When Maverick Sabre, the London born, Irish raised, singer songwriter and musician first arrived on the scene nearly a decade ago he was championed by Plan B and went on to collaborate on tracks from the likes of Professor Green and Chase & Status.
Now, with three albums under his belt, Maverick Sabre is a highly respected artist and storyteller who has written for and regularly collaborates with other artists. With frequent placements in advertising, TV and film over the years, his own music draws a line between the Irish, American and UK rap scenes he grew up on and the timeless blues and traditional Irish music of his family’s heritage. His debut album, ‘Lonely Are The Brave’, went to number two in the UK album charts, and sold over 250,000 copies going Platinum. He was nominated for the 2012 Critics’ Choice BRIT Award.
Recent highlights include guest featuring on Jorja Smith’s USA tour and this year he headlined the Sonic Stage at Glastonbury Festival. The release in March 2019 of his latest album, ’When I Wake Up’, was followed by a sold out Spring UK/Ireland tour and sold out shows in LA and New York.
He recently performed at Big Sync’s VIP live music showcase inside London’s iconic White City House. Big Sync co-founder and CEO, Dominic Caisley caught up with Maverick before he went on stage, to talk about his new music and connecting to people through the powerful combination of music and visuals.
How was ‘When I Wake Up’ born – you’ve previously said it ‘made itself’.
I’d released my second album, it was the start of 2016, I came away from my label and management at the time and kind of had a fresh start. I started writing for a lot of other artists for their projects. I took myself purposefully out of my own head space from writing my own album and at the back end of that I started getting back into production. I’d always been a producer from a kid, when I was sixteen I was always making boom bap beats or grime beats or drum ’n bass or whatever it was and I got back into it at the start of 2016. I was doing sessions in the day for other artists and having fun and experimenting in the evening – but it was production-wise not really songs and half way through that process I sat back and listened to what I’d been making and realised about half or three quarters of the album was there in small ideas. So that’s what I mean when I say it ‘made itself’. It was probably the purest album I’ve made because it did make itself and it was purely me just experimenting and sitting there going ‘I need to have a song like this or have a feeling like this’ on it. Half way through I realised I’d got a body of work to finish off.
How important is it to be true to yourself as an artist and not necessarily present music that people are expecting from you?
Being as pure to what’s within has to come first as a musician – or anyone in life or who’s involved with art and getting the opportunity to express it and give it to others. But for me this album was about centring myself back to a younger version of myself where I was making music purely just off the enjoyment of my own ears in my own room in small town New Ross in County Wexford. That’s what the album came out of really.
“Being as pure to what’s within has to come first as a musician – or anyone in life or who’s involved with art and getting the opportunity to express it and give it to others.”
How do you think the new music is connecting to people?
The response so far has been beautiful. And the unique thing about this album and doing it independently and really having a family unit of directors and producers around me was that we’ve been able to get out as much emotion as possible from every element of the album. We went back to Ireland to shoot a couple of videos quite personal to the story of Ireland, expressing not only young men’s emotions but young people’s emotions in Ireland, breaking through stereotypes and dealing with mental health issues and structures in society that are not necessarily spoken about or shown in music videos as they should be and I feel like it connected with a lot of people. I just wanted to show people in every caption of work we’ve done from the first song ‘Drifting’ to ‘Glory’, which we went back again to Ireland to shoot, was just that no matter what circumstance we’re in, aloneness or the feeling of aloneness is a big part of the problem. I wanted to show that I feel it too, someone cares, it’s ok to feel alone and in a way you connect with a lot of other people because a lot of the world feels the same way. It was just trying to tell some emotional stories and get the passion of the message of the song across as clearly as possible.
Can you talk about the visual element of your music, how important it is to you?
I’ve always liked music videos and I feel videos are an essential part of telling the story as well as possible of a song or an album. People can interpret whatever they want from songs and the lyrics and that’s the beautiful thing about music. I suppose visuals hone in on a person’s feeling and emotions and the point you really want to get across whether it’s colours or characters. I’ve always held videos in high regard. Ever since I’ve been a kid part of my process of writing is putting the visuals on in the background, whether it’s music videos that I like on mute or documentaries or films or whatever, just images that inspire me. I’ll have them playing constantly on a loop in the background while I’m making music so that in turn makes me want to recreate those moments for myself.
When it comes to directing, do you have creative control over that side of things?
Absolutely. There was only one director on the project that I hadn’t known personally before we worked together but everyone else was close friends and family. It’s about keeping purity and keeping a unit of people around you that understand what you’re trying to say and don’t want to dilute it. You trust them and they trust you as well.
How do you feel about artists working with brands?
I can’t tell an artist to not do something for money and if it’s right for them then fair enough. You’ve got to have a business head about you and see what actually connects to you. Any brands that I’ve been close with or had any sort of relationship with it’s been because I either like them myself, I wear them myself, I’m supportive of their beliefs or their ethos or whatever they do themselves and that connects back in with what I do. Sometimes artists can get the wrong brand and ideas that maybe confuse their audience of people that support them. So artists can make bad decisions in that sense but that’s really down to the individuals themselves. I like working with bands where I like their ethos, that I’m a fan of already.
“Any brands that I’ve been close with or had any sort of relationship with it’s been because I either like them myself, I wear them myself, I’m supportive of their beliefs or their ethos or whatever they do themselves and that connects back in with what I do.”
In advertising how important do you think music is in helping a brand connect with an audience?
I think it’s essential. Music attached to the right visual can make people feel a way that they’ve never been able to delve into – they might be listening to the music separately or viewing the visuals separately and together it’s a powerful force. That’s why scores in film have worked so well and have evoked so much emotion in people, why music videos have become legendary and become attached to moments in people’s lives. That right fusion of music and visuals not only connect with emotions in people but sells people the idea of what the brand wants to get across and the right music matched with it can strike a chord in people’s hearts that the visual alone would not. I’m a big supporter of the right visual with the right music whether it’s adverts or music video or film. There’s something unique and poignant about it.
“Music attached to the right visual can make people feel a way that they’ve never been able to delve into – they might be listening to the music separately or viewing the visuals separately and together it’s a powerful force.”
Has your music has ever featured in any adverts, TV shows or films?
Yes, different songs from ‘I Need’ to ‘Drifting’ have been on loads of productions, both film and advert.
Which ones are you proudest of / most wants to mention?
I recorded a song specially for a TK MAXX advert a couple of years ago which got played quite a lot over a season – it was my first advert synch.
Have you ever discovered an artist from a TV advert?
Yes, I first heard a great singer called Tiggs Da Author on a car advert.
What TV ad from the past has stuck in your memory and what was the track used?
The only ad I can remember with a tune that stood out was the Cadbury’s ad with Phil Collins – ‘In The Air Tonight’.
Which artists are inspiring you right now?
There’s loads of great stuff coming out at the minute from Greentea Peng, Skripteh, New Machine and Olivia Dean.
What can we expect next from you?
More music, more experimenting with sounds and structures and always more short film music visuals. I have two acoustic EPs coming out and a new album/EP for the near future.
12 Nov 2019, Manchester Cathedral, England
13 Nov 2019, Saint Luke’s, Scotland
14 Nov 2019 The Leadmill, Sheffield, England
15 Nov 2019 The Tramshed, Cardiff, Wales
19 Nov 2019 The O2 Institute, Birmingham, England
20 Nov 2019 SWX Bristol, England
22 Nov 2019 02 Shepherds Bush Empire, London, England
06 Dec 2019 Madtown Days, Madrid, Spain
07 Dec 2019 La Nau, Barcelona, Spain