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Beatnik is first to introduce Maverick Sabre
words Ali Raymond / images Romain KedochimMaverick Sabre: I Need
Over at Beatnik we are excited, very excited indeed. New talent Maverick Sabre, or Michael as he’s known to his mum, is someone quite special.
His Acoustic sets are pure brilliance both soulful and moving. With a reggae twang in his singing comparable to Finley Quaye, he arouses emotion whenever he plays to new ears. But along with his harmonies and guitar riffs, it’s his thought provoking lyrics and youthful perspective that really give his music that extra edge.
As a result nineteen year old Maverick is attracting fans from all corners. Including 1extra beat tasters Ras Kwame and DJ Semtex, recently igniting the infamous BBC Maida Vale recording studios and his single ‘Sometimes’ becoming a weekend anthem.
‘Maverick means someone who wants to look outside the box’ he cracks a smile as he explains the choice in name.
‘Sabre, what I found it to mean, was someone who puts on a front to get through hard situations.’
These are definitions that will no doubt become more apparent in the coming months.
Because between practising for constant live bookings, writing new material and negotiating a record deal, Mavericks days have truly become busier then the taxman.
Luckily we managed meet up with the rising star on a cold Sunday morning in North London. After brief jokes and photos in the snow we settled in a warm pub and get behind the man about to blow.
At first glance Maverick’s music might seem like it stems from soul or reggae roots and while that holds some reasoning, the real influence behind his music is the good stuff.
‘I got into Hip Hop I suppose firstly through my sister. She listened to stuff like Wu Tang. And then I got into to Tupac and Eminem, which was around the time I wanted to emcee.’
His education into Hip Hop is another illustration of the genres reach into new countries and communities.
‘It wasn’t until I was emceeing at gigs that the Irish Hip Hop community would say I should listen to UK acts like Klasnekoff and Skinnyman. From there I started listening to more American underground Hip Hop like Pete Rock and 9th Wonder. It was a gradual thing.’
In fact Mavericks taste in Hip Hop is far from what you’d expect from a 19 year old, with the latter north California producer being his favourite.
‘9th wonder is so soulful.’ He explains enthusiastically. ‘Especially the stuff he samples. I find his beat so simple. I could just listen without anyone spitting over it and it hits the spot straight away.’
So how did it all begin?
‘My dad’s been in a band since before I was alive. He taught me the guitar when I was 7 or 8. It wasn’t until I got into performing Hip Hop that I thought I’d try rapping over the guitar. Then I started singing the hooks. And it was a natural progression from there.’
While artists and the local scene might have inspired his style, his biggest motivator came closer to home.
‘Since very young my dad has been a huge influence. Every song I do, I let me him listen to it first to see what he thinks.’
Someone that is no doubt a big reason for his surprising maturity, its great to hear about the closeness with his father.
‘I’d have a gig up in Dublin when I was say 15. He’d pick me up and we’d go up to the city. He’d see the gig and drop me home. Even when I dodged school to go to a gig, he wouldn’t mind. He’d talk my mum round.’ He Laughs.
Born in Hackney, London, to an Irish Father and English mother he was raised in Ireland from the age of four but often travelled between the two countries.
Originating from two places, which geographically are very close but culturally and historically couldn’t be further apart, had a profound effect on a young maverick. Like many of the new generation his upbringing forced him to ask questions about his own identity.
‘A lot of young people today suffer. To be honest I don’t think young people are taught enough about themselves or their history.’ This is obviously a serious topic for maverick, a dilemma that governs his early work and forms a good base for his present music.
‘It’s only been in the last year really that I’ve found myself and I’m happy with who I am: being proud to have the two cultures behind me. Before I’d ask: Am I Irish or am I English?
I think definitely identity is a big issue with young people. But if a young person is comfortable with their history and themselves, then they are open to others.
It’s refreshing to see Maverick has turned a corner and found himself so early on. Humble yet confident he now has the mindset to concentrate on music, he is adamant, which won’t have restrictions.
‘I just want to be universal. I don’t want someone to say I’m only making music for one type of person or country. I just want to make music. Forget where you come from, music is music. Just listen to it.’
Even in the face of racism he believes music can overcome.
‘There will always be ignorance in the world. But people who like music, will understand any kind of good music no matter what colour you are or where you come from. That’s the thing.’
When you hear Maverick play it’s an interesting mixture of the best parts of many genres of music, embraced entirely by his passion for Hip Hop ideology. Far from being influenced by traditional Irish folk music, both Mavericks father and grandfather were into early blues and rock n roll. Meaning his unique musicianship was passed down through the talented family.
As a result he often sparks welcoming surprise when he draws for the mic.
‘A lot of people don’t expect me to do the type of music I do. My dad when he was young was pretty much the same.’
And Maverick’s music couldn’t be more his own – An individualistic modern representation of culture today.
Many of his songs, like ‘They Found Him a Gun,’ ‘Lonely Side of Life’ or the beautiful ‘I Need’ tackle difficult issues – the lyricism brought about by his own observations and experiences.
‘Take ‘They found him a gun.’ It was loosely based around Virginia Tech and the Columbine shooting. I was interested one night after seeing something on TV. I read up on different school shootings in America and Europe and bullying in general. It got me inspired. So I wrote a little story.’
And it’s this endless appetite for everyday stories and events that gives his music the potential to touch so many. His method of writing is usually in seclusion. Somewhere, often his room, where he can find utter peace to create.
‘I’ll let you in on a weird secret.’ Smiling he explains the thought process. ‘Normally I just sit in my room, close the curtains so I’m in darkness. But lately I’ve been going on YouTube looking for nineties music videos. Like Massive Attack’s ‘Unfinished Sympathy.’ I put something like that on mute and watch the video again and again. I always have different guitar rifts in my head so I play along to the video on loop and see what song comes out of it.’
However unorthodox his ways of finding inspiration it’s definitely churned out success. With his Myspace songs and his debut single ‘Sometimes’ turning all the right heads.
But with all the interest he’s still realistic about his talent.
‘Obviously I write stuff and think ‘oh that’s brilliant’, then I play it to someone and they might be like ‘that’s shit.’ He Laughs.
‘But you need constructive criticism, my dad and manager are two of those people. When you have people around you telling you every things brilliant that’s when you go downhill.’
His unreleased album is already gaining critical acclaim along with huge excitement from new fans who sense a treat on the horizon. Varied, it’s a debut that looks to pull at peoples different emotions as he insists.
‘You can’t really have an album with one topic. Not everyone is deep all the time, people fall in love, people get pissed! Every artist should represent every part of their life in an album.’
‘The kind of stuff I do hip hop fans will like it because a lot of it is about the lyrics. I think it’s a mix between rapping and singing where other songs are obviously more soulful.’
Soon to be released this year the debut is finished but remains hidden. Street wise Maverick and savy manager Darius are holding their cards close. Reluctant to settle on the short-term appeal of a big advance, they’d rather make the majors sweat as they scope the best contract.
Here big respect is due to someone who cares more about the reputation of their music and professional stance then a quick buck. Maybe pear shape Hip Hop tales of yester years have rubbed off.
‘Not mentioning names, but I think people who buy some records now in the charts won’t play that to their kids years ahead. They’ll grow out of it in two to three years. It’s not like when my dad played a Bob Dylan album to me. I loved that and it was before my time.
But spending a few hours with Maverick its clear now just how much this album means to him: ‘It’s my life, that’s it. It’s the air I breath.’ And the hungry determination he has not to be forgotten, wasted talent.
‘A lot of people settle for situations. I don’t believe in that.’
‘Everything is about knocking people down now. But everyone is equal. if you carry belief in yourself and know your own talent you can do anything you put your mind too, no matter what it is. I’m a strong believer of that.’Maverick Sabre: Sometimes
Maverick Sabre online