It’s called “Invisible Ink,” but it will forever be known as The Song That Broke Jack.
Viewers have heard singer-turned-actress Mandy Moore show off her impressive vocal chops on a variety of cover songs over the years on This Is Us (“Moonshadow” “Willin’”), but Tuesday’s episode of NBC’s hit family drama featured Moore singing not only an original song, but a poignant one co-written by her fiancé, Dawes frontman Taylor Goldsmith.
In the episode, titled “Sometimes,” then-aspiring singer Rebecca (Moore) takes a road trip to Los Angeles with then-new boyfriend Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), where she meets with some record executives. She plays them a demo of “Invisible Ink,” a Joni Mitchell-inspired tune with lyrics like “When the world goes on without me / Will I feel it take its toll?” and “Turns out all my mistakes were forgivable / And the time I spent lost was a sign that all the ink is invisible / If you give it, give it enough time.” She ultimately receives rather positive but not gushing feedback, and when she presses one exec, he tells her that she’s “Pittsburgh good.” (Ouch.) After Jack has an emotional meeting with the parents of a deceased solider, he asks her to sing the song, which ultimately reduces him to tears.
NBC has released a behind-the-scenes video of the making of “Invisible Ink,” which you can exclusively preview here. It was This Is Us composer/music supervisor Siddhartha Khosla who approached Goldsmith about the possibility of a collaboration, as he was “dying” to work with him, being a “huge fan” of the singer-songwriter. “I was thrilled to get that call,” says Goldsmith, who co-wrote the song with Khosla. “Sid had a whole plan of attack, how to emotionally kind of guide us with what’s going with Rebecca, and he gave me all the tools to help contribute what I could.”
As Moore tells EW, she wasn’t the one who brought Goldsmith into the mix. “Sid approached Taylor outside of me — they did it on their own. It was such a surprise.… That my own soon-to-be-husband got to write from my character’s perspective was pretty meta and weird, but it was so cool. The song is really beautiful.”
This Is Us executive producer Isaac Aptaker tells EW that the producers had been talking about working with Goldsmith for a while. “[W]e wanted to bring him in for something,” he says, noting that Moore “was so excited from the beginning. They collaborate on stuff outside the show, and he’s part of the This is Us extended family, so she was all in.” Adds This Is Us exec producer Elizabeth Berger: “They just absolutely love working together, and they find a lot of joy from it, so we were just looking for the perfect fit.”
Check out the video to see Moore and Goldsmith recording the song, and then click here to see what the This Is Us producers revealed about the big moments in the rest of the episode.