apologizing profusely. On lifting up a pan: “This is where I become uncoordinated.” On flipping the gnudi: “I’m not ready for that. I’ll burn everyone!” On the horrifying notion that the waiter is going to serve the deviled eggs she’s prepared: “Oh, no, somebody is going to have to eat this?” (They tasted fine, by the way.) “Cooking is nerve-racking. It’s very vulnerable, because it’s just a matter of people’s tastes and what they like and don’t like,” she says after the lesson. She might as well be talking about her music. “I’m a timid person, and I’m also a perfectionist, so I really like to take my time with things,” Moore adds. “But sometimes you’ve just got to … I don’t know, put yourself out there and be a little bit uncomfortable and get over it. Even if you fall on your face.”


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