Life as a pop star wasn’t always an obvious choice for , 32, who also dabbled in musical theatre and indie music, and became a black belt and three times world champion in karate.
Here, she talks about her new album, how she has learned to trust herself – and why she wants to spend her tour puppy-sitting…
What’s your new album, Unhealthy, about?
‘Unhealthy’ represents me in one word – in food and the decisions I make and love, including unhealthy relationships. It’s a word that describes every part of my life, because I’m quite chaotic.
What sort of unhealthy relationships have you been in?
I’m kind of the problem as well. Whatever relationship I’m in, they can be horrible or nice, but my brain is so much all the time, so I’m adding to the problems. Every phase of love for me is not bad, but it is unhealthy.
In your song, Grudge, you sing, ‘I shouldn’t hold a grudge. But I wanna.’ Is it good to hold a grudge sometimes?
In lockdown I had a lot of therapy. You’re told, ‘.’ But sometimes I think a person deserves for you to never speak to them again. I’m fine with holding grudges when a person deserves it.
What have you learned from looking back at the past?
I’ve gained trust in myself to know that my stories are worth being written. For a long time, as a writer, you think, ‘Do people even care?’ or, ‘I shouldn’t say that’. On my first two albums, I felt that way. But coming out of lockdown, I gained a new confidence.
A lot of people might be surprised a karate world champion has issues with confidence.
I know. As a child, I definitely didn’t have issues. As a teenager at school, it dropped completely. It’s mad because in my songs and my social media I put out a message for everyone to be strong. But I wasn’t necessarily feeling that way.
What happened to you at school?
Rough times with friends. My problem was I didn’t tell people what I was going through or how I felt, because when someone’s doing karate or in musical theatre, you think everything’s sweet.
I didn’t want to put anyone’s mind to me being unhappy. So I just held it all in and exploded and got really anxious – didn’t leave the house, didn’t want to do anything. I’ve been trying to build myself up from that, really.
The album features guests: Aitch, Khalid and Shania Twain. What was it like working with Shania?
I’ve always loved country music but I felt it wouldn’t make sense if I released a country song on my previous albums. But with this album, I just thought, f*** it.
We did a country pop song. I love collaborations – I’ve done a f***ing thousand. I thought would be perfect, having grown up listening to her. I sent the song. She replied and said, ‘I love it. I’m in London for one more day before I fly home, so come and meet me at the studio.’
She was brilliant. Her energy is just like she’s starting out in the music industry. She is still so excited to be making music. That’s inspiring from someone who has been in the industry so long.
Relationships aside, what’s your unhealthiest habit?
I think I’m addicted to bread. I could eat a loaf a day. Whatever form it comes in – a bagel, a baguette. I have a fight with myself every day to not eat another slice.
There have been a , including a man throwing a phone at Bebe Rexha. Have you ever had an experience like that?
Chucking a phone is crazy to me, because how is the person on stage going to know whose it was and how would she get it back to that person?
I’ve been performing for so long and you see things thrown all the time, but luckily I haven’t ever been hit by anything.
How would you handle it if it did happen?
I feel like my karate skills have come in useful because I’ve managed to dodge a few things.
The other day, I tweeted that I couldn’t find quinoa in any shops near me and I love quinoa. Then at one of the festivals I played, someone in the audience had got me three bags of quinoa.
I ended up having that on stage with me, but it got nicely passed to me – it wasn’t thrown at me.
Is it true you ask your team to provide a puppy for you on tour?
Yes, I’ve always wanted a dog. But my attention span and busy schedule hasn’t allowed me to do that.
So I make up for it by asking the community wherever I’m going if they have a dog they want me to look after for the day before I go on stage.
I have had three or four dogs brought in. It’s lovely.
Unhealthy by Anne-Marie is out tomorrow (Major Toms/Asylum). She will be touring the UK in November,