Unlike Britney Spears’ version of “I Love Rock and Roll” and Christina Aguilera’s contribution to the remake of “Lady Marmalade,” fellow teen-pop spawn Mandy Moore didn’t look to the karaoke machine when choosing a song to cover. Instead, she looked to one of her manager’s favorite artists, a semi-obscure cultish songsmith named John Hiatt.
“I have a great relationship with my manager and he has such wonderful taste in music,” Moore said. “He introduced me to ‘Have a Little Faith in Me’ like three or four years ago, and I just remember falling in love with it, thinking it was so romantic.”
Moore’s version of Hiatt’s 1987 song became the first single off her third album, Coverage, and like the album’s title implies, it’s not alone in being someone else’s song. The dozen tunes that comprise the LP, due October 21, were all previously released — most before the 19-year-old singer was born — by other artists, many of whom aren’t household names.
“It’s a bit of a left turn for me,” said Moore, who scored bubblegum pop hits on her first two albums with the aptly named “Candy” and “Crush.” “They’re not karaoke standards, and most of them weren’t hugely, mega-super successful. [Elton John's] “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” was never released as a single, and I don’t think [the Waterboys] “Whole of the Moon” was ever released here in the States. [Joni Mitchell's] “Help Me” was the highest-charting song, and I think that only made it to #11. Not one song on the album is a #1, but that doesn’t matter. They should have been.”
Moore’s love for such gems was only recently realized. After her manager turned her on to “Have a Little Faith” and Joan Armatrading’s “Drop the Pilot,” the eager pupil mined the rest of Hiatt’s body of work. From there, she discovered similar artists, and continued to repeat the process. After a polished and pre-fabricated pop start, Moore eventually became a certified music geek.
“I went to a record store, and started at the As and ended at the Zs,” she said. “I admitted to the fact that I didn’t own a Joni Mitchell record, so why don’t I just pick up her greatest hits and hear what she’s all about? Then I bought [the 1971 classic] Blue and [1974's] Court and Spark. That’s kind of how I discovered most of these artists. Once I had an understanding of who they are, I dove in and got to know them a little more by going toward their individual albums.”
The idea for a covers album stemmed from Moore’s desire to show off her newfound knowledge of great music; she enjoyed telling her circle of friends about artists like those previously mentioned, as well as XTC, Todd Rundgren and Joan Armatrading, and she wanted to bring the music to her fans.
“Obviously there are going to be people a bit older than me who have memories attached to this music, and the songs definitely hold some sentimental value to them,” she said. “But for some of my friends and people my age who never really discovered this music, it will be a first for them. And how cool is that, to be able to kind of be the one to introduce them to this music that I was unfamiliar with, even a couple of years ago? Hopefully it will get them to listen to the individual artists.”