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'Amanda Leigh' gives fans Moore of Mandy at the Grammy Museum

June 12, 2009 |  1:38 pm


Mandy Moore is a grown-up. The lanky girl with long blond hair singing coyly while doing eight-count steps in a parking lot about how she’s addicted to her skateboarder crush like  “Candy” is gone. She’s been replaced with a gal in skinny jeans and a cropped tuxedo jacket who likes having her tousled brunette mane in her face when she sings.

On Thursday, Moore performed a handful of folksy, retro-pop songs off her new album -- including “Pocket Philosopher” and “I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week" -- before a sold-out crowd at The Grammy Museum in downtown Los Angeles.

But actually, the name's Amanda Leigh … just don’t call her that. Though her given name serves as the title of her sixth studio album -- released in late May as a follow-up to 2007’s “Wild Hope” -- it wasn’t an attempt to update her identity.

“Amanda Leigh is my given name, my legal name,” said the 25-year-old singer in a pre-performance interview with Robert Santelli, executive director of the museum. “But other than that, I really have no connection to it. I’ve been Mandy my entire life. It wasn’t one of those sort of really heady artistic decisions like, ‘I want to be taken seriously. I want this music to reflect the real me.’ I understand when artists do that, of course; this wasn’t the case. It was a bit more flippant, actually, than that. Mike Viola [co-writer and producer of the album] called me Amanda Leigh in the studio a lot and, for some reason, it stuck in my head and it was really synonymous with the time.”

The self-proclaimed “theater nerd” grew up listening to musicals such as “Guys and Dolls” and dreamed of imitating Bette Midler’s starry career. As a teen, she found herself a second-tier pop princess of the teen pop sensation led by Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys in the late '90s, with modest hits “Candy” and “Cry.” From there, she segued into acting, starring in films such as “The Princess Diaries” and “Saved," while never fully shedding her pop tart persona.

Her teenybopper past is something she acknowledges in the liner notes for her recent album: “I’m fully aware that when some people hear my name in a musical context, it’s not often equated with anything earth-shattering.”

She elaborated to Santelli about the sentiment. “I’ve always been slightly self-deprecating and honest and that’s truly how I feel,” Moore said. “I totally acknowledge the fact that there are still a lot of people who have yet to understand how important music is to me and how truly passionate I am about being a musician and writing and continuing to grow and challenge myself and push myself towards … who knows what’s next. But it was important to me to establish that from the get-go … to sort of say, ‘OK. Let’s start a new, clean slate here. I get it. I know what I am and I totally understand and I’m fine with that. But that has nothing to do with this record and this music that I’ve written.’ ”

The bubblegum taste in her music has gone stale -- her new musical influences include Todd Rundgren, Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

“It wasn’t until I got a little bit older and I had already, sort of, started a career in the industry that I found myself reaching out and trying to see what else was out there," she said. "I was lucky enough to have these wonderful people in my life that had great, impeccable taste in music and those were the friends that sort of introduced me to everything … I remember sitting in a hotel room in Australia hearing [Rundgren’s] ‘Can We Still be Friends’ for the first time and I was like … ‘Who is this? Who writes music like this? Who’s allowed to sing music like this?' ... It was unlike anything I had ever heard before and to me that was earth-shattering."

-- Yvonne Villareal