Anne-Marie on her upcoming album: “Everything I write about is honest”
A few hours before Anne-Marie's brief promo performance at the Apple store at Knightsbridge, she was snuggling up on the couch at JW Marriott Singapore, decked in a bright, cropped biker sweater and a good old comfy pair of black joggers. Even though our chat didn't last for more than 10 minutes, the 26-year-old singer-songwriter warmed us up with her bubbly, infectious giggles.
From an early start in dance school and musical theatre at age two and five respectively, the Essex native has carved out a music career since her first release, a song called 'Karate', in 2015. But when Clean Bandit's pulsing single, 'Rockabye' (featuring her vocals) hit the scene in 2016, things started to really heat up.
Before she embarked on her tour through Europe this March, Anne-Marie (whose real name is Anne-Marie Rose Nicholson) stopped by Singapore for an intimate performance at the Apple store in Orchard. While we're more familiar with her songs 'Alarm', 'Ciao Adios', 'Rockabye' and 'Heavy', it wasn't until we heard her perform acoustically that our ears really pricked up. Though she's a relative baby in the music scene, her fans who sang and bobbed their heads along proved that her reach was impressive. We were also the lucky ones who previewed a Marshmello collaboration that was to drop the next day, 'Friends'.
Nobody is a stranger when it comes to unrequited love, and Anne-Marie has reinforced this cold hard truth in her stance. While some may appreciate politely being told that they're a non-sexual entity to their crush, Anne-Marie and Marshmello deliver a stinging, in-your-face confession in their new song: A lifetime parking permit in the friendzone. Before she releases her upcoming debut LP, we chat with the up-and-coming talent on her home ground of Essex, her creative collaborations and her influences.
Who did you listen to growing up? Who would you say you've been influenced by?
I had so many sounds in my head. My mom and dad used to play Prince around the house a lot. Paul Weller, reggae and ska music were also played a lot. I listened to a lot of females: Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys, Missy Elliott — women who wanted other women to feel strong. Alanis Morissette is a major part of my songwriting. She wrote about different things; not necessarily what people would expect from a pop song.
What was your music education like and when did you decide wanted to be a singer?
I went to college to learn music and I met a songwriter and manager and learnt about songwriting. That's what made me fall in love with this actually — the actual writing of the song. In musical theatre, you sing other people's music and you become someone else and what I loved about this was that I could just be myself.
When will you be releasing your upcoming album? What's the creative process behind it?
Very soon. It's scary because it feels like it's taken so long and now it's really soon, and I'm scared. It's very emotional; I hope that there's a song which is for every mood of the day — you can listen to it when you're just about to go out to party when you're on a long drive or when you want to chill out.
What are the themes that you're dealing with in this album? Are they honest depictions of your life?
Everything I write about is honest. I think that's a very important part of being an artist. The more honest I am, the better the music will be. There's a lot about ex-boyfriends, about what's happening in the world right now, about growing up as a female. I want to help younger girls feel better about themselves and help them through that process.
Your tracks with Marshmello and Ed Sheeran will also be included. How do you choose your collaborators?
Most of them come naturally. For the Ed Sheeran collaboration, we've been friends for a really long time and we've always wanted to work with each other. There was this one time when we were in London at the same time and we were like 'Come on, let's just do it'. We got into the studio, had that song and that happened — he's amazing.
Marshmello remixed one of my songs in 2016 and I really loved what he did with it. When he was in London, I went into the studio with him just to catch up and he was playing this little guitar riff in the background. I was like, 'I need to write to this song.' You can't do enough collaborations. I think it's an amazing thing, especially when it's something like 'Rockabye' where there's Clean Bandit, Sean Paul and me in one song and we're all so different, yet the song is so amazing.
Out of all your songs, which one would be your favourite?
I think from a career point of view, 'Alarm' was a very big moment for me because it was the first song that really spread worldwide and got people to know who I was. But there are other songs on the album which are really important and aren't necessarily singles. That's the beauty of an album because you can put songs in there that won't necessarily go on the radio. There's one called 'Perfect' and it helps me a lot so hopefully, it will help a lot of other people too.
Musicians such as Blur, Alison Moyet, Gorillaz, Olly Murs are all from Essex. What's in the water in Essex and why do you think it's a breeding ground for musicians?
I feel like where I'm from, it's a small town and it's not accessible to be in the music industry when you're there. But when you're in London, it's easier and you're basically closer to it. In Essex, because it doesn't seem like you can get in the industry, you're doing it because you're passionate about it and that's where it all comes from. I'd say we're all passionate!
Glamour previously mentioned that 'There's more to Essex than fake tan and boobs'. Describe Essex in three words to some of us who haven't been.
Community, happy and friendly. I feel like all my friends from home are really friendly and genuine. Plus, it's hard to have that stereotype because I literally have no boobs and I haven't got a fake tan. (laughs)
Listen to Anne-Marie on Spotify.