In conversation with Maverick Sabre

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By Bethany Marris, Online Music Editor

‘Being as hands on and bullheaded as I am in general, I had to trust people’, Epigram Music talks with Maverick Sabre following the release of his latest record, When I Wake Up.

Since 2008, Irish singer-songwriter Michael Stafford has carved his artistic identity through avenues of Hip-Hop, Soul and R&B under the moniker ‘Maverick Sabre’. Stafford’s earlier work with the likes of Professor Green and Chase and Status are to be credited for his UK breakthrough, yet he’s most widely known for his critically acclaimed debut ‘Lonely are the Brave’ (2012) and sophomore record ‘Innerstanding’ (2015). More recently, the artist has worked with names such as Rudimental, Jorja Smith and George The Poet, although his last few years have been spent writing and producing for others. In March, following the release of singles ‘Into Nirvana’ and ‘Slow Down’, Stafford released his third album, When I Wake Up.

Revealing the creative process behind When I Wake Up, Stafford explained that the album was conceived almost ‘by accident’ during a period of predominantly writing for other people. ‘I put making my own album to the back of my mind a bit, and in that process I kinda started to experiment more, producing beats and just making music for the fun of it’. It was through this that ‘the album started to form itself’. Stafford ‘slowed down’ his ‘behind the scenes’ collaborations, in turn making time to channel his creativity exclusively into his own project.

Stafford proceeded to break down his technique of ‘writing to visuals’: ‘everything on the album was written to visual’, whether that be a ‘movie, music video or  photo’. He continued, ‘the visual technique is something that I’ve always used, I’ve been doing it since I was like twelve’. The difference this time, however, is that the vast majority of When I Wake Up was created ‘at home’. ‘It was always around me , I’ve got a small TV that played  movies and music videos on a loop throughout when I was making the record.’ As a result of this, Stafford’s latest record is probably his ‘most personal’ body of work; from it being created in his living room to ‘everyone working on it being friends and family.’ The artist disclosed that he’d even been ‘kicked out of a flat for making music’.‘I was In there for four years and I got kicked out for making tunes’.

Issues with grumbling neighbours meant that his previous place ‘wasn’t a good environment’ for his work, stating that ‘there was a space’ he ‘needed to move into to create music’. Thankfully, on relocating Stafford’s been able to produce tracks such as ‘Drifting’ and ‘Into Nirvana’ from the comfort of his own home.

It quickly became clear that where possible, Michael chooses to undergo the album process alongside those whose work he knows inside out. ‘Being as hands on and bullheaded as I am in general, I had to trust people’. The artist's proclivity for the familiar is also translated in his videos, and he was quick to assert his presence ‘on every shoot of every video’, even those he doesn’t appear in. Acknowledging his luck, Michael explained that his friends ‘just so happen to double up as awesome directors’. Furthermore, the only two featuring voices on the record are no exception to this trend. Stafford and Reggae artist Chronixx, who features on ‘Her Grace’, have been ‘working together for almost five years now’. Additionally, British R&B star Jorja Smith lends soulful vocals on the single ‘Slow Down’, painting a vivid image of a passionate relationship in turmoil. Michael tells that the pair have ‘been making music for years’ and ‘always will’. ‘Jorja and I are inspired by a lot of similar things’, ‘it’s just a natural connection’.

Towards the end of the interview, conversation turned to Stafford’s passion for Hip-Hop. On asking whether he’d consider producing a predominantly Hip-Hop record, the artist answered with unmistakable enthusiasm; ‘I’d love to. Love to do, love to do’. Sabre proceeded to reveal that once the album tour is complete, he’s got ‘two beat tapes ready just to put out for pure love’, further contemplating the idea of ‘sitting down with a rapper and producing a unique 10 track album with them’. In terms of who this ‘rapper’ might be, there’s an abundance of people Stafford would be keen to work with.  These names include London based MC ‘Manik’, and Ruben Vincent, ‘a kid from North Carolina who’s part of the 9th Wonder clique’.

Aside from this, we discussed the artist’s current Hip-Hop ‘go-to’ list, where he cited ‘the obvious ones’; Kendrick Lamar and J Cole, alongside British MC Loyle Carner. Stafford spoke excitedly of Carner and the ‘wicked things’ he’s doing for Hip-Hop, ‘its nice to see that his kind of Hip-Hop - which I grew up on - still being appreciated by young audiences now,  It’s a testament to how powerful true Hip-Hop is’. ‘Even in the age of heavy bass and drill, people will still sell out Brixton Academy with this material. It’s beautiful’.

Listen to 'When I Wake Up' here. 

Through ‘visually’ inspired song-writing, neighbour-disrupting home production, and preparing  Beat Tapes purely for the love of it, Stafford’s musical fervour is palpable. Despite experiencing a wealth of success since 2012, the artist talks with enthusiasm and genuineness about the achievements of others in his industry, recommending both established and up-and-coming artists of all genres at every given opportunity. Although a supposedly ‘unintentional’ project, When I Wake Up is a diverse showcase of Sabre’s gritty, soulful range, luxurious instrumentals and the beauty of collaborative spirit.

Featured Image: Maverick Sabre/ Chuff Media

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