Anne-Marie Talks About Making Pop With Purpose
Anne-Marie, who performed with Marshmello at Sunday night’s iHeartRadio MMVAs, is back in Toronto tonight and Friday as opening act for Ed Sheeran at the Rogers Centre. On Wednesday night, though, she performed a sold-out show at a much more intimate venue in Montreal.
In an interview with iHeartRadio.ca, the 27-year-old singer-songwriter spoke about the differences between the gigs.
“I get 30 minutes in the Ed show and in my own show I can just do however long I want,” explained Anne-Marie. “With the Ed show I try to just do the singles that people know, to try and get their heads around who I am because they might not have seen my face with the song on the radio. When it comes to my shows I can just do whatever songs I want.”
Anne-Marie said it is “scary” to be warming up the crowd for Sheeran. “You know people aren’t really there to see you and they’re waiting for Ed to come,” she said. “That’s how I feel sometimes, which is really horrible. But it’s also such a great chance to gain fans.”
Gain fans, she will.
Anne-Marie has emerged as a distinctive and powerful voice in pop music. It’s her on the 2016 Clean Bandit hit “Rockabye” (which is closing in on 2 billion YouTube views) and on the current smash “FRIENDS” with Marshmello.
Anne-Marie really shines on her debut album Speak Your Mind, a collection of infectious pop songs with rare lyrical depth. Her songs are personal and packed with messages rather than clichés and fluff.
“I just think it’s pointless if you’re just doing that,” she said. “I don’t think I’d enjoy singing songs like that or want to perform it.
“If you’re going to make music that’s going to reach people on a wide scale then you have to make it mean something and that’s just what I try to do.”
There’s the throwback fun of “2002” but there’s also “Cry,” which is easily the best f-you anthem since Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know.” And, “Perfect” is an invitation to accept yourself.
“That song is a major part of me, just like what I am learning about myself and I guess becoming as a person,” she explained. “I wanted to put that song out because that’s what I’m going through at the moment and I know other people are going through that.”
She had hoped the song would help people the way Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” helped her, but she has been surprised by the response. “I found it incredible that I wrote down all of this stuff on a piece of paper that I was nervous and embarrassed about and then I sing it at shows and everyone’s like, ‘I do that, too!’ and I’m like, ‘no way.’ I never expected it so I’m just happy.”
On “Machine,” Anne-Marie sings about how “everything that makes me miserable is a consequence of my flesh” and imagines the benefits of not being able to feel.
“I am so influenced by other people’s feelings and emotions. If I see something bad on the news or online I just totally lock down and I’m not able to do much that day,” she explained. “So, for me, sometimes I dream of not having that part. That’s a very important song to me.”
Another way Anne-Marie connects with fans is on social media.
“I’ve always made sure that I really communicate well with people in there. It kind of just happened. I started having that relationship with people online,” she said, although she has recently become a bit more guarded.
“I felt like there were a few people who were saying ‘you’ve changed…’ and I’m like, ‘yo, I’m just busy.’ I can’t tweet every moment of the day, which I would love to do because I love staying in contact with people, but that made me think that I was letting people down just because I’m busy.
“So I have to have a little bit of a guard up now but I still try to do it as much as possible. My fans are really amazing people.”
Despite being a songwriter and hard-working performer with an album of her own, Anne-Marie repeatedly gets questions about working with Marshmello – as if she needed a man to give her a hit song.
“I had that more with ‘Rockabye’ – but I also felt that more with ‘Rockabye' because I didn’t write that song,” she recalled. “I did feel like they were more the ones who helped me out with that song.
“When it comes to the Marshmello song, we wrote that together so even if someone says it, I know that’s not true. We did it together as a collaboration.”
Anne-Marie said she remembers how she felt when she first heard one of her songs on the radio.
“I just landed in New York and I turned my phone on and there was a tweet saying that a DJ in the UK had played ‘Karate,' which is a song on my first EP,” she said. “I just couldn’t believe it. I remember walking out of the airport, telling everyone, ringing my mom.”
That excitement hasn’t dissipated, she admitted.
“I still honestly feel like that every time I hear my song on the radio. I love it,” said Anne-Marie. “It’s because I don’t get to hear the radio much and I’m constantly traveling so when I’m [near] a radio I’m like, ‘turn it up’ because I’m so happy that it’s actually being played."