An Interview With: Maverick Sabre
Maverick Sabre is back with his third album When I Wake Up. He spoke to Ali about the process of making his album, the inspiration, music videos and the beginning of his tour.
Ali: A lot of the album is self-produced. How did you find doing a lot of the self-producing aspects of the new album? Were there any significant challenges or aspects you enjoyed?
Maverick Sabre: I quite enjoyed it to be honest. A lot of it was just me experimenting. It never felt like too much, it never felt anything really. It was just me getting back into producing properly. Getting stuck back in after a couple of years being away from producing. I was always doing bits and pieces, but this was when I jumped back into it. So it was just enjoyable really, honing my craft in a way.
Ali: So it was quite a natural thing for this album then?
M.S: Most definitely yeah
Ali: The songs all work so well together as a body of work. Did you find they all fitted together naturally, or did you write certain songs knowing how you wanted them to fit together?
M.S: Some of them felt like they definitely sit beside each other. ‘Drifting’, ‘Into Nirvana’, ‘Don’t Talk About It’, they all felt like they were gonna fit quite nicely into each other. They were made with the same guitar, I was using a lot of the same settings on them, and sound wise for those felt quite natural, and they like fit together quite easily. Yeah, it wasn’t until we started piecing it together, and why we intentionally put the songs where they are on the album, cus they did feel natural in that order. Like they do sit together quite well.
Ali: You don’t normally have many features on your previous albums. Why did you choose Jorja Smith and Chronixx to feature and collab on the songs they did? Did you know you always wanted to feature them on the record?
M.S: Yeah definitely. Me and Chronixx have been making music since we met each other, and pretty much the same with Jorja. So for me it was like, I knew when I heard ‘Slow Down’, I was like right it needs a feature on this, and alright Jorja needs to come on this, cus it felt like our tones match each other quite well on a song like that. And then ‘Her Grace’ was yeah, it was another kind of one that I thought I’d love to heard Chronixx’s take on this. So it was natural, they both felt like they suited the tunes.
Ali: They definitely do. ‘Her Grace’ is one where you’d kind of think it would be going a certain direction, and then Chronixx comes on it, it still fits and is still beautifully done but he adds an interesting element to it
MS: Most definitely. And that’s exactly what I wanted. Especially with the subject topic. I kind of wanted that take. I wanted two male’s perspectives, and especially his you know.
Ali: There’s a powerful message behind a lot of these songs, like ‘Her Grace’ to name just one. How important is it for you to reflect on important and slightly darker themes within your songs?
M.S: I think its massively important for me anyways, it’s the reason I’m writing music. Ever since I was quite young the topics that really kind of stood out to me, that I always wanted to write about, were always maybe the more awkward ones to write about, or the ones that were kind of shied away from in popular music. And it was topics that for me felt like grey areas in life, and stories that needed to be told and untold, and different sides of stories. Just different perspectives on stories. And that was the music that always struck me.
I was a big 2Pac fan, and the songs that always struck me the most were his stories like ‘Brenda’s Got a Baby’, ‘Keep Your Head Up’ or ‘Dear Mama’, which were like different takes. Like oh wow look at this perspective from this young man that you’ve got, that you know of as a gangster rapper but you know really underneath it, the stories are beautiful stories and can really uplift not just the women listening to it, but also the men listening to it, and hopefully changed people’s perspectives on it, or make people feel like they’re speaking for them. So you know that was kind of always running through my music and always will run through my music.
Ali: Like you say it’s nice to have an artist who doesn’t shy away from those topics where others maybe choose to
M.S: Yeah and that’s down to the artists, each individual artist themselves. I’m never gonna dictate what people should do. But in my opinion for me, the artists that really connected with me are the ones that have something to say or at least try and give a perspective on an untold story, or a story that you just don’t hear that much in music.
Ali: I love that you are making videos for each song on the record as a visual accompaniment. What made you decide you wanted them all to have a video and not just the singles you released?
M.S: The whole album was written to a visual. Every song was written to a movie, or a music video, or a photo or something that I was inspired by. So, everything was written to a visual which was why the album feels a bit like a soundtrack. I wanted people to feel that because that was what I was trying to write. I wanted people to not just be pulled in by the lyrics, and not just pulled in by the sound, but pulled in by everything, the emotion of it. Even if you don’t necessarily listen to all the lyrics on the record, I wanted it to be able to make you feel like you were in a stage or a feeling in your own head. And that’s why we wanted the visual to kind of like capture that as well.
Ali: ‘Glory’ in particular is a beautifully shot video with an important message about masculinity and mental health. Is this something you wrote the song with in mind or did the video come out of it naturally?
M.S: It kind of came naturally afterwards. The song was kind of like a personal story. Me and the writer are both from Wexford, and have a Wexford background in the south of Ireland. And we sat down to write this kind of folk tune years ago, and my dads actually singing on it as well. It was that feeling of like, I suppose for us it was personally writing about being through some dark times and even though you can be at your lowest and at your darkest, that to hold onto that hope of glory, and to hold onto that expression of that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And sometimes it’s almost non-existent and sometimes you can’t see it and the only thing you have to do is believe and believe in glory, and sometimes that belief feels like glory.
For the visuals when we went over and shot it they kind of, they almost made themselves to be honest. We weren’t quite sure what we were shooting for ‘Glory’. It was kind of like a second thought. We were going back after ‘Drifting’ to shoot like a short documentary, and ‘Glory’ kind of made itself really in a weird way. I kind of don’t know how to explain that but it just made itself.
Ali: Sometimes those are almost the best ones, or the ones that have the most meaning I suppose, where it just feels so natural it just happens
M.S: Yeah it was. We could’ve gone with a narrative and we’re gonna make this story. But we always had that the lead character was Reece, and I’d know Reece for a couple of years and I aways wanted him to be the main face and emotion that you see in ‘Glory’. But when we started filming and chatting to everyone it did kind of just make itself in a way.
Ali: ‘Into Nirvana’ references massive indie rock bands like Oasis and the Stone Roses and when you listen to your music you wouldn’t think they are huge influences because they sound quite different. Are these influences for the songs on this album or are they just bands you love?
M.S: They’re just bands I love! I’m a massive Oasis and Stone Roses fan. For me in the last three years Stone Roses, I’ve really understood them more than I ever had before. So Stone Roses were a big influence on this album. They were a band I’d been listening to a lot in the creation of this album. So that was like an ode to them, and the inspiration they’ve given me.
Ali: It’s been 7 years since your debut album Lonely Are the Brave and three years since Innerstanding. Is there anything you’ve experienced as an artist over that time like collaborating or honing your sound, which you’ve taken into your newest album?
M.S: I think everything that I’ve experienced I’ve taken into this album. I think thats why everything before was like a learning curve for this album. I started off producing when I was quite young and then I was around so many great producers on my first two albums. I spent a hell of a lot of time learning, sitting and listening and taking in my surroundings. So just in general being around great musicians that I trust and believe in, and who trust and believe in me were the biggest things that I took from the last couple of albums.
Ali: You’ve started your tour for When I Wake Up. How was it playing the first shows in Dublin and Cork, generally kicking it off in Ireland?
M.S: Yeah it set a very very high standard. Ireland has always shown me a lot of love, and being back there this year everyones been giving me a lot of support for this album. So it felt like a really nice start. Like it kicked it into gear.
Ali: You’re coming to Liverpool and Manchester this week…
M.S: Oh Manchester’s great! The next couple of dates i’ve got coming up have always been great. I’ve got Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool for the next three days coming up and they’ve always been beautiful. Manchester is like being back in Ireland, ask anyone who plays in Ireland and they’ll tell you Manchester is like mini Ireland, not like because everyones Irish but the feeling, I love Manchester.
Ali: Has there been any memorable moments so far?
M.S: To be honest the most memorable moments were in Cork and Dublin when we first started the tour, and it was the first time i’d ever played songs like ‘Drifting’ and ‘Into Nirvana’. So to see them know the lyrics it was like wow. You forget they’ve been listening to the songs, you get into your own headspace when you’re making an album and you forget, so yeah that was a really beautiful moment for me.
Ali: Has there been a particular song you enjoy performing the most? Or that has the best reaction from the crowd?
M.S: I’d say ‘Drifting’ to be honest at the moment. ‘Drifting’ has been outstanding every night we’ve performed it, it’s been outstanding. I couldn’t have asked for a better response from it. ‘Drifting’ and ‘Glory’, the new stuff has taken me back every time we perform it. ‘Drifting’ and ‘Glory’ both feel like big festival tunes, really riling the crowd up quite a lot and really make me feel a lot of emotion, which is what I hope they all did.
Ali: To end with some lighter questions, If you could make a festival line up and tailor it to how you’d like, who would you feature?
MS: Well I’ve gotta say Stone Roses and Oasis, but also Jorja, Chronixx, Joey Bada$$, Kendrick Lamar, Solange, Bob Dylan, Burning Spear, Kate Bush, Talking Heads, Fleetwood Mac. There’s loads man! But yeah if I could go and see all them at one one festival I might stop making music and just run festivals.
Ali: Oh no please don’t stop making music!
M.S: Nah nah, i’m joking i’m joking! I’d just give myself the headlining slot every night!
Ali: Who are the current artists or songs that are in your heavy rotation?
M.S: There’s a young rapper called Roddy Ricch, and he’s got a song called ‘Die Young’ that i’ve been listening to. I’ve never heard of him before and he’s done a song with Chip recently, and yeah I fell in love with this song that i’ve been playing quite a lot.
Ali: This has been awesome. Thank you so much for having a chat with me!
M.S: No problem, thanks for taking the time!
When I Wake Up may just be my album of the year, and it is definitely worth a listen!
You can stream Maverick Sabre’s new album When I Wake Up here
Maverick Sabre is playing Manchester Academy on Friday 5th April and Liverpool’s Arts Club on Saturday 6th April. Tickets for his upcoming tour dates are available here.