At only 21 this eclectic singer, songwriter and guitarist already possesses a carefully crafted talent that extends way beyond his years. You’ve heard Maverick Sabre on collaborations with Pro Green and others, now he is getting ready to unleash his debut album. I went to Mercury Records in London to have a chat with the MOBO nominee about his new music, growing up and female inspirations…
Hey Maverick, how are you?
I’m good, a bit hungover but fighting through it! [Laughs]
So, let’s start from the beginning. You were born in Hackney, you then moved to Ireland… which one do you class as your hometown?
They are both home to me, I’m definitely just between the two; I’m London – Irish, you know. My home is different places all the time; my home is on stage with my guitar really!
So, Maverick. Can I assume that is not your birth name?
Nah, it’s not! My name is Michael. When I was 14 I was setting up a MySpace page and I thought my name was too plain, not edgy enough to get people’s attention. So I looked in the thesaurus and found two words under my initials which would match me as an artist and a person. It said ‘Maverick’ was someone who thought outside the box and the meaning I found for ‘Sabre’ was someone who puts on a hard front to get through hard times. I think that everyone has to do that at some point of their life.
Listening to your music, I would never think you are only 21. What has given you the insight that is reflected in your music?
Ummm, I don’t know about that, I write from my heart and soul, I write about things that I need to express and things I feel need to be spoken about. It just comes from my heart.
Growing up, did you always know you wanted to be a musician?
I always loved music but there were times when I thought ‘shall I do something else?’ and I worked a couple of small jobs; I never went to university or anything… But I knew in the back of my mind I always going to do music, I loved it. I didn’t see the point of having a backup plan; I just wanted to put 100% into music.
Not only a singer, you also play the guitar. Do you play anything else?
I dabble with the piano… I would like to be able to say I can actually play it but I can’t!
When did you learn to play guitar?
When I was about 8. My dad’s been a musician all his life so I’ve been brought up listening to Blues, watching him play the guitar, going to his gigs and rehearsals… So I asked my dad to teach me and then I started to write my own music and it all went off from there.
What are your thought processes when you write?
I could hear a beat here and write an idea for it, I could be in a car and hear something and wanna write something down. Most times, I sit alone, close the curtains, turn most of the lights off, turn my phone off, maybe have a little drink and get into it. Normally I sit in darkness, with just enough light to write and just go in. Sometimes I don’t eat for a couple of days, I just write, write, write.
Does any particular lady inspire your music or are you currently single?
I am currently single… right now! But no one specifically inspires me, just the women of the world. I love women, no matter where they’re from, all shapes and sizes! Women just inspire me, all women.
I’m sure you hear this all the time; your voice is unusual. What influenced the tone in your voice?
I found my voice; it took me a while to get it. I was singing from around 8 years old and then I was MC’ing on the Irish Hip Hop scene when I was around 14, then I started singing with my guitar. I’m heavily influenced by everything from traditional Irish music to Blues, Hip Hop, Reggae, Soul, Funk, everything. So there’s a mixture of everything in that.
Okay, so saying that, if you had to class your music under one genre, could you and what would it be?
Nah, I’d make up my own one! It would be Hip Hop Inspired Soulful Folk music. I say Folk as in folklore; I like to tell a story with my music. Then there is the soul side, as everything I sing is from my heart. I wanna try and connect with people because I feel if you are real to yourself and you express your raw emotions, everybody else can connect with that. Even if they are from a different background; everyone goes through similar raw emotions in life, innit? Then I’m a Hip Hop head, so all of that is then inspired by Hip Hop. I love Hip Hop.
Wow, that takes eclectic to a new level. Top three favourite artists?
Tupac Shakur, Bob Marley and Bob Dylan.
Nice. So your album is coming out soon. What can we expect?
It’s coming out hopefully in January and it’s called ‘Lonely Are The Brave’. Like I say, it will be a mix of every genre. I’ve had mix tapes and EP’s but this is like my first real stamp on music, where people can go to the shops and physically buy it. I want people who listen to it to get a better understanding of me; it’s kinda like a diary entry. I wanted to make an album that could be listened to in 50 years’ time and would still be relevant. I also wanna push forward a positive message in my music.
Where can people see you live in the future?
I’ve got my tour starting October 25. Delilah is confirmed to support me at the moment. It will be all around the UK and Ireland, my first proper tour; I’m really looking forward to it.
How is your music received overseas?
Well I did a show in New York, Chicago and Austin and I hope to go back over there next year, I loved it. They have such an appreciation for home grown music over here, especially because you have Adele, Jessie J and Tinie smashing it over there, they are craving more.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Everything as a whole, to be honest. Growing up in a small town in Ireland and coming up through the Irish Hip Hop scene, I just see everything as an achievement for myself. A major point was when I sold out the Jazz Café; I had one of the best shows of my life there. Everyone knew the lyrics and I had my close family and friends there. It was a proud moment.
And how has your life changed over the past year?
You get a lot of people saying hello to you that never did before! One thing in the music industry, with the success and failure it can bring, you really see who your true friends are. The people who are real will be there when you fail and will also be there for the good times.
Who are you feeling in the music scene right now?
I’m listening to a lot of up and coming MC’s like Benny Banks, Mac Miller, English Frank, K Coke… I love Erykah Badu, I was listening to her last night. But mainly at the minute I’m listening to a lot of up and coming MC’s. There’s a group from Dublin called Walking Class Records, they are really pushing the Irish Hip Hop scene forward at the minute.
What’s next for Maverick Sabre?
My single ‘I Need’ is out on November 7 and you can check out the video online now. The tour is starting in late October around UK and Ireland. Then my album is out hopefully in January.
Yeah it should be good! [Excitedly] and I’ll just be pushing my music out in between all that.
So, finally. What advice would you give to up and coming artists trying to break the scene?
Know your limitations; know what you are bad at and what you are good at. That might sound obvious, but you see people on the X Factor and stuff and they don’t know what they are bad at, even though they have good vocals. So yeah, know your limitations, your capabilities and what you are good at and push that. Have 100% faith in yourself. If you know what you are good at and you know you don’t ever wanna do anything else but that and there is no question in your mind then push ahead with it. Don’t follow a crowd; you will have one Tinie Tempah then about 15 million people trying to copy him! Do what YOU want to do. Don’t follow other people cause then you’re just gonna make bland boring music. If you do what YOU wanna do, then you’re always gonna be on the road to something good.
This interview was originally printed in the November issue of Flavour Magazine. See the digital version here.