- 05 Aug 21
The bubbly British musician is slated to perform 'Therapy: The Live Experience' this Saturday for her ever-evolving global fanbase, and her excitement at sharing her sophomore album with the world is palpable.
Anne-Marie is comfortable sharing the spotlight - an intriguing trait for a woman in the cut-throat business of pop music.
Since her career began, the English singer-songwriter has made a name for herself by offering her talents to others - namely, for a start, Rudimental. Back in 2013, the young artist was trying to break into the mainstream when the Hackney drum 'n' bass band enlisted Anne-Marie as their vocal lead and a touring member of their outfit. Hopping on We The Generation tracks with Will Heard and Dizzee Rascal platformed her effortlessly powerful, rich voice, and further collaborations followed with David Guetta, Marshmello, Sean Paul, Clean Bandit and Lauv. Top 10 solo offerings 'Ciao Adios', '2002' and 'Alarm' cemented her One To Watch status.
With a growing list of superstar names noticing her spell-binding pop potential, and an infectious personality allowing friendships to blossom with UK contemporaries like Ed Sheeran, the only way for Anne-Marie was up.
Nabbing a few moments with the Essex-born pop star is easier said than done: Anne-Marie is phenomenally in demand since her sophomore album dropped on July 23rd. With the Covid-19 pandemic delaying the project’s release, three years have passed since the release of her massively successful debut album, Speak Your Mind. Only slowing down for mere moments, the singer turned her focus to a YouTube documentary and a judge slot on The Voice UK. Rest and relaxation don’t appear to be on her radar...
“I definitely am confused about how I used to do this all the time!” the 30-year-old laughs, speaking to Hot Press over Zoom from her London home. “Since having a break, going full-pelt back into an album launch has been a bit overwhelming - but obviously having new music out is the best. Finally talking about Therapy is beyond cool: it’s honestly just great to be chatting about songs other than ‘2002’ and ‘Friends’.”
While some may have assumed that Anne-Marie’s second full-length project would emphasise her solo artistry, the ‘Don’t Play’ chart-topper instead tapped Niall Horan, Little Mix, Digital Farm Animals and KSI for song slots.
“I’m actually the one who said I wanted all of these collaborations on the second album,” the performer, born Anne-Marie Rose Nicholson, insists. “At the start, after I teamed up with Marshmello, David Guetta and a few other big artists, the label wanted me to do solo songs – because they didn’t want me to become known for only being the featured artist. I never felt that way because I was the one writing the tracks. It’s not like I’m just hopping on another song for the sake of it, you know what I mean? I’ve always felt really comfortable with collaborations, especially on this album. We all worked really closely on the songs together, because we had nothing to do during lockdown.
“I’m very much the type of person to say that I need a break, and then I get bored and feel the need to do something,” Anne-Marie continues, grinning. “That’s why I ended up working on The Voice and the Music & Therapy documentary during lockdown - I hate stopping. I know that I need to learn how to pause, but it’s been fun working with all of these amazing artists.”
Recently joining forces with Mullingar musician Niall Horan on their No. 1 hit ‘Our Song’, was Anne-Marie intimidated to work with an artist who has such a notoriously devoted fanbase?
“To be honest, I do feel like my experience with my fanbase is totally different to other people’s. I don’t know that for sure, but I always feel like my fans are very respectful of me and my mental health. They know that I get really anxious in social situations, so they’re very considerate towards me. I’m not sure if other people feel that way, but I did notice when I did a song with Niall and Little Mix – everyone I’ve collaborated with, really – that their fanbases are just so big. I’m normally on Twitter and reply all the time, but when I did ‘Our Song’ with Niall, all I could see was followers requesting the track on the radio all day and all night long. I couldn't even try to respond to all of them! Some of his fans mightn’t have heard of me before, so it’s wonderful that they now know who I am.”
With a string of chart hits and booming streaming numbers, the pressure for Album Number Two has always been a heavy burden for artists who may not have had major labels behind them beforehand. For the East Tilbury musician, her impulse to consistently go for gold was initially sparked by her martial arts training.
“I’ve definitely had to learn how to pull back from analysing reviews or reading social media comments. That was a topic I had to speak with my therapist about every week. Even before the music industry, when I did karate, it was all about learning to compete and win a medal. As a result, competition has always been in my head. Wanting to beat other people and be at the top is not a great mentality to hold when it comes to the music industry. I had to figure out how to judge my own success without comparing myself to other people, because I’ve always wanted to be real and authentically me. That’s winning, for me, rather than being number one. Being able to sell out venues and do shows is more important to me. Obviously being top of the charts is brilliant, but it’s so damaging to think that if you don’t land those slots, then you’re failing. It’s been empowering learning how to change the way my brain works, in that sense.”
Much has changed in Anne-Marie’s life since stepping on stage with Rudimental eight years ago: would the pop star have any retrospective advice for the hungry young artist of 2013?
“You know what? That version of Anne-Marie was probably the most like how I feel now. It was the in-between bit that got sort of screwed up,” she muses. “When I was with Rudimental, it was so easy because I had no pressure to be a soloist. I was singing their songs, I was surrounded by 20 people on stage each time - it was a totally different experience of what I thought the music industry would be like. It was later, when I felt like I had to write a hit song in every single session, that the pressure felt mad to me. I also realised that I don’t like to be perceived, which is terrifying when your job is partially to be looked at all the time. The Rudimental Anne-Marie was quite similar to soloist Anne-Marie, but the middle part was a tough process to get through. The anxiety of becoming a lone artist was hard."
Interestingly, women in the pop stratosphere have been calling for consideration of their mental health in increasing numbers over the past few years. From the Britney Spears conservatorship controversy to numerous artists discussing anxiety, personality disorders (such as Madison Beer on her debut album Life Support) and body image issues, the tide appears to be turning. That being said, the music industry remains rife with employer abuse, discrimination and hardship, especially for those who feel their position remains too vulnerable to speak for themselves.
“To me, I’ve never been worried about telling people how I feel, which is lucky. It would have been terrifying if I felt like I couldn’t speak,” Anne-Marie remarks, noting that her own social media platform has been noticeably forward when it comes to mental health. “Throughout my time as an artist, I’ve tried to be vocal about it all the time - whether it’s in an Instagram caption or in a song. I’ve always been honest with people. If I look back at when we were younger, and we’d watch people like Britney and Amy Winehouse get bombarded with paparazzis and press – it’s frightening. I wanted to somehow try to break the stigma of being followed. I’ve always tried to be the opposite of what people assume a pop star is meant to be, just to prove a point. We’re not how we come across. It’s quite a deep one to talk about because there are so many issues there, but I love that people are speaking out about mental health now. It should be treated the same as if it’s a physical problem. Our brain is an organ, so it’s a physical illness if we have a problem within our mind. If I have the power to write about it, then I will.”
A more recent example that comes to mind is that of Raye. The prolific 23-year-old singer and gifted songwriter has been signed to Polydor since 2014, releasing EPs and singles - but never a fully-produced album. Despite signing a four-album deal, Raye claims that the label has denied her the right to share finished music, tweeting "I have had albums on albums of music sat in folders collecting dust, songs I am now giving away to A-list artists because I am still awaiting confirmation that I am good enough to release an album.”
MNEK, Rina Sawayama and Charli XCX, among others, spoke out in support of Raye, with the South Londoner eventually choosing to part ways with Polydor. As a fellow singer-songwriter in the same circle of the pop world, Anne-Marie teamed up with the ‘Call On Me’ and 'Secrets' vocalist to pen Therapy track ‘x2’. Does Raye’s experience further point out the industry’s punishing nature for young artists (who are all-too-often women of colour)?
“I feel for her. I’m still trying to keep in touch with her and make sure she’s alright as often as I can. She got into the industry so young, whereas I got into it a bit later on, so I hope she can find her way and feel happy with herself. I can only speak from my personal experience, really. My own problems really came from me not thinking I was good enough. I hope it’s not the same for her situation, because she’s literally one of the best songwriters ever - so I truly hope she doesn’t feel that way."
"It’s difficult, especially in her case because she’s equally a songwriter and an artist, whereas I never go into a session and write for someone else," Anne-Marie notes. "I’ve never been branded just a songwriter. That’s also annoying for me, because some people never see me as a songwriter but I do write my tracks. It’s a tough balance, it’s almost like you can’t be both. You’re trying to prove all the time that you can write music and be a pop star at the same time.”
Catch Therapy: The Live Experience this Saturday, August 7th.
• Anne Marie will play Dublin's 3Arena on the May 3rd, 2022 as part of her 'Dysfunctional' tour.