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Anne-Marie Weighs In on Diss Tracks, Being a Difficult Teen and Pop Stardom: Interview

Anne-Marie
Courtesy of Damon Baker

In case you haven’t been made aware, Anne-Marie is an absolute treasure.

The singer, songwriter, and former karate world champion dropped her debut solo single “Karate” back in 2015, and she’s been knocking out an endless stream of globe-shaking pop releases ever since, from the stellar “Do It Right” to the perfect “Ciao Adios.”

Of course, she’s maintained her status as one of our most reliable rising pop stars with her latest tune, “Heavy,” a wistful, delicate ode to a relationship turning cold. With all these audio accomplishments in mind, we hopped on the phone with Anne-Marie to uncover just what makes her this precise level of amazing.

I wanna talk very quickly about “Ciao Adios.” That was obviously one of pop’s biggest triumphs of the year, in terms of commercial success and critical acclaim. What was it like seeing the song take off like that, and did it feel any different to when “Rockabye” blew up?
It’s always amazing when you see people liking your stuff, you don’t ever really know what people are gonna feel about it. It felt a little bit different to “Rockabye,” in the sense that obviously “Ciao Adios” is my own song, but it’s the same in regards to the fact that it’s just the best feeling when people are actually hearing it, and letting me know they love the song. I’m really happy that people liked it.

Due to all the success you’ve had, a lot of people—very accurately—refer to you as one of 2017’s breakout stars. How do you feel about that?
I’m not sure. It’s funny to me that people still see me as a breakout artist, because obviously they haven’t seen me for the past five or six years working to get to this point… but obviously I don’t mind it! [Laughs] It’s still nice to be recognized. But for me, I try not to set any goals, or try and see what’s gonna happen, because I don’t wanna be let down or disappointed that something didn’t happen the way I thought it was gonna happen. If it’s good then it’s good, and if it doesn’t work out then… I’ll release another song!

Yes, that’s a good plan! So, I’ll assume that was the strategy when it came to choosing “Heavy,” but was there any particular reason why you chose it over the x-amount of other songs on your album?
With this song particularly, I wanted to show people a different side of me. With “Alarm” and “Ciao Adios,” they were quite angry songs about bad ex-boyfriends, and I didn’t want people to think that’s just what I was like. And I am like that, I do have those feelings, but I just wanted to put out this more vulnerable, soft side of me—because I am vulnerable and I am an emotional person, and I wanted people to see that. But it is quite hard choosing what single’s gonna be next. I don’t have a specific plan as to what I feel should be the next single, I think at that time it just needs to make sense with my life.

You’ve also filmed a video for “Heavy.” Can you give us a teaser about what we might be able to expect?
Yeah, so we went to Ukraine for this video, and it’s a very beautiful place. It’s about me and a boy, and me basically trying to… I feel like in this song, I’m kind of having a word with myself, like, “Come on, we need to be a bit more honest about how we’re feeling here, because it’s kinda gone downhill, we don’t really know what’s happening.” So it’s an interesting video, I’m excited for people to see it!

Me too! So, you’re probably tired of hearing this question, but I feel like it’s my duty to ask: Is there anything you can tell us about the album?
Yeah, of course! I feel like it has a lot on there, a lot of different vibes. A lot of different subjects that I wanted to talk about. I didn’t wanna just talk about heartbreak or bad exes, though I know that I could do a whole album like that, but I’ve decided to speak about a lot more things now. I feel like the albums I grew up listening to—for example, Eminem, Lauryn Hill, Christina Aguilera—they all spoke about real stuff that was happening in their life and everyone else’s life. I have a few songs about what’s going on in the world, self-love, and growing up in this day and age. There’s a lot of different vibes on there, and I hope there’s a song for everyone.

Putting aside your solo stuff, you’ve had an equally great year when it comes to collaborations: “Remember I Told You,” “You Need My Love,” “Either Way”—it’s just banger central! What’s your secret to landing all these tunes?
I truly just go with my gut. I mean, you get sent a lot of songs to collaborate on when you’re a singer, and I do listen to them all and I have an initial feeling about them. One, I need to love the song, obviously, and two, I need to connect with it. Because if I gotta sing it live, or even sing on the track, I need to believe what I’m saying. So it all comes down to the song meaning; if I don’t feel like the song’s my vibe, then I won’t do it. So hopefully they’re all bangers, I don’t know, I just like ‘em!

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Do you think a substantial part of being a good pop star is really just having a great ear for songs? Because obviously you can be super talented in so many different ways as an artist, whether it’s writing, dancing, singing, but if the material falls short, there’s not much that can completely make up for that.
I do feel like you have to have a good ear for it. I feel as an artist it’s important, for me, to write, and that’s a big part of what my journey is—being able to write my stories and talk about stuff. And I think a really big part of being someone in the industry that people can connect with is about connecting with them. You have to make time for fans and you really need to appreciate them. You have to remember that if they weren’t buying, playing, or streaming your music, you wouldn’t be in the charts and people wouldn’t be hearing your music. So I feel like you have to have a lot more than songs. For me, it’s a lot about personality, if you can connect with the audience, y’know?

Yeah, I agree! And also a part of being a pop star: social media! Has anyone told you that you’re amazing at Twitter?
[Laughs] NO! I just try and speak how I normally would to anybody, y’know? I want people to see that I’m just living the life that everyone else is living. I don’t want to come across a certain way just because I’m a singer, I want people to understand that I go through the same stuff. So I try to be really open and honest… on every social media platform actually, so yeah, I hope that comes across well!

No lie, I would 100% buy a coffee table book with your best tweets. You should package it with the album.
YES!

You recently tweeted about this massive puzzle you’ve been working on. What’s the status on that?
Well, I’ve been away for a while, so that picture I tweeted was the last time I’ve been in contact with the puzzle. I got back today, and I plan on doing a little bit more. I’m gonna actually tweet it after we get off this phone call! I’ll show you my progress! I’m sure everyone’s wondering how it’s doing. [Laughs]

You’ve spoken about being a difficult teenager before. It’s so hard to imagine you like that! Do you have a specific tale or something to help paint a clearer picture of what you were like?
I think I started off just a little bit cheeky and loud in class. And then I just became a bit angry. I dunno why. I started not enjoying school and that made me misbehave, and I didn’t really like being a teenager at all. But obviously now looking back I just think, “Ugh, you horrible… human.” I feel so sorry for my parents! They had to deal with it a lot. I’m glad I had karate because that helped me out quite a lot. But yeah, I’m not sure why. My nan died when I was thirteen and I think that had a big impact on my behavior, but other than that I think I just enjoyed being a little loud and cheeky, so I played off that!

You just mentioned karate, so I have to ask: If you were to form an all-female, music-making, ass-kicking group—we’re talking karate moves in music videos, the full deal—who else would you want to in that group with you?
I would have Pink. I would have Sporty Spice—actually, all of the Spice Girls, ‘cause they’re pretty cool. I would have Beyoncé, Rihanna, Alanis Morissette, Lauryn Hill, and Erykah Badu.

Amazing! And I gotta say, I love the revamped Anne-Marie logo, with the various emojis replacing the hyphen.
Oh, yeah! I love that too.

It’s currently a heart, right?
Yeah. ‘Cause when I do my signature, I draw a heart in the middle, so we kinda just got it from that. And then my creative team decided to have it change. I really get bored of things staying the same all the time, so they were like, “This really works for you because we can switch it up for whatever happens!”

So you think you’ll switch it up for each song, depending on the mood of it?
Exactly! That’s my idea, and I love that I can put anything I want in the middle. There’s like a plane one, so if I’m touring I can use that for the posters and yeah, it’s actually really cool.

If you ever release a diss track you could use the poop emoji.
The what emoji?

The poop emoji.
The WHAT emoji?

Oh my God, I can’t believe you’re making me scream this: POOP.
OH. [Laughs] OH MY GOD! That’s definitely got to be one in the future!

On that subject though, if another artist pissed you off, do you think you’d ever get to the point where you’d release a diss song about them? Or would you rather take the high road—or take it to private messages?
I don’t know! It depends on who it is I guess, and what they’re saying. If it’s just silly I wouldn’t respond, but I would probably love to write songs about that because it’s such a good subject and it’d spark a lot of lines in my brain. But I probably wouldn’t make it obvious, I’d just phrase it a little bit weird so no one really knows what I’m talking about… but I love all that stuff! [Laughs] I love when rappers have beef songs, they can be really funny. But hopefully no one thinks badly of me, so hopefully that won’t happen.

One last question! So, the year’s sort of coming to an end. Do you have any reflections looking back, any goals moving forward?
Yeah! It’s always good to have moments to look back on what you’ve done, because personally I always get a bit lost in what’s happening, ‘cause there’s so much going on. The good moments are when you get emails about your songs doing well in other countries, and plaques, and stuff like that. That’s when you actually have to pinch yourself really. Looking forward, the aim for me is getting the album out, going on tour, and then just releasing more music! I’ll just always be releasing music that I’m writing, putting out albums, touring, and yeah, just… singing? [Laughs]

Meet the Girls of Alternative Pop:

NEXT: WATCH NICK JONAS AND ANNE-MARIE IN 'REMEMBER I TOLD YOU'

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