Mandy Moore on Playing ’60s Nashville Hero Sue Brewer in Audible Original Podcast ‘The Boar’s Nest’: ‘Such an Important Story’

The Boars Nest, Mandy Moore

If there had never been Sue Brewer, there may never have been the Outlaw Country movement led by Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash.

Though the artists already knew each other, in the mid-‘60s, Brewer gave them a safe haven in her Nashville living room, dubbed the Boar’s Nest, to create music and form lifelong friendships. She believed in them when naysayers in the Nashville music establishment doubted them and provided a shelter from the outside world, including, at times, their wives.

Brewer’s story is told in The Boar’s Nest: Sue Brewer and the Birth of Outlaw Country Music, an eight-part Audible Original podcast, debuting Thursday (March 14).  

Brewer, a single mother who worked three jobs, played no instrument herself and never got the recognition she deserved for the outsized role she played as their confidante and muse, remaining an unsung hero. “As a woman who wasn’t looking necessarily for a romantic connection with these guys, she really just wanted to give them this safe space,” says This is Us actress Mandy Moore, who plays Brewer. “They had tons of people pulling at them from every different direction and she didn’t want anything from them. She just loved the music. She wanted to help them.”

The Boars Nest, Mandy Moore
Courtesy of Audible

The Outlaw movement, which also included artists like David Allan Coe, hit its stride in the ‘70s and ‘80s, with the music taking on a rougher edge than the overtly commercial, polished, smooth sounds coming out of Nashville. The music proved extremely popular with fans: 1976 compilation album Wanted! The Outlaws, which featured songs from Jennings, Nelson, Jessi Colter and Tompall Glaser, was the first country album to be certified platinum for sales of one million by the RIAA.

In addition to Moore, the audio drama’s voice cast includes The Bear’s Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Shel Silverstein, Brothers Osborne‘s TJ Osborne as Johnny Cash, Deadwood’s W. Earl Brown as Waylon Jennings, John Hoogenakker as Kris Kristofferson and Jake Hart as “Cowboy” Jack Clement.

The series was produced by Jagged Films’ Mick Jagger and Victoria Pearman, Oso Studios’ Dub Cornett, and Gerber Pictures’ Bill Gerber with Fresh Produce Media. Highly respected Nashville journalist/historian Holly Gleason, playwright Rachel Bonds and Cornett wrote the script. Kimberly Senior served as director.

Moore was unaware of Brewer’s story until Cornett sent her the script but was immediately onboard to amplify Brewer’s vital role in country music history. “This is such an incredible and important story to be able to bolster this woman’s legacy,” she says. “The history has sort of been erased and that’s what’s so great about being a part of a project like this: It is almost this little time capsule capturing this woman’s story in this very, very special period of Nashville’s history in the country music scene that I feel hasn’t been told in quite this way before.”

Because there is so little archival material on Brewer and many of the artists she fostered have died, Moore had virtually no footage to base her character on. “That’s what’s so tough about playing a person like this who did exist, but there’s so little out there about her,” Moore says. “It’s not the day and age we live in now where there would be an online social media presence that would leave a footprint. Even her home is no longer there.”

Instead, Moore says she leaned heavily on Cornett, who was close friends with pioneering producer/songwriter Clement, and the scripts. “The scripts kind of spoke for themselves. The writing was imbued with so much emotion and so much of her quiet ferocity and tenacity,” she sa

It was the writers’ intent to capture her quiet, yet indominable spirit. “Sue Brewer was the glue and the rock for some of the most iconic, wild-eyed creative spirits at their most vulnerable,” Gleason says. “Before Willie, Kris, Waylon or even Johnny were superstars, they were songwriters slamming against a system that didn’t know what to do with them. She did: Give them a safe harbor late at night, remind them why they were special, press them to take their songwriting even further and dust them off and remind them they were great when they were on the verge of quitting. In a town that famously doesn’t give credit to the women who are midwives and catalysts for legends who will break the rules, Dub wanted to make sure the single mother who worked two and three jobs was celebrated for the massive contribution she made to Outlaw Country. Without her, who knows? But I don’t want to think about it.”

Moore recorded her part when she was more than nine months pregnant, and says she loved the ability to “jump in because I’m not on camera.” Compared to when she voices a character in an animated feature, such as in Disney’s 210 Rapunzel tale, Tangled and is working in complete isolation, Moore relished recording her part over Zoom with other actors or working with Brown doing their scenes together in separate studios. “It was great,” she says. “With animation, you’re never in the same place as somebody. You’re interacting with yourself or reading with a director. Getting to read with these performers you were in the scene with made all the difference.”

This was Moore’s first podcast, and she enjoyed “flexing a different muscle” knowing that her voice had to do the heavy lifting given the lack of a visual. “I’ve never done something quite like this before,” she says. “It’s so dynamic. We really have to rely on our voices to tell the stories and to draw people in. You get hyper focused on just listening to what someone’s doing.”

Moore hopes that by the podcast shining a light on Brewer, it will elevate her story and others like her. “There are lots of people like Sue Brewer out in the world that are the nucleus of supporting people to be the best version of themselves. They’re not looking to be in the limelight, but they have this incredibly intrinsic and special quality that helps draw out the best in other people,” she says. “I hope it helps us recognize that those kinds of people exist in all corners of the world, so we’re not just left posthumously acknowledging them. They deserve in the moment to be celebrated.”

Silverstein and Vince Matthews, another songwriter Brewer fostered, paid tribute to Brewer in their 1972 song, “On Susan’s Floor.” Recorded by Gordon Lightfoot and Hank Williams Jr., among other artists, the lyrics warmly recall the refuge she provided: “Like crippled ships that made it/ Through a storm and finally reached a quiet shore/ The homeless found a home on Susan’s floor.”

Brewer, who died of cancer in 1981 at the age of 48, was  inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1990 for the role she played encouraging songwriters.