Anne-Marie On Her Debut Album, Working With Ed Sheeran and Feeling Connected To Cardi B

Michael Furlonger
Anne-Marie

Her album 'Speak Your Mind' is out now

Anne-Marie is an expert at multi-tasking. When she hops into a passenger van in New York's Union Square on the last day of April, she's clutching a black jacket and an iPhone in one hand and an aluminum-wrapped peanut butter sandwich in the other. She flew into New York the night before to perform on LIVE with Ryan and Kelly early this morning, and she's already well into a whirlwind day of interviews and promotional appearances. It was barely past noon.

“I’m literally flying to L.A. at 6 p.m.," she tells Billboard while taking a bite of her sandwich, dressed in pink fitted pants and a white crop top. She's headed right back across the country to perform on The Late Late Show with James Corden. But you don't become one of pop's most exciting new stars if you're allergic to hard work. After dropping her debut track, "Summer Girl," in 2013, the 27-year-old worked as a replacement vocalist for the English electro-pop group Rudimental before storming the charts stateside as the voice of Clean Bandit's "Rockabye" (which peaked at No. 9 on the Hot 100 last year) and the throbbing Marshmello collaboration "FRIENDS" (currently sitting just outside the top 20).

Now, with her just-released debut album, Speak Your Mind (Major Tom's/Asylum Records), fans are getting to know Anne-Marie on her own terms, with 17 tracks that spread messages of women's empowerment and finding self-worth. On "Perfect," she candidly lays out her you-do-you philosophy: "Maybe I bite my nails and don’t think before I speak/ Don’t fit in any crowd, don’t ever get much sleep/ I wish my legs were bigger, bigger than New York City/ And I love who I want to love ‘cause this love is gender-free." On the dancehall-tinged "Can I Get Your Number," she encourages women to make the first move, while "FRIENDS" is an unapologetic instruction manual for putting someone in the friend zone.

She's particularly proud of the pulsing "Machine." "I feel everyone’s feelings," Anne-Marie says. "That song is about wishing sometimes I was a machine and not getting affected by all this stuff I’m seeing in the world, because it does fuck me up. When I see people sad, I'm sad."

As a child, Anne-Marie -- who got her first taste of the spotlight acting in West End musicals -- says she was drawn to artists who openly spoke their truths. "I had Christina Aguilera and Lauryn Hill -- women like that who had albums out and made me feel better about myself," she says. "And I’ve always wanted to do that for other people, but never really knew how to do it." She also admired Alanis Morissette and Eminem for their lyrical bluntness: "They taught me that you could just do it, just talk it, just say it," she relates. "That’s why [my debut is] called Speak Your Mind."

Lately, Ed Sheeran has also been particularly influential. He chose Anne-Marie to be the opening act on a string of European tour dates this summer, and he also co-wrote her latest single, "2002," a nostalgia-driven bop featuring lyrical mashups of popular songs from that era, including Britney Spear's "...Baby One More Time," JAY-Z's "99 Problems," *NSYNC's "Bye Bye Bye," and Nelly's "Ride Wit Me."

Anne-Marie says collaborating with Sheeran taught her to be less strategic and more open to trying different things -- especially when it comes to her writing process. "I’ve worked with very great people [before] and I knew he was a good songwriter, and then I got in the studio with him and he was like, 'What about this?' [I was like], 'You’re annoying me!'" she admits with a laugh. "Because I’m the type of person who gets stuck on one line and will just be like, 'Ah I can’t do this.'"

She's planning to keep the collaborations coming and already has a dream list of collaborators in mind, including Anderson .PaakKendrick Lamar, and -- at the top of her list -- Cardi B. "Some of her songs, I feel like I wrote them in my dreams because it’s exactly what I want to say," she says.

But as much as Anne-Marie is thinking ahead about ideas for new music, she says her core mission will always stay the same. Taking the last bite from her sandwich as the van pulls up to her next destination, Anne-Marie says, "My aim is to just make people feel good and happy."

Stream Anne-Marie's debut album Speak Your Mind in full below.


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