Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Performing live for my fans is like therapy for me: Anne-Marie

On her first visit to India, for the VH1 SuperSonic music festival, the English pop singer and songwriter talks about her creative process, passion for music and challenges through her musical journey

Samidha Jain
Published: Feb 25, 2023 08:53:04 AM IST
Updated: Feb 24, 2023 05:44:56 PM IST

Performing live for my fans is like therapy for me: Anne-MarieSinger and songwriter Anne-Marie at a concert. Image: Roberto Finizio/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Anne-Marie knew early on that music is something she would want to pursue for the simple reason that it made her happy. The English pop singer, who garnered immense popularity globally with her hits such as ‘Rockabye’ and ‘Friends’, started her career in music as a solo artist in 2013 and has since worked with a number of artistes such as Clean Bandit, Sean Paul, Marshmello, David Guetta and Ed Sheeran, among others, to deliver some big hits. Till date, Anne-Marie has released two individual albums which have both been fan favourites. The third one is in the works. 

The 31-year-old singer is in India for the first time for a performance at the VH1 SuperSonic festival taking place in Pune from February 24 to 26, where she will be performing her newest single for the first time ever.  

The singer, songwriter and author of a book called You Deserve Better speaks to Forbes India about her excitement to perform in India, her creative process for writing songs, about live performances, and connection with her fans. Edited excerpts:  

Q. It is your first performance in India. What are you looking forward to the most?
I am super excited about my first performance here because it’s crazy to think how I’ve never been here before and people here like my music so much. That’s amazing! I am hoping it’s going to be good and that everyone knows the words so they can sing with me. I hope everyone coming has fun and just the best time.

Q. How do you typically prepare for a performance, and is your routine any different for this particular show in India?
I have my band with me and it’s the first time I’ll be performing my newest single, ever. So, that’s a bit scary. Just before I go on stage, I try to chill out and try not to think about what’s about to happen because it’s quite overwhelming thinking about what I am going to do. To be honest, I can’t wait to perform here, I can’t wait to see all my fans.  

Q.Your music often deals with themes of love, heartbreak, and personal empowerment, and resonates with audiences. How much of it is from your own experience?  
Whenever I write a song, it’s from my real life–what I’ve experienced and what I am going through, whether it’s heartbreak or love, or anger, or sadness. So, I am hoping that people can feel that. I am hoping it can help them in some way-–if they want to cry, they can cry to it or if they want to scream, they can scream to it. It should be very real and honest, that’s what I try to do when I write. I can’t write a song and just make things up. I hope all my listeners and fans can see that.

Q. What do you feel about the way in which technology and social media are changing the way artistes interact with their fans?
It’s made it easier for sure. Through the pandemic we couldn’t travel anywhere and we couldn’t have that physical connection with people, so it was amazing for that time. And obviously for this instance, I have never been to India before and I think Indian fans are third on my highest number of followers list on social media. That to me is mind blowing, and that’s thanks to the internet and social media. I never thought I’d be in India. Not just as an artiste, but for me as a human being as well, to be in India is a really incredible thing.  

Q. What is the best part of performing live? What have been some of your most memorable moments at concerts?  
All of my audiences seem to be really good singers. When I am performing Rockabye, people sing along and they end up being better than me! That’s an experience. And, while performing, I feel like my audience and I go on a journey together, so it’s like therapy for me. I am sad with them, I am happy with them. It feels like we are in our own world, which is what I want them to feel. I want them to feel safe where we don’t have to look a certain way or wear a certain thing and no one is judging us. That’s what I want it to be like every time I perform.  

Performing live for my fans is like therapy for me: Anne-MarieAnne-Marie performs on stage during the BRIT Awards 2022 ceremony and live show, in London, on February 8, 2022. Image: Tolga Akmen / AFP

Q. What inspired you to pursue a career in music?
I think initially it was singing. Whenever I sang someone else’s song, it just made me really happy. I knew that music made me feel good. And, when I started writing my own songs, that’s when it became really personal to me because music is a language we all understand. I grew up listening to people like Eminem who really had something to say and spoke about their life and what they are going through and it made people not feel alone. I think that’s what I try to do with my music too. A lot of people inspired me to just be honest and real with people. I love how music makes me feel. I love that it can connect people and that I can go to another country that doesn’t speak my language, and to be able to perform in front of them is really special.  

Q. Can you talk about the creative process behind your songs, how you come up with the lyrics and melody?
It’s all very different. It depends who I am writing with. When I am in LA, and I am in the car on the way to a writing session, I just look out the window and I just come up with something, maybe a song title or just a subject that I want to speak about. But then other times, I have no idea what I want to say and then I get into a session and they play some music and it inspires a feeling. And then, some other times, I have words but no melody, sometimes I have melody with no words. It all comes together. That’s why I think a writing session is so amazing because it makes you understand how you can’t do everything alone, and that relates to normal life. You can’t get through life on your own. You have to rely on other people, you have to communicate with people and that’s what happens in a studio when you’re writing a song. It’s a beautiful thing. 

Also read: Ambika Nayak: Paving the way for future pop stars

Q. How have you evolved as an artiste over the course of your career, and what according to you have been some of the key turning points or milestones?  
I have definitely changed a lot. Although, I have kept some of myself the same. If I am changing in my personal life, then I am changing as an artiste. Whatever is happening with me is what my audience gets through my music. I think from the start, I was very new to it all. I didn’t really know how the music industry works so I thought I’ll just do whatever because I don’t really know anything. And then, when I wrote my first album, it was about me going through heartbreak and being quite a sensitive person. Then in the lockdown when I released Therapy, my second album, that was more about me being calm and trying to understand my emotions and going through a lot of therapy sessions. And now this third album that I have done, it’s about finding the inner crazy person in me. I am a loud person and I am very hyperactive and I want that to come across in my music and I want people to dance when I am performing. Mainly, if I change, my music changes.  

Q. What are the challenges you've faced as a musician, and how have you overcome them to pursue your dreams?
I think one of the biggest hurdles I had was my appearance and another was the direction of my music. With regards to my appearance, I felt like people see you as a popstar and think you need to be perfect all the time, and I am so not perfect. I am not that person. So, trying to live up to that standard was really hard because I have messy hair and I don’t wear makeup all the time, and I wear baggy clothes. So I found it really hard to live up to that standard of a popstar. But I think finally people are seeing who I am and they’re fine with it now. They just know that I am messy.  

And with regards to the direction of my music, being put into this category of a ‘popgirl’ is a really small gap, it’s hard to fit into this gap of what people see you as. It’s like always being in a fight to try and explain to people that I am not actually like that. I love writing pop music, and I love pop music, and I am a pop singer, but I like all this other weird stuff too which isn’t what you expect, so it has been hard. But now I think people have finally realised who I am, so now it feels really free. 

Also read: Anuv Jain: Turning memories into music

Q. What are some upcoming projects or collaborations that you're really excited about? What can fans expect from your music in the future?
My most recent album is Sad Bitch which is about being sad and not being sad anymore because I feel like we need to be happy now after everything we’ve been through as a world. I have 12 other songs in there which are crazy songs, revenge songs, heartbreak songs, love songs. I feel like this is really exciting for me and I can’t wait to perform it.