HT Brunch Cover Story: Millennial therapy
Minutes into the Zoom call and British musician Anne-Marie Rose Nicholson is already talking about curries. “I’m not used to being in one place so I had to train myself to be comfortable in one place,” says the singer who has spent the last few years touring and playing with several artistes, as she squats on the floor of her living room, adding that she’s growing vegetables too – potatoes, tomatoes and pumpkins! – and watching loads of documentaries during the lockdown. “I eat anything with veggies involved. And curries, I love curries. You just can’t go wrong with an Indian curry. I’ve had some at the Indian restaurants in London and I can’t wait to try it in India!” says Anne-Marie.
That collaborator life
Anne-Marie is now preparing her originals for her second studio album. The 29-year-old Rockabye hitmaker has spent years as a guest collaborator, only performing solo for the first time in 2015. “It was the best training ground before starting my own career. I don’t know how people just jump in and start making music. These collaborations exposed me to types of music I’d never even heard of. I was ‘ooh, I like that – let’s do this,’” she says.
She credits her collaboration with Clean Bandit and Sean Paul for changing her life. “I was touring in the US when it released, so, I woke up one day and it was number one everywhere. My mum and dad were shocked!” she recalls. This experience highlighted the beauty of collaborations – you lock into different fan bases as people start wondering who you are! It also earned her a call by David Guetta that began with, ‘Hey, I would love for you to try and sound this out.’
“It was crazy! I was like ‘you’ve heard my voice?’ because I grew up listening to him!” she giggles.
Other artistes she grew up listening to include Christina Aguilera and P!nk, who gave her the songs she felt she needed to hear when she was younger. “Which is why Rockabye was so close to my heart – it speaks about a single mother,” says the millennial who would copy Christina Aguilera’s intricate riffs growing up. But the performer who made all the difference was P!nk – evident by the colour of Anne-Marie’s hair.
Karate kid on tour
Her collaboration life also saw her tour with Ed Sheeran in 2002, and they even got matching tattoos! “You can see it more clearly on me. His tattoo is hiding somewhere on his arm!” she compares, holding up her arm for the camera. And what did she learn from the Shape of You composer? “Well, I taught him karate,” laughs the black belt in Shotokan karate who has won gold medals in championships. “I practise on tour and get everyone to learn,” she giggles. As a teen, it had an added advantage: Her parents let her stay out late because of it. Today, she appreciates the focus it gives her. “I have a short attention span. Without karate, I would have struggled in the music industry!”
Fame is a scary thought for Anne-Marie because she saw many famous musicians’ lives unravel. Stage fright however is not an issue. She’s been on stage since the age of six, when she bagged a part in Les Misérables (2012), a debut that taught her the most crucial lesson – how to put a story across in a song. But the older she got, the more nervous she got.
“Anxiety is an ongoing thing. Last year when mental health became a concern and talking point, I was like, ‘oh this sounds familiar’. It’s scary to talk about feelings sometimes for musicians,” says Anne-Marie, who has recently started talking to a therapist – she’s few sessions old now. “I always have questions and I’m always connecting things like a puzzle. I feel like so much weight is lifted,” says the musician, who asked her therapist how they cope with all the venting they get day in and out. “Turns out, my therapist also goes for therapy,” she reveals.
Another source of anxiety is social media, the millennial confesses. “When you have a large following, you need to be responsible and a role model. The pressure is scary because I am making my own mistakes and I could also be wrong,” she points out. Another stress point: Labels and big corporations check your social media numbers while signing you. “I don’t think I would have these numbers (6.6m) without touring,” she humbly points out.
So, she has her own rulebook: To show people she lives her life like they do. “I want people to come to my page and know who I am without needing to look for it. I don’t want people to look at me like I’m something special. I’ve never wanted that. Also, if I had to strive for perfection on social media, I’d have gone crazy by now,” says the singer who strives to raise awareness about things important to her – much like Rockabye. So, her IG feed is full of suggestions to follow women who keep it real by posting pictures of acne or stretch marks, sans filters!
Is she as particular about TikTok? “There is so much talent on TikTok and yet those people are unheard of! Which is crazy because so many of them are better singers than me!” she exclaims.
But social media is also a boon – it’s where she discovered her Indian fanbase. “I was amazed to get so much love from India. So many of them also posted covers of my songs and sounded incredible. There are influences of Indian music in British music, but I want to learn more. So, India is one of the first places I want to visit after all this (Covid) is over,” she says.
Apart from the music, she wants to spend some time absorbing the culture, learning Hindi and maybe even visit a Bollywood film set. “They always look so beautiful with the colours and costumes! I want to take loads of pictures, go to the Taj Mahal, followed by less touristy places,” she plans. Though she hasn’t really been brought up on spice, Anne-Marie is eager to try it, given her aforementioned love for curries. “I’ve been training my tongue on spice levels and I should be good to try the real deal soon,” she laughs.
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From HT Brunch, November 29, 2020
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