'Best summer vacation ever': Mandy Moore is taking her toddler on tour after 'This Is Us' ends

To a certain generation, Mandy Moore is the midriff-baring pop starlet of MTV’s “TRL” heyday in the late-’90s.

Others fondly recall her swoony turn in 2002’s “A Walk to Remember.”

And for the past six years, Moore has unspooled a criminally underrated performance as Rebecca Pearson, matriarch supreme, on NBC's “This Is Us,” which airs its series finale on May 24. 

In between, she flexed her honeyed voice on a few albums, but until 2020’s “Silver Landings,” hadn’t released new material for 11 years.

On Friday, Moore, 38, continues her musical renaissance with “In Real Life,” a collection of 11 heartfelt songs that stay true to the rootsy leanings of “Silver Landings,” but also expand her melodic instincts. With sincere lyrics circling love, memories, motherhood and hope, Moore taps into relatable emotions with a deft poetic touch.

Mandy Moore is ready to step out with a new album and her first tour in 15 years as "This Is Us" winds down.

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On June 10, the multihyphenate will embark on a spate of 26 dates through July. Her live crew, she jokes, is three-fourths of the alt-folk band Dawes, including her husband, Taylor Goldsmith (guitar), brother-in-law Griffin Goldsmith (drums) and Wylie Gelber (bass).

Of course, Moore and Goldsmith’s biggest hit, 15-month-old Gus, will also come along for the adventure.

A delightful conversationalist, Moore talked with USA TODAY about her love of ’80s music, the end of “This Is Us” and how touring might be “the best summer vacation ever.”

Question: As someone who remembers your “Candy” days of 1999, I’m curious if you consider yourself an actor who sings or a singer who acts?

Mandy Moore: Oh, that's tough. I don't know if I necessarily make any real distinction. I just feel really lucky that I get to do a bit of both. I just try to stay present and wear whatever given hat I'm supposed to be wearing at a time. I feel like my day job obviously for the last six years or so has really been a bit more focused on the acting side of things. But I don’t really define myself one way. I just say I’m a musician and an actress.

Q: Every time I see Chrissy Metz sing on the show, I always wondered if you guys ever sang together on the set?

Moore: (Laughs) I would love to. I can't compete with Chrissy – she’s a real singer. I‘m like, I just like to sing musical theater and she's so incredible.

"In Real Life" is the follow-up to Mandy Moore's 2020 album, "Silver Landings."

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Q: A lot of the songs on this new album have an ’80s sheen to them, like “Little Dreams” with its synthesizers. You’ve also mentioned “Living in The In Between” is sort of an homage to R.E.M. When did you become a fan of the music of that decade, given that you were just a child during it?

Moore: When I was young, I started navigating my way through different artists and catalogs and one person led me to the next. And living with another musician – I mean, my husband is a music connoisseur and I love nothing more than him introducing me to things.

Q: What bands from that era might have influenced this record?

Moore. I think a lot of Crowded House; not really while we were making the record but writing it. There’s always going to be some Joni Mitchell and Bonnie Raitt and Fleetwood Mac.

Q: How do you feel about going back on the road, since it’s been a while?

Moore: It’s been 15 years! I don’t remember how it feels to be on stage! (Laughs.) Is it going to feel how I remember? I’m nervous and excited. We played a small residency in LA right before the last record. That was electric and so much fun and packed and sweaty with people singing along. It was such a buoy for all of us.

Before Mandy Moore became well-known for portraying Rebecca Pearson on NBC's "This Is Us," she explored pop stardom as a teen and is now releasing her seventh album, "In Real Life."

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Q: And you and Taylor will be on a tour bus with baby Gus?

Moore: Yes. It might be a terrible idea, but I’m also like, this is the best summer vacation ever.

Q: Have you asked any other musicians who tour with their young kids for advice?

Moore: We’ve reached out to so many people to ask things like, how do you keep a baby in the bunk on the bus? I know it’s going to be a crapshoot, but one day I’ll be able to tell him, you know, you went on tour with mom and dad when you were 16 months old.

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Q: The timing of the record release dovetails nicely with the end of “This Is Us.”

Moore: I feel lucky that I’ll have an emotional catharsis and means of expressing myself after six years other than another TV show, which I’d be holding up and comparing. I get to immerse myself in something creative and wildly different and have a little bit of time to process the end of the show with the benefit of not being at home with nothing to do. I don’t know what is next at this point, but I’m excited to give myself time to breathe and just enjoy life.