Mandy Moore

MANDY MOORE HAS COME OF AGE – THE driving age. It’s a landmark event in most teens’ lives, the beginning of a new era signifying freedom, maturity and responsibility. It also represents an introduction to gas prices, insurance and fender benders. For the recently turned 16-year-old, just finding time to get behind the wheel is a challenge.

“I don’t get to drive too much. It’s like I’m home for two or three days, then I’m gone for like two or three months. And then I’m back and I get to drive for like two or three days again,” the Orlando, Fla., native said. “It’s so sparse, like you don’t get to have that consistency.”

Moore may not become a world-class driver anytime soon, but she’s definitely on the road to becoming a well-recognized performer. Her devotion to singing and performing, complete with her picture-perfect image and charming teen-age personality, is unrivaled. As unbelievable as it may seem for a young person to shelve driving for a job, Moore wouldn’t have it any other way.

Riding the success of her December ’99 debut on Epic/550 Music, So Real, she has become one of the latest emerging stars in the teen pop-music scene. The album has shipped more than 700,000 units over its few months in stores, and her hit single, “Candy,” has sold more than 480,000 copies, according to SoundScan.

While MTV has undoubtedly contributed to the success of Moore and her music, supporting slots on major tours with the Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync have also done the trick. The audience that screams for the boy bands, as well as teen divas such as Britney and Christina, is a prime candidate for Moore’s brand of upbeat, synthesized pop tunes.

It appears that the young singer has a busy summer lined up with the May 9th release of her sophomore album, I Wanna Be With You – which includes a few new tracks and rereleases from her debut coinciding with the launch of a tour. Dates include support slots for Macy Gray, one-off club shows and a string of radio station concerts.

POLLSTAR talked with Moore during her recent European promo tour stop in Amsterdam and gained some insight into the budding star’s drive for performing, including her experiences with the boy-band tours.

“I started off doing musical theatre when I was about 10,” she said. “And from there … I think my whole goal was to ultimately get where I am today – to be able to perform onstage but sing my own songs.”

Moore signed with Sony’s 550 Music through a chance encounter. While the then-14-year-old was recording a demo, a guy with industry contacts in a neighboring studio overheard her singing and asked for a copy of the demo. 550 picked it up and signed the young performer. She then secured Cara Lewis from William Morris as her agent and Storefront Entertainment’s Jon LeShay as manager.

“Everybody that is on my team I feel like is the best in the industry,” Moore said. “I know I’m new at this but … I have the most amazing people on my side.”

Mandy Moore

The ball was rolling. She recorded what would become her debut album, but performing live was in her heart. Enter the young men of ‘N Sync and their huge ’99 summer tour, on which she landed a support slot. “That was my first time continuously performing my songs. I think I had only done a few shows actually before that,” Moore said.

She jokingly admitted that it “took a few shows to really get in synch with everything,” as the tour was a learning experience. “We started off in a 15-passenger van and a U-Haul,” she remembered. “It was hard, I think, in the beginning because everybody around us – other opening acts and stuff – were all in tour buses. And here we were kind of starting off on the bottom, which I wanted to do. … We wanted to start off and grow into it, not to open all of the Christmas presents before Christmas.”

Moore graduated from the ‘N Sync tour to the Backstreet Boys fall/winter outing, which provided her with a chance to truly test her skills. “It’s always nervous the first night,” she said. “I remember we were in Philadelphia and sound check had went really well and I got to meet a couple of the guys. So the show rolls around and we’re all nervous but so excited. …

“I’m waiting to go on and we didn’t test the microphone like we should’ve done in the beginning to make sure it was on – my ear monitors. So I walk onstage and I start to sing and I don’t hear anything. I don’t hear any music in my ears, no voice of mine.”

It would be a nightmare to some but Moore handled it like a pro. “I went through the whole show blindly, just hearing the echo of my voice and the echo of the beat and the music, trying to stay on,” she said. “I was so upset, I got offstage and I was crying. … I think that was my worst experience.”

Fortunately, Moore is looking forward to the next date. “I miss being on the road. You get into such a pattern of it, you know?” she said. “I want to get back on tour. I think that’s why I’m an artist – I love performing live.”