In 2009 Moore married the musician Ryan Adams, a prolific and critically acclaimed fixture in the alternative-rock and country scenes. Adams, Moore later said, promised to help her create her future albums. But the recorded music never materialized. A New York Times report earlier this year quoted a number of women who accused Adams of sexual impropriety and/or emotional abuse. Across the allegations, a pattern emerges in which Adams would dangle help but end up derailing his supposed protégés. Moore, in that story, said Adams essentially hijacked her career:
She was exiting her teen-pop years, and his reputation as a sensitive, authentic voice provided the artistic credibility she craved. In 2010, Adams offered to work on her next album; when she parted ways with her music manager, Adams discouraged her from working with other producers or managers, she said, effectively leaving him in charge of her music career.
They wrote songs together regularly that Adams promised to record, but never did. He booked them time at his studio, only to replace her with other female artists, she said. And he lashed out in ways that Moore came to consider psychologically abusive.
Moore also told the Times, “His controlling behavior essentially did block my ability to make new connections in the industry during a very pivotal and potentially lucrative time—my entire mid-to-late 20s.” Adams, through a lawyer, said Moore’s story was “completely inconsistent with his view of the relationship” and denied the allegations by the other women. Moore and Adams divorced in 2016, and she later remarried, to Taylor Goldsmith of the band Dawes.
Now, in 2019, her music career resumes approximately a decade after it ended. Her new single, “When I Wasn’t Watching,” not only reintroduces her appealing voice and previews a forthcoming album (its release date and title haven’t been announced). It also seems to address her hiatus—in poignant, widely relatable fashion. “I think everyone’s had the experience of feeling lost and not quite understanding how you’ve found yourself at a certain point in your life,” she said in a statement introducing the song. Knowing her recent backstory deepens the song, but it’s pretty deep on its own.
Anyone expecting a sound akin to the smiley dance numbers and prom-ready ballads that made her famous as a teenager will have to readjust their expectations: This is careful, lovely, folkie rock pop, building on a lineage running from Fleetwood Mac to Haim. Moore and the producer Mike Viola show attention to small, intriguing details, such as the drumbeat that ends each measure in a multi-thwack cul-de-sac. In the slow-circling and memorable chorus, Moore’s voice moves from a solid perch down to an ambiguous, melancholy note. A high, jingling piano line brightens up the bridge, which is the moment the mood climbs from reflective to hopeful.