Just days before the season premiere of her NBC show “This Is Us,” Mandy Moore dropped a new song and video called “When I Wasn’t Watching.” The song is the lead single from her first album in a decade, which is slated for release early next year. The song was produced by longtime collaborator Mike Viola (Jenny Lewis, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, and who led the power-pop group Candy Butchers) and the video was directed by Lauren Dukoff, photographer/director known for her work with Adele, Beyoncé, and Lady Gaga.
The song’s arrival is doubly significant because it is her first music since her ex-husband Ryan Adams was blasted with multiple accusations of sexual harassment earlier this year; during that time, Moore spoke of Adams, with whom she collaborated extensively, dismissing her musical talent.
“The idea of diving back into music after so much time and personal change was really intimidating to me for a while,” Moore said in a statement accompany the song. “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,” she continued. “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.”
Newly signed to Verve Forecast (a label whose roster also includes such esteemed artists as T Bone Burnett and J.S. Ondara), Moore began recording her upcoming album earlier this year. In a purposeful departure from the more tightly structured pop of her previous material, she’s worked closely with Viola and with her husband, Taylor Goldsmith (singer/guitarist/songwriter for L.A.-based folk-rock band Dawes), creating the album’s lyrics on her own and recording each song live with a full band setup.
“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,” says Moore. “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.”
The song recalls the L.A.-based rock of the early 1970s. “I wanted to make a very California-sounding record — something that feels sunshiny and airy and natural, something you could listen to driving up and down the PCH with all the windows rolled down on a beautiful weekend day,” she said.
Moore has another single due out before the end of the year. “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 said. “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.”