‘Making music is therapy for me’ — Anne-Marie of Rockabye fame

Soon to release her second studio album, Anne-Marie talks about her latest collaboration with Rudimental,  spreading positivity through music and how to be healthy and productive during the lockdown

Karan Pillai Published :  25th September 2020 06:00 AM   |   Published :   |  25th September 2020 06:00 AM


Not many in the music industry today have the perfect mix of raw talent and charm like Anne-Marie. Add a dash of humour and you get a young singer-songwriter who has won over her fans with her uplifting music as well as a refreshingly cheerful personality. Which is why, when she said in an earlier interview with a British publication that she just wants to make people smile (with her music), we weren’t surprised at all. You may find usual suspects like a break-up song here and there in her tracklist, but mostly it comprises songs that urge us to break boundaries, become free from shackles, learn to accept the way we are, and most importantly realise the fact that perfection lies within. This is something that she has tried to apply in her own life as well, whether it is as a child actor in the West End production Les Misérables, or learning shotokan (a style of karate) to earn a black belt in the martial art.

The 29-year-old singer from Essex has so far released an EP, Karate (2015), and a studio album Speak Your Mind (2018) and is currently working on another, from which she has already released three tracks —  Birthday, Her, and To Be Young (a collaboration with Doja Cat). Concurrently, she has also released a new track called Come Over, a collaboration with Rudimental, the British band that gave the artiste her first big break. “I’ve been good friends with Rudimental and had toured with them for years. So, working with them again has been amazing. They’re so talented and great to be around,” she says about her chemistry with the group.

Anne-Marie (Pic by Hayley Louisa Brown)

One would remember that it was a collaboration with another British band, Clean Bandit, four years ago, that propelled her onto the high road to success. Titled Rockabye, the multi-platinum track remained number one on the UK Singles Chart for over six weeks and peaked at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100. It has since remained her biggest blockbuster to date, besides other hits like 2002 (co-written with Ed Sheeran), and Friends (a collaboration with Marshmello). 

As she gears up to release more tracks from her upcoming album, she spoke to us about her evolution as a songwriter, how she thinks music can help spread positivity, staying mentally healthy during the pandemic and her unique warm-up trick before performances. Excerpts:

It has been a strange year so far. Do you want to share a few thoughts with your fans during these distressing times?
Hey! I just want to say that I hope everyone is doing well and are safe. It’s been a pretty tough time for everyone being inside within their homes but I hope it has given everyone some time to reflect, think, plan and get ready to get going.

Do you have a message that you want to share through your latest track, Come Over?
It is about realising that you’ve done wrong in a relationship and wanting to amend that. That can mean anything from apologising or fighting for them back. But ultimately, it’s about realising your mistakes and learning from that.

Is virtual music video production the future? How else do you think this pandemic has affected the music industry in general?
I filmed my latest video To Be Young (ft. Doja Cat) in my house. It was a lot of fun but it was also hard (laughs). I hope it isn’t the future as I prefer to work with a big creative team on videos. Since they are the reality, for now, we have to make it work. I think it has affected the industry in both bad and good ways — in the sense that it has made everyone re-think how they do everything. As for me, I really can’t wait to get on the road!

A still from Ciao Adios

Earlier, you had opened up about how the lockdown can affect mental health. How do you think one can ensure that they remain self-sufficient and happy during the lockdown?
I definitely think that it has affected everyone’s mental health. We were designed to be around other humans, so, what we can do is figure out who we really are and what makes us happy. Even if you don’t have any hobbies you can create your own ways to be happy. I’ve been doing some art, growing vegetables, cooking, watching documentaries, learning languages and gaining more knowledge about the world.

How important do you think is the role of music in spreading positivity? Also, what can musicians do for the general good during the pandemic?
I think people forget how effective music is. That’s why when I write a song, I need to have a strong message in the lyrics and mean something because it could be getting through to someone who needs it and can relate. I never take for granted what my song could possibly do for someone. I think that people in the music industry and those who are associated with platforms should concentrate on what they put out into the world and use it for positivity, good practices and charities.

Anne-Marie with Ed Sheeran in 2002 (acoustic)

Could you tell us how your approach to songwriting has evolved and in what ways does music fulfil you?
For the first year, I really was learning how to write songs as I had never done it before. The more I wrote, the more different techniques I gained. Sometimes I go in with a title, sometimes just a sentence and sometimes just a melody… and sometimes nothing at all! Until I hear a beat or chords, and it just comes to me naturally on the day. So, I’ve learnt to not have ‘a way’ but just let it happen naturally, especially when working with other people. I think being flexible and having fun is key. Music fulfils me in the same way — it makes me feel so happy. Writing a song is like therapy for me.

You are well known for your sharp and intense vocals. What measures do you take to maintain a consistent level of articulation?
I warm-up before I sing, which is basically me blowing through a straw in a bottle, which sounds crazy on paper (laughs). I always try to be as clear as possible in my message and pronunciation, as I know my fan base is present all over the world. Hence, it’s important that I articulate well. I also want people to feel what I’m saying, so emotion is a huge part of it.

Anne-Marie during an earlier performance

Lastly, with global attention more than ever on the Black Lives Matter movement, what changes do you want to see in the society to make the world a better place for them to live in? 
I want to see more involvement through various cultures such as TV adverts, make-up tutorials, music videos, etc. It’s something that big companies can be better at by making sure that diversity is shown clearly. For me, it’s about being involved and working alongside black charities and sharing information about racism, history and knowledge to ensure that people really understand the movement. Knowledge and change are the key; so is celebrating all cultures and backgrounds since they are all beautiful.

Anne-Marie in Rockabye (ft. Clean Bandit & Sean Paul)

(You can contact the writer via mail at karan.pillai@newindianexpress.com or follow him on Twitter @karan_pillai)