Maverick Sabre has a story. This has already been made clear through his back catalog of music, already 2 albums deep with a string of hit singles and notable features under his belt. His signature style is unique and his songs are a reflection of his thoughts and feelings as a person. But the man himself also has a great story to tell. Sitting down with him one wet afternoon at the Green Rooms Wood Green, Maverick is able to share his story: a tale of identity, emotion and finding himself again.
Back in 1994, Maverick moved with his family back to his father’s homeland of Ireland. Relocating to New Ross, County Wexford, he grew up in a fairly small town but always had strong links back to his early London roots. As a child, he had wrestled to find his identity, with both London and Ireland playing significant roles in his life: “I’m Irish to the core, I’m an Irish man but I’m a Londoner, I love London“. Musically, he was influenced by his father, listening to folk, traditional Irish music and blues while being handed down tapes and CDs from his older sister who was listening to early garage and grime from London. In his early years, he would go through and try and find what he could connect and associate with. By his own admission, London was always in his back of his mind and was slowly drawing him back, “London was a strong part of my early life as a person as it gave me a broader perspective on myself and music“.
In his teens, he had found his groove back in Ireland, making hip hop beats in his bedroom and blending his natural singing ability with his spitting as well. By being able to sing and rap, he carved out a niche for himself in a relatively small scene. I ask Maverick if he thought this restricted his output or held him back and while he says that it certainly meant there was a “ceiling” for what he was doing, he tells me it actually helped create exciting opportunities: “Music was always my priority – going to shows on the weekend and during the week, staying up till 4/5am making hip hop beats and falling asleep in school“.
By the age of 15, he would travel to larger cities like Dublin to support large US acts like The Game, G Unit and The Streets. It was one of these support acts, supporting London act Plan B, when he sparked a friendship with Plan. Amongst their chats about music, Plan B also told him that if he wanted to make it in music, he needed to move to London. When he finished school, he worked in a restaurant and suddenly realised that he could get stuck working in a cycle. So with his previous advice from Plan and some money he’d saved, he packed a bag and relocated to London overnight.
I do miss Ireland. Being away makes you appreciate every element more – the history, the culture, the simple things you take for granted as a child.
With such a large move at such a young age, Maverick found himself in London, on the dole and sleeping on his Aunt’s couch. However, being in London was the most important thing and he was excited by every opportunity that came his way. From being used to recording in his bedroom, he was now recording in brand new studios with professional recording equipment and going out to shows from the likes of Chase & Status and Plan B. So while he didn’t have much money, his dream never wavered; “Music was never really a concern. It was always there and was the constant that pushed and motivated me”.
In 2010 and 2012 respectively, Maverick dropped his first projects; ‘The Travelling Man’, a mixtape he dropped online featuring the likes of Footsie and Wretch 32 and ‘Lonely Are The Brave’, his debut album. While the mixtape showcased his versatility with flow and rhythm, it was his album that really shone a light on his unique ability. The album went to #2 in the UK Album Charts and several tracks broke the UK Top 40. Multiple platforms picked up on his innate instinct with music and his use of soundscapes to convey emotion and feeling. On the album, he talked on everything from bullying (‘Sometimes’) and childhood (‘Memories) to failing love (‘I Can Never Be’) and jealously (‘No One’). Emotion is not the easiest thing to convey but on ‘LATB’, Maverick did so with such ease, noting that he had 21 years to write it. “I was a different person back then (in 2011) – I was a lot more erratic, I was a lot more lonely, I was a lot more angry, I was a lot more un-trusting. That first release was a diary entry for the first 21 years of my life and everything building up to that point“.
Following the success of ‘Lonely Are The Brave’, Maverick couldn’t just jump back into it and put out an album for the sake of it. He needed to experience life so he could get back to writing from the heart. After the first album’s release, a lot had changed in his life, he was in a different space and he needed time to let everything soak in and reflect. This resulted in a hiatus of three years before releasing his follow up ‘Innerstanding’, an album which Maverick admits many people didn’t “connect to”. However, this offering saw a more refined artist and one that brought through a combination of interesting collaborations in the form of Joey Bada$$ (‘We Don’t Wanna Be’) and Chronixx (‘Why’).
Personally my two favourite tracks off the project, I ask Mav why it was important they were included; “If you connect with people, they can always draw something different out of you and artistically, that’s so interesting. I also don’t like working with someone unless I have a personal connection with them and have a relationship on a personal level. On my first record, I made it clear that I didn’t want any collaborations, it was my first proper stand point and I wanted to get my voice across. But by the time of the second album, I had met and connected with so many wicked artists that I wanted to get them involved and both of those collaborations were like having my family involved“.
In the weeks after the release of ‘Innerstanding’, Maverick’s situation changed drastically. The label he was signed to had merged, several key players who had brought him through had moved on and left and Maverick made the decision to part ways with everyone within the space of a week in early 2016, “I left everyone and needed to take some time away to write, which was really fucking liberating“. This time away provided Maverick the time to reflect on his journey to that point and he realised very quickly that he had begun to normalise his achievements. By not appreciating the good moments, he’d started to magnify the bad stuff, giving himself a one sided view of what he’d done.
There was so many things I was doing that my 16 year old self would letting off shots for! I wanted to go back to basics and think of myself first.
Maverick feels that 2018 is a new debut for him and he’s tasked himself with reintroducing himself to people and building the foundations again. By recognising that he had normalised his journey, he wanted to take it back to basics and start by reconnecting to his 16 year old self, making hip hop beats in his bedroom. His ability to be free and experiment helped him to find his hunger again; “I know I’ve got a wealth of experience and I feel like I’m twenty times better than when I released my debut. I feel better as a songwriter, as a musician, I’ve been working and understanding my voice and now I feel like I have that hunger again“. It was in one of these bedroom sessions when he first found the sound for his new album, due in March 2019.
“One day I made this weird track which I loved, which was ‘Drifting’. That is the first fully self produced song I have put out since I was 19“. The track certainly shows the evolution of Maverick, blending hip hop and soul and Maverick lacing the track with a powerful and emotive story. “My intention with ‘Drifting’ was to throw a spanner in the works and bring people into my music who maybe haven’t heard me before or thought they knew me from previous releases and pigeonholed me as a pop singer“.
The accompanying video also lends itself to the story, not just to the lyrics but to the overall energy and sentiment of the track. Working alongside director Hector Dockrill, they wanted to tell an untold Irish story and the final project highlights this as well of showcasing Ireland in such a fantastic way, shooting in Ballymun, Dublin. The story follows a man through his struggles of how he’s got to be around his friends, how he’s got to be supportive of his mum but when he’s by himself, he’s freaking out.
You can feel that he’s in all this turmoil and the only chance he gets to express himself is when he’s by himself.
Maverick hopes that ‘Drifting’ will form the first part of a series of films shot in Ireland, coming together to form a mini film, with his songs as an integral part. When discussing the relationship between music and video, Maverick says that while writing, he has visuals on in the background, whether it be Kendrick Lamar’s Kahlil Joseph documentary or La Haine. So by relating words to visuals and strong images, this has influenced his music, and in turn, he wants his own visuals to reflect that.
After 28 years of making music, is the emotion still there for Maverick? Well yes, because emotion has never left Maverick. Just as he recites a story of how he would never quite connect to Jay Z’s talk of million pound cars and houses, he mentions Jay’s 2017’s ‘4:44’ album as a turning point in that, Maverick has also been able to give us stories that we can relate to as individuals. Regardless of situations, Maverick looks to connect with his listeners and be”vulnerable and brutally honest” in his music. Through this, the music provides him with a special form of therapy, helping him to deal with and understand his own emotions.
Without having music as my outlet, I’d be fucked up. I feel that if music feels like therapy then I’m onto something.
Responsibility in music and why it is so important is something I put to Maverick, as I know that he has never been shy to talk on political and societal issues; “I think that’s it’s even more evident in today’s society that musicians are the last lines of truth to the general public. Music itself is one of the last pure things and I believe it’s my duty as a musician to lace my music with shit I see around me and I have to be honest about my opinion. If we don’t do that in music, then we are losing a platform to have change. Some times, musicians spend more time with people through music than their own wife, kids, parents and I don’t want to waste those three minutes“.
As we wrap up our conversation, I reflect back on the change within him. The past 3 years have not been the easiest but he has made it out the other side, with lots of learning gleamed as well. He’s been touring the country and Europe with Jorja Smith, his latest video has seen a new side of him showcased to the world and he seems excited with what happens next. His plan for the future is clear, concise and reflective of this new Maverick Sabre: “With his record, I want people to take away what I’ve always wanted them to take away – a connection. For me, this newfound hunger has built from wanting to get my music out there and seeing it spread and with this record, I just want to spread the message”.
Listen to Maverick Sabre’s new track featuring Chronixx, ‘Her Grace’ below, with his new album ‘When I Wake Up’ due in March 2019. Maverick will also take his ‘When I Wake Up’ tour on the road in March and both album pre-order and tour dates can be found here;