If you haven’t figured it out yet, Mandy Moore isn’t the 15-year-old Britney-wannabe she once was. Now, at 25, she’s a wife, an accomplished actor and a folk singer — and she wants you to know that her pop past is behind her.

“I don’t look back on those years too fondly,” she says over the phone. “It was a bit embarrassing what I was doing then. It wasn’t the quality pop others were creating in the late ’90s.”

She’s right. The former pop starlet, who rose to fame in 1999 with the middling, sugar coated track Candy, was trying to compete with Spears and Christina Aguilera, but her music mostly fell flat.

Part of the reason for that, she says, was that she didn’t have control over her work, so it wasn’t only up to her which songwriters she chose to work with.

“It’s not like I was a puppet when I was kid, and I enjoyed most of what I was doing, but I would have chosen to work with different people or make a different kind of music,” she reveals.

The road from teen idol to do-it-yourself songwriter has been a long and challenging one, though some people still think Moore has shifted gears over night. That thinking frustrates her.

“I fought really hard to get here and I understand that I’m not going to be everyone’s cup of tea,” she says. “The only thing I take offense with is the idea that all of a sudden I wanted to be different. No, I’m 25 years old. I’ve been working a while to get where I am. It’s funny to me that people would assume that it’s some crazy idea to want to be someone different. It’s just a natural evolution. People are allowed to grow up and evolve.”

Moore’s first significant step away from the pop star shackles came when she recorded Coverage, a record of covers that included her takes on Cat Steven’s Moonshadow and Carly Simon’s Anticipation. She admits that she just recorded songs she liked, despite knowing the record label would disapprove.

Soon after that album was released she left her label and began writing the material that, she hopes, defines her today. The new disc, Amanda Leigh (her first and middle names), picks up where her last disc, Wild Hope, left off. It’s full of passionate acoustic tunes about love, a few louder rockers — though nothing remotely close to her old material — and even a strong, finger-picking folk tune (Bug).

It’s not earth shattering stuff, but it’s clear that Moore is turning into a bonafide songwriter.

It helps that her new hubby is acclaimed musician Ryan Adams — they married in March — who likely could teach her a thing or two about writing infectious and well-respected albums, but for now their two careers are staying separate.

“When you’re with someone who’s in (the) same line of work as you, you can’t help but be slightly influenced and inspired by them,” she says. “But Ryan has his own thing going on as I do. I think he’s the best at what he does, and I appreciate the support he has in my life, but we’re going to keep our two careers and choices quite separate.”

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