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'Ready to be extraordinary' 

Mandy Moore leaves teen pop, focuses on songwriting for new album

When people think of Mandy Moore, they usually picture the happy-go-lucky former teen-pop starlet who has found new life with a respectable movie career. With her new release Wild Hope, Moore, now 23, will shift her focus on a new start to her music career.

"Everybody has a label placed on them, so I'm not too concerned with that," she says by phone from California. "There are worse labels to have. I don't know if this is going to necessarily change people's perception of me -- I don't think it's that dramatic of a change from who I've always been. What you see is what you get. They may think I'm a bit of a goodie-goodie or that I don't have any edge. I'm OK with that. I'll take boring and lazy over the other end of the extreme."

If you weren't a fan of her early work, which included the hit "Candy," you may be happy to learn those days are gone. Moore says she won't be singing the old songs unless they're changed up a bit.

"I don't know if that's part of my catalog or that fans want to hear it," she says. "Fans may want to hear 'Candy,' but we'll Wild Hope-ify it and make it a little more palatable. Other than that, I don't think there's anything people are dying to hear from me."

Her new album hits stores on June 19. Wild Hope is Moore's first foray into songwriting -- a skill that came surprisingly easy for her and one that allowed her to open up emotionally -- something she wasn't afraid of. "I knew that I wanted to be a part of the creative process," she says. "I had something to say and I didn't want to be on stage singing somebody else's words anymore."

However, some of the inspiration for Wild Hope actually came from singing other people's songs. She tackled songs by artists such as Joni Mitchell on 2003's Coverage. Now, she wants to show the next step in her musical career and how she's been influenced by some of those songwriters. "I learned more about myself than anything," she says of the songwriting process for Wild Hope. "It was a totally satisfying experience all around. There's no greater joy than to step back at the end of the day and say, 'I had a part in creating that.' Selfishly, I used it as therapy, I guess. I'm not concerned that I'm putting it all out there. I wouldn't know how to do it aside from being completely honest. I don't regret it."

Moore fought for a lot of creative control on the album so that it would turn out the way she wanted. "I was really adamant about what I wanted this record to be and what it represented to me -- how I wanted it to sound, who I wanted to write with and who I wanted to produce it," she says. "I kind of felt like I have earned the right to choose all of those things, and I wasn't willing to compromise and sacrifice any of that."

She says the new album is everything she wanted it to be and more because she got to work with everyone that she hoped to. She calls the experience "better than anything I've ever done, ever." As she sings in the first single, "Extraordinary," "Now I'm ready to be extraordinary."

The album is two years in the making thanks to a busy movie career which includes two new releases this year -- the highly anticipated comedy License to Wed with Robin Williams in July and August's Dedication with Billy Crudup. While she plans on taking a break from movies this fall -- there's nothing on her schedule at this point -- to focus on the new album and a tour, she would like to stay active in both careers.

"I've been lucky to go back and forth between the two, and people have been accepting of that," she says. "The music career has just been on simmer for a while." While she's busy promoting all of the projects, she says she's happiest talking about the new album, but is also ready for a break before touring. Down the road, she hopes to produce films and get more into the writing process of music, in addition to learning how to play guitar and drums.

Moore hopes the album shows that it's her "time to be confident." With success, it should be the start of a new page in an already storied career.

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