INTERVIEW: Maverick Sabre

The evolution of Maverick Sabre continues seven years since he first arrived on the UK music scene as a fresh-faced Irish rapper with a bluesy singing voice and a talent for storytelling. There may not be much rap remaining with this, his third long player release, but the need to narrate is still strong on When I Wake Up as are nods to his musical upbringing. A fusion of nineties beats, hip hop basslines and classic rock riffs come together with a voice that’s as rich as a pint of the black stuff.

SIXTY9’s Jon Fraser caught up with him over the phone in a moment of calm ahead of the chaos of an album’s release, rehearsals and start of a UK tour that takes in Nottingham and Birmingham.

What am I interrupting you doing today, are you in the studio or you on the phone to journo’s all day?

I’m actually doing some very average home cleaning. And by very average I mean very average. I’ve had a couple of other interviews this morning so had to be home so I thought I better catch up on a bit of house work. Keep it rock and roll, you know what I mean.

I didn’t realise your Irish accent was so strong, your singing voice is so distinctive, do you think a bit of the Irish brogue comes through from that.

Oh, most definitely yeah! As I’ve gone on, I’ve always wanted to keep my influence running through my singing vocal and elements so yeah I think there definitely is, even my speaking accent is a bit all over the place. Like I go back home to New Ross in Wexford and they’re like you sound like you’re a Londoner now and I’m back here and they’re like Geez you’ve never lost your accent. I’m caught in this weird place in between the two, so yeah, London Irish.

How did you discover your voice and discover your sound?

I started singing quite young, my Dad taught me guitar when I was about 8 or 9. I was always singing and he was always singing around the house but I didn’t really start properly going out and performing until I was about 14/15 and I was MCing. There was a small Irish Hip Hop scene at the time and I was an MC for years. All I used to do was sing my choruses because I had no one else to sing on any of the choruses and as time went on and even writing for my first album, I still was a spitter and I was still writing as an MC mentally but I was just singing things. I think my voice developed over time to be honest and even still, on my first album I was finding myself as a singer and I would say it was only until I was about four, four and a half maybe five years ago that I really felt in myself, I was really learning my craft as a singer and learning where my tone is. It started off early but has taken years to develop.

Listening to your work and where you seem to take your cues from it sounds as though you’ve had a really strong musical education growing up, is that from your Dad?

Yeah, It’s from my Dad initially. My Dad is a big Blues fan so I think the main core of a lot of my influence early on was a lot of Blues, a lot of very raw Blues. A lot of painful Blues – well Blues is painful anyway – but a lot of kind of heartfelt, painful stories I suppose.

And then there was a mixture of traditional music that was kind of around us always growing up anyway. I suppose after that then I kind of went into my own musical journey really, like I discovered Hip-Hop and
through Hip Hop discovered more Jazz and Blues and Soul and more Disco. I was always a big Reggae fan. I suppose there has always been a lot of great influences around me, I’ve always surrounded myself through friends who’ve brought me in to new musical experiences and bands that I’ve listened to. So yeah it started off with my Dad and then when I got into my teens I went on to my own self-discovery. I just like everything to be honest, I’ve been through phases of listening to only Marilyn Manson, Korn to whatever Heavy Metal or Rock band and then I’ve gone into periods where I just listen to Mavado, Chronixx or God knows what else it might be. I like to listen to a broad spectrum of everything to keep my mind fresh.

Tell me about the new album. Where is this one coming from?

A lot of this record is self produced, so I started most of it, I’d say maybe about 60% of the songs on it were all started fresh in my flat and just me on guitar. It’s a different approach to what I did last time and I suppose that’s why, for me, this record feels a tiny bit like a debut in a sense
because that is what I did on my first record. My first album was a collection of songs, there was some brand-new ones but there were a lot of really old ones that I’d had for years and I’d brought them in and got producers to do them all. That is kind of what this is, this record is like 60%, literally even the final songs were all done in my flat and then it was a collection of friends and producers that I’ve worked  with over the years, so like Dan Radcliffe, Eg White, Jimmy Hogarth are on this, they’ve been
on the last few albums. There’s new guys like Charlie Perry, there’s been a wide variety. The difference with this album is the majority of this album was started by myself.

There is a real narrative to the work, that blues influence maybe, do you start off with that story?

Nah, I don’t necessarily start off with a story. I normally have a lot of stories in my head or choruses or even lines or just ideas – I suppose pictures of lyrics if that makes sense. Pictures of scenarios and where music takes you, they’re the kind of initial ones and then the story
develops from there. You look for music to inspire that and get that story out of you. Sometimes I might have a story for months, a year or two years until you hear something and then suddenly that piece of music matches
up to the story and you get the message from that bit of music.

Your work is quite visual as well isn’t it. The three videos that you’ve released for the album, they’ve all got a video for them. Are you wanting to carry that on, is there going to be a video for each track on the album?

Yeah, I made the decision last week that I want to do a video for everything now. It’s probably not the best thing for my accountant to hear. Being realistic, I’m not going to be able to shoot what I’d want to shoot for every single song but I want a visual representation for as many of the songs, even if its small videos, small ready and rough performance videos or cinematically shot little ideas that are a visual representation so
we’ll see what happens.

What track on the album are you most excited about people hearing?

I really love the first song on the album, a song called Preach and it kind of fits. It connects to the last song on my last album, a song called Lay your Head which was a really stripped back acoustic song and that’s where the new album picks back up from. It starts stripped back,
completely acapella and you just hear my voice and then the piano comes in and it builds up throughout that. There are loads of other songs but I’m just excited for people to sit down and press play.

And you’re going out pretty much straight on tour with the new album as soon as it is released

It gets released on the 22nd and I go on the road on the 29th. I
still have to got a setlist together. We’ve got a rough little setlist but we’re going to rehearse for about two weeks before so it’s not far away now.

Being on the road and performing songs is an interesting place to be because certain songs that you might never have even, not connected with but there are certain songs that you think ‘they’re not going to go down too well on the road’ or ‘these ones definitely will’ and then when you go on the road certain things can chop and change.

I remember we were doing one song for a couple of years that wasn’t even on any album and it started off as a jam. It is a jam because we never recorded it, it started off as a jam on the tour and then three years later me
and my band are still performing it every show and people loved it. Songs definitely do take on their own life form when you bring them on the road.

The new album When I Wake Up is available to download from 22nd March.
Catch Maverick Sabre live: 1st April at Rescue Rooms, Nottingham and 10th April O2 Institute Birmingham.
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