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I Got Thrashed at Karate by UK Singer and All-Round Badass Anne-Marie

The ex-Rudimental singer is essentially a human pen knife – but way cooler – and I am in awe of her.
September 2, 2016, 10:54am

This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.

You could not imagine two people more opposite than me and Anne-Marie. She is tall and blonde, whereas I am short and dark. She is an incredible singer with a vocal range that could literally open the heavens, whereas my singing voice sounds like a baby whale being showered with hammers. She spent her childhood years starring in West End musicals like Les Miserables and Whistle Down the Wind, whereas I spent my childhood years pulling a shoe around the garden and pretending it was a dog. And, perhaps most significantly of all, she has been a World Karate Champion a whole three times, whereas if I tried to karate chop someone, they would just think someone had thrown a handful of jelly in their face. In other words, she is essentially a human pen knife – but way cooler – and I am in awe of her.

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Yet while martial arts may be Anne-Marie’s super skill, it’s her music that has really shaken people’s attention in recent years. She first made her stamp after delivering some seriously power-packed vocals to Rudimental tracks like “Love Ain’t Just a Word”, “Rumour Mill” and “All That Love” in 2015, before venturing into solo territory – something she had always planned to do. In the past year, she’s released a slew of perfectly-crafted, shiny pop bangers under her own name; blissful and heartfelt creations like “Alarm” and “Karate” that sound as if they were released for the sole purpose of being blasted out of car speakers on full volume, with the windows rolled down, and a long hot summer of no plans ahead.

That said, when I was told I’d be going on a first date with Anne-Marie, I found out that our date wasn’t going to be something nice and chill like, I dunno, bowling at Rowans or a jaunt around Madame Tussauds or an evening at the pampering parlour. No, no, not at all. Instead, we were going to spend two hours karate fighting, and talking about her music while karate fighting. Except because Anne-Marie is a karate champion and I am fundamentally physically inept, what this actually meant is that I would spend two hours getting absolutely thrashed and photographed at the same time, before having it published online. In the weeks leading up to our date, I realised I better start practising.

I’m not going to lie, I was shit-scared about doing karate with Anne-Marie. But as soon as I stepped into the gym she made me feel immediately at ease, and I realised this whole thing was going to be less about beating me up, and more about teaching me how to defend myself, which is a great skill to have. You wouldn’t fuck with a karate champion, would you? Unfortunately, my flailing limbs couldn’t chop so much as a half-baked souffle than a human body. But Anne-Marie is legitimately the most badass person I have ever met, and I am hoping some of it at least rubbed off on me.

Noisey: So this is probably the best date I’ve ever been on because I kind of know how to punch now. What’s the worst date you’ve ever been on?
Anne-Marie: Before this, I hadn’t actually been on any dates because I can’t stand the awkwardness. Every boyfriend that I’ve had, I’ve known them from somewhere before, so I’ve never had to go through that weird stage of not knowing someone. Have you?

I went on a couple of dates when I was a teenager to the cinema, which is perfect because you don’t have to talk or look at them.
Yeah exactly! A lot of my mates go on blind dates, or start talking to someone online or on their phone, and then go and meet up with them. But people come across differently on social media than they do in real life. You might see a picture of someone and think “oh, nice” and then meet them and be like “…what the hell is this?”

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So you’re not gonna try Tinder anytime soon then. What do you look for in a “romantic partner”? I can’t think of a way to ask that question without sounding like a creep or someone’s nan.
Well, probably a calm person for starters. Just because I’m very crazy when it comes to the thoughts in my head, so I need somebody to be chill and reassuring. If I was to go out with someone hyper it would just a nightmare – we’d be one of those annoying couples. So yeah, someone reasonable and up for compromisation…is that a word?

It can be from now on! So you’re usually the more assertive one in a relationship?
I like to think it’s usually neutral between us. But also, I’ve learnt a lot through being with mugs and I know what I don’t want. I’ve had a lot of relationships, so as soon as someone shows even an inkling of what a previous person has done before, I’ll just be like “seeya later.” There was this boy I was with for about three years and I gave him so many chances. I remember counting them on my hand. These days, I’d never do that. If I was really into someone, I might give them one chance.

That’s fair enough, to be honest. So, I think of you as the definition of popstar. Did you always want to be a popstar?
When I was about 13 or 14, it was the dream because I loved Christina Aguilera and Alicia Keys and artists like that. But when I got older, I realised it’s almost impossible to get into this business. Also, my taste changed and I liked more alternative bands and the thought of being a popstar kinda made me cringe. When I first started my own stuff I was thinking “I can’t do pop music, I’m not going to be cool with my friends”, but going through the process, I’ve realised that pop music is the best music that’s out there. There’s such a wide range of it, from Frank Ocean to Britney Spears. But yeah, when I was younger I was a bit of a tomboy, so it didn’t feel like it was for me – but that’s obviously changed.

Yeah, and I feel like ‘pop music’ meant something different in the early-00s. It was about boy bands or people on Pop Idol, but that’s not the case anymore.
Totally, and also with my music I’ve tried to mix a few things into it, so it’s not pure pop or pure R&B. I’ve put my personality into it, so I don’t feel like I’m trying to be anything I’m not while I’m on stage, and because the music feels so natural, the final product makes me happy. It is hard to say what genre it is because I can’t explain it, but if I had to, it’d be pop.

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Who was your favourite Spice Girl, though?
I think it was Sporty Spice. It was literally because she was a massive tomboy and she did kicks and stuff and that was totally who I was. People used to call me Baby Spice when I was younger because of the blonde hair. Sporty Spice does musical theatre now too – I saw her on something with Andrew Lloyd Webber and was like “What are you doing?! You’re a Spice Girl!”

How did you get so sick at karate?
I started when I was about nine, but I’d been dancing from when I was two, so I could pick up all the moves really quickly. It’s kind of like dancing, so it was really easy for me to pick up at that age. And then when I went into my teenage years, I was a bit of a bitch. I was a nightmare; literally the worst teenager ever. I look back and feel so sorry for my parents.

What did you do?!
I was angry and hated everything. I’d go out without [my parent’s] permission and I’d spend loads of money on my phone bill – I was one of those ones. But my parents let me go through that phase and come out the end a better person. Karate definitely helped with that, because I could have lessons to go to let anger out, as well as learning a craft. It was good for me in my teens. So it was that combination of having an attitude problem and being good at dancing that meant karate worked for me. I was dedicated to it as well, it wasn’t just like a hobby. I really loved it then and still do.

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Would you say you’re much more chilled out now?
Oh my god yeah. I’ve been through stages – when I was a teenager I was mental, and then from nineteen I was a bit horrible. I didn’t really like anyone, but now I’m happier, and if you’re happier in yourself you’re a nicer person – that’s where I’m at. I never used to give people chances, and if they looked funny, I wouldn’t bother with them. But now, I’m so much more open, and it’s weird to think I was that closed off. I’m in a really good place now.

You used to do musical theatre as well, right? Why did you stop?
I didn’t even know I could sing, but I went for an audition when I was five for Les Mis in the West End and I got it.

That’s crazy!
Yeah! Then my parents were like “Rah, you can sing, let’s see where this goes.” So I kind of just found my own way in that. I love musical theatre, but I can’t act at all – I couldn’t be on Eastenders or anything like that. But I can act through singing. So I was doing that until I was about 12, and then I was karate world champion when I was 12 as well. I was so occupied, but I have to be, because my brain needs constant stimulation.

I eventually stopped doing it because when you do music theatre, it’s such a specific way of singing, so I felt that my voice was a bit different to that. Even so, musical theatre taught me so much – if I hadn’t had that early training, I don’t think I’d be able to get the emotion out in the same way as I do now, so I’m thankful for that part of my life now.

If could choose between singing and karate what would it be?
It’s got to be singing, because although I love karate, music is a bigger part of life. Karate is a very personal thing that you do for yourself, whereas music is for other people, so I like the fact that I can take music and spread that feeling to other people. But if I couldn’t sing, I’d just rap or something.

This is a scary question, but what do you want to be doing in five years time?
I just want to tour everywhere. When I stop touring I get headaches. I feel relaxed when I’m on tour, which is why it’s so good for me. I want to be constantly churning out music, writing it and performing it, and showing people that there can still be an artist whose greatest passion is singing live – I’d like to be the person that proves that point.

Thanks for today, Anne-Marie.

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