Anne-Marie is in good company. “Rockabye,” which she is featured on with Clean Bandit and Sean Paul, has climbed its way to the top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, sitting pretty behind superstar acts such as Rihanna, Bruno Mars, Zayn Malik and Taylor Swift.
On top of that, the Essex, England-born singer embarks today on a European tour with Ed Sheeran, whose new album “Divide” debuted at number one and whose single, “Shape of You,” currently holds Billboard’s coveted number-one spot.
The opportunity to tour with Sheeran is no small feat for Anne-Marie, who hasn’t even released a full album yet. How, one might ask, did she do it?
In short: a combination of performing arts school, hard work and karate.
At just five years old, Anne-Marie auditioned for “Les Misérables” at London’s West End Theatre without her mother knowing — and got the part. She shared the stage with English powerhouse Jessie J about six years later in a production of “Whistle Down the Wind,” and participated in a few local talent competitions after finishing school in Britain. She eventually landed in the studio singing someone else’s songs “for them,” got noticed through the session and ultimately signed to Rocket Music, which also manages Sheeran.
Anne-Marie, whose latest single “Ciao Adios” is out now, and Sheeran met through their shared management label and quickly took to one another. “He’s a lovely person, so we became friends,” she explains over the phone. The opportunity to tour together came up as casually as Sheeran’s flannel-heavy wardrobe. The two met up for a songwriting session earlier this year and a few months later, he tweeted that she’d be his opening act on tour. “I don’t know how he came to choose me, but it’s so nice,” she says. Nice, indeed.
Sheeran’s songwriting is just one of the things Anne-Marie admires most about him. “Lyrics are such an important thing to me as an artist,” she says.
She credits Christina Aguilera, Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys and Alanis Morissette with making music that “helped me as a girl growing up,” and says she hopes her debut album will do the same for young girls when it comes out later this year.
One reason Sheeran may have chosen the 25-year-old to tour with him is her ability to sing live. She often sounds even better in person than she does on recordings — despite her on-stage anxiety.
“Weirdly, everyone says I always look really confident and relaxed, but I’m absolutely crapping myself,” she says. “I’m always so nervous before a performance, but good nerves. It’s not ridiculously horrible, it’s just excitement. When it comes to it, everything just goes away and I’m just singing and feeling the lyrics. I always end up going back to the moment I wrote it and end up feeling all the emotions again.”
Karate practice is a major reason why Anne-Marie is able to remain so calm under stress. She picked it up at the age of nine and has since become a three-time world Shotokan-style karate champion.
“It actually helped when I was growing up because I was a grumpy teenager,” she says. “I had a really short attention span and really couldn’t focus on many things before I started karate, and it actually helped a lot toward what I’m doing now. I think if I didn’t have karate, I wouldn’t learn how to stick at things and keep pushing through. You definitely need that in this industry.”
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