Arts

Anne-Marie: Therapy? Sometimes it just takes a while to find your right person

Pop star Anne-Marie (29) reflects on touring with Rudimental, being bullied at school and her recent decision to re-start therapy

Pop star Anne-Marie Nicholson – 'I’m often compared to Ed Sheeran'

ASIDE from her voice, Anne-Marie is best known for her candor. The Essex-born singer, real name Anne-Marie Nicholson, has not shied away from discussing the challenges of fame or the ramifications of being bullied at school, as she was.

In fact, her chatty character and eagerness to share has made her something of a role model to young women.

“I'm compared to Ed Sheeran a lot because we are quite similar personalities,” she explains with over video call with more than a hint of defiance.

“And I am like: ‘Are you mad? The guy doesn't have to do his hair and make-up every morning. He can just get off a plane and go straight and do his songs.'

“It's mad how they compare us but it's completely different for both of us. It is a battle but it's one I'm willing to fight for.”

The 29-year-old tackles this sense of responsibility in an insightful, delightfully glossy and sometimes moving YouTube Originals documentary titled How To Be Anne-Marie.

In just a few years, she went from unsigned artist penning pop songs in her Essex bedroom to international star, complete with shock of purple hair and a collection of reliable hits including 2002 and the Clean Bandit collaboration Rockabye.

Her success also prompted mental health problems, including severe anxiety, which she still struggles with today.

The documentary captures her post-ascendency, locked down in her London home with a tour delayed into the new year.

It also follows her on an emotional visit to her former school in Essex where she suffered at the hands of bullies.

“I had never been back there since I left and I didn't want to think about it at all ever again, so it was quite and extreme thing to revisit that place,” she recalls. “But I always love going back to Essex. First of all, my parent are there and I love seeing them. I do also have good memories of Essex so it is not all bad.

“I feel like that is what made me who I am, growing up in Essex and experiencing what I experienced at school. That's why I am doing what I am doing today.”

One scene captures a conversation between her and Little Mix in which she admits to feeling jealous of the girls over their shared bond.

“The conversation I was having with them was purely coming from a point of jealously on my behalf where they get to have each other and I am on my own,” she confesses with a laugh. “But it was intriguing to see that they still struggle and that's what I think was quite important to see.

“I am a very stubborn person and I feel like this industry is quite hard for people like me because I am always fighting against things. So it has been tough and I find it hard to trust people so putting my faith in people that aren't me, on my journey, is quite hard.

“Because how are people supposed to know what my life is supposed to be?”

Unlike the female pop stars of the early millennium, Anne-Marie feels able to express herself authentically to her fans (who she has dubbed The Ninjas in a nod to her love of martial arts – she was a black belt in karate as a kid).

“I think growing up being a teenager and looking at someone like Christina Aguilera and Britney and people like that, I don't think the media or anyone gave them the opportunity to be like how they are allowed to be now.

“I feel like we are so lucky to be able to be so honest and I feel like they were very filtered when we were growing up.

“I had no idea that it was this hard. I thought it is just perfect because they always put that across.”

Anne-Marie also confronts the challenges of going solo in 2015 after travelling the world as the band Rudimental's touring vocalist.

The resulting intense public attention temporarily led her to become a recluse.

“It's a double-edged sword,” she admits. “Definitely my favourite part of being on my own and doing my own stuff was being able to talk about life and my own experiences. But the tough bit was people just looking at you.

“Then obviously walking on stage on my own made me think: ‘Everyone is staring at me, now I have a problem with people looking at me'.

“And then that filtered into my home life and I got such bad anxiety that I couldn't even go to the door to get my post or a food delivery.”

Lockdown has been a chance to slow down, learn (a little) Spanish and grow vegetables. But it has also uncovered some underlying issues.

“It's been good in the sense of that but I have been struggling with being in the middle,” she says. “I want to feel either really excited or really sad. I just don't want to feel okay.

“From going to therapy, that's a very important place to be comfortable.

“I am trying to feel comfortable being in the middle and not having to have an extreme emotion to feel OK. I'm trying to overcome that.”

Despite its subject's struggles, How To Be Anne-Marie is not a gloomy watch and is buoyed by its star's upbeat charm. Fittingly, it ends on a optimistic note as Anne-Marie reveals she is ready to re-enter therapy.

“It has been good. I actually tried to do it a couple of years ago and I had about two sessions and I was like: ‘I've got everything off my chest now, I'm fine'.

“But I slowly realised that maybe wasn't the right thing to stop doing. I finally found a new person and I think you just have to find the right person as well.

“I am really worried about people trying therapy out and just thinking ‘That doesn't make me feel better' or ‘It wasn't right'.

“Sometimes you are just with the right person and it takes a while to find your right person. I finally found my right person and my life is changing week by week from it.

“If you feel like you have problems or have something on your chest, just try it.

“There's no harm because they can't tell anyone. It's like the biggest best secret that someone can keep and a very non-judgmental and deeply finding route that I think is amazing.”

:: How To Be Anne-Marie is available on YouTube now.

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