Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Maverick Sabre: Soul Contender

Maverick Sabre
Maverick Sabre Maverick Sabre Maverick Sabre Maverick Sabre

Critically-acclaimed for his eerie, soulfully haunting vocals, 24-year-old Maverick Sabre - unquestionably one of the British music’s most distinctive breakthrough male artists of the last three years - this October releases his highly-anticipated second album “Innerstanding”. Whose diverse musicality is currently being pioneered on both charts and airwaves by the monstrous, tuff beats and deep-pumping bass of its offshoot single “Emotion”, which borrows its familiar soulful hook from Rufus & Chaka Khan’s enduring 1983 classic “Ain’t Nobody”.

Indeed, recorded in London, Jamaica and Brooklyn, the intriguingly-titled “Innerstanding” boasts guest appearances from Jamaican conscious reggae star Chronixx and 19-year-old New York rapper Joey Bada$$ in addition to production input from the likes of Jamaican dancehall don Stephen McGregor (son of reggae legend Freddie McGregor); West London’s Craze & Hoax; North Londoners Seemore; plus such seasoned UK studio bods as Fraser T. Smith, Dan Utters and Jimmy Hogarth. While musical moods range from the buoyantly skipping gospel- soaked optimism of “Walk Into The Sun” and head-nod beats of the hauntingly melodic “Come Fly Away” to the intensely-hypnotic, slow-burning “Breathe” and Sixties-tinged, singalong doo-wop feel of the irrepressibly swaying “Falling Again”.

… Born Michael Stafford in Hackney, East London in 1990, Maverick’s musical escapade initially began at the tender age of four, when his parents decided to leave their UK home for County Wexford in Ireland’s rural “sunny Southeast”. Where, spending his formative years both accompanying his musician dad to his live performances and listening avidly to his dad’s classic soul and rock albums, by the age of eight a young Michael had already written his first song.

Nevertheless, while recording sessions with his dad ensued, it was actually Maverick’s older sister’s love of R&B and hip hop that would open his eyes to a wider range of contemporary music and take his up-to-then-homegrown formula to the next phase. When, on hitting his teenage years, he found the confidence to begin performing on the small-but-buzzing Irish hip hop scene. Where, via links with local groups like Rap Ireland and Urban Intelligence, support slots would soon ensue for internationally-successful rappers like The Game, Lloyd Banks and - most significantly - Plan B. Who, after hearing Sabre sing, suggested a move back to London.

Taking up his famous new friend’s suggestion, at 17 Maverick did indeed finally return to his city-of-birth. Where, at first living with an aunt, he joined the dole queue for over a year before becoming a flatmate of the aforementioned Plan B. A move which within two years would result in his ultra-distinctive, hip hop-inspired soul/folk vocals going on to reach a bona fide mainstream audience - with Sabre’s 2012 debut LP “Lonely Are The Brave” attaining Top Two, Gold-selling status in the UK powered by its two Top 20 singles “Let Me Go” and “ I Need”.

… Which brings us back to today, as an ever-talkative and affable Maverick relaxes over lunchtime drinks in his publicist’s St. Johns Wood offices to enthusiastically discuss his aforementioned new sophomore LP “Innerstanding”. Whose cosmopolitan vibe effortlessly takes in elements of soul, reggae, hip hop and rock as an eclectic accompaniment to Sabre’s trademark blend of exposed emotions, keenly-observed lyrics and socially-conscious tales.

Titling his new album “Innerstanding”

“Well, for the title of this album I wanted something that would be as significant to me personally as the title to the FIRST one, “Lonely Are The BRAVE”. Which was a title that had been in my mind ever since I’d been a kid of eight or nine when I saw a Western on TV that had been called that and, because I loved everything about that phrase, it had just stuck WITH me… So anyway, with this album I was maybe three-quarters of my way through it, I still had no title in mind - all I had was like eight tunes - when one day a friend of mine was over at my house and we started having quite a deep conversation where at one point she was like ‘It’s not about UNDERSTANDING or OVERSTANDING things, it’s about INNERSTANDING YOURSELF’… And as soon as she said that, something CLICKED with me! Because I realised it completely fitted what I’d been trying to do for the last two YEARS, since I stopped touring off “Lonely Are The BRAVE”! Which was trying to understand MYSELF a lot more. So then when I eventually sat down and listened to the songs on this album as a collective body-of-work and I saw how each one of them represented something different I was trying to figure out or clear up or realise in my life, I was like ‘YEAH, “Innerstanding” is the perfect TITLE!”

What Mav wanted to achieve musically this time round

“I don’t think I ever consciously sit down to write a song with a definitive musical direction in mind. Instead it’s all about whatever my feeling is at the time and then it taking on its own kinda JOURNEY. I mean, I guess I’ve always wanted my VOICE to be the signature SOUND that runs through all my music, while it’s my MESSAGE and what I want to SPEAK about or CHANGE that should always be the running THEME. But then having said that, for me musically with this one I did definitely want to EXPERIMENT a lot more. Plus I also wanted to go back to more of my hip hop influences within the PRODUCTION, and sonically make it a tiny bit harder than the FIRST record.”

How “Innerstanding” finds him changing and moving forward lyrically

“Lyrically I think it’s a more PERSONAL record than my first, and I also feel it’s a more VULNERABLE record. Basically this time round I think I’ve opened up a lot more than I’ve EVER opened up. Plus with this album I was able to look at negative situations or negative issues in my own life and within the world in general, and be able to put a positive SPIN on it. Whereas before I actually used to quite like and enjoy making depressing music without, to be honest, ever realising how it was affecting me PERSONALLY. You know, I used to always swear that I couldn’t make a happy song if even if I TRIED!… So yeah, “Innerstanding” is definitely the first record where I actually felt I could reflect in a forward LIGHT. And I guess the reason it’s that much more personal is because I had more input in this album than I’ve ever had on my records BEFORE.”

How a major turning-point in terms of songwriting inspiration actually (and surprisingly!) occurred while Mav was attending a stag weekend near Barcelona

“Yeah, I actually even dislike it being CALLED a ‘stag do’ - because in retrospect it feels so much MORE than that! What actually happened was, because a friend of mine was getting married, around 15 of us - most of us had never met each other before - went out to Barcelona where we rented out a small castle in the MOUNTAINS. And though you can just imagine the problems that can arise from 15 men who’ve never seen each other in their lives before all going on a stag-do together, at the end of the day it did actually turn out to be quite an eye-opening EXPERIENCE! Purely in the sense of just all those people who’d never even met before just speaking openly about life and music and everything else in BETWEEN. And so with there being all sorts of things I was resolving in my OWN life that were going on separate from the stag-do during the time I was there, I did end up coming home with quite a different OUTLOOK on things. Like the first day after I got back I went into the studio - still totally hungover! - and made the song “Breathe” with Jimmy Hogarth and Dan UTTERS. Which actually turned out to be the first time that I’d written lyrics where I was able to look back and say ‘I actually feel I’m CHANGING here! Because never before - not even six MONTHS ago - have I been able to write about a situation in this LIGHT!’… Which in turn kinda then spurred on the REST of the record.”

The album “Innerstanding” is released October 20. The single “Emotion” is out now, both through Virgin/EMI Records.

TWITTER: @MaverickSabre

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