Sabre's sharp move paid off
soul boy Maverick moved from new ross to london -- and hasn't looked back
There's no mistaking the accent. That thick, Wexford drawl going head-to-head with a peculiar Hackney twang. It's an unusual sound. As is the lad's singing voice. But we'd like to think that the artist who calls himself Maverick Sabre is one of our own. And, to an extent, he is.
"Look," says the 21-year-old rapper and singer, "in every interview, I make it clear that I was raised in Ireland. I'm a Wexford lad, d'you know what I mean? I came up on the Irish hip-hop scene, and I wouldn't be the artist that I am today if I hadn't been influenced by Irish music and by Irish hip-hop. But [the media] are going to try it both sides anyway. I don't mind."
Indeed, long before the hype, before the debut album, and before adopting his strange, yet striking moniker, Mav was Michael Stafford, a London-born kid who, at the age of four, moved with his family to his father's home in New Ross, Co Wexford. And it didn't take long to adapt.
"I think any kind of movement as a kid is going to upset you," he recalls, "but it wasn't like I was moving over there at 10 where I had a good, strong base of friends in London. I moved over there quite young, so, yeah, as a kid, you adapt to your situation and your surroundings quite easily. I could have been moved to Timbuktu and I would have adapted."
As a teenager, the guitar-playing youngster balanced his love for classic, soulful sounds, with a desire to emulate his hip-hop heroes (Tupac, Dizzee, etc). No easy task, but for Michael, music was everything.
"Obviously, there was a lot of drinking cans in fields," he laughs, "and playing football and that. But you know what? Music kind of saved me. I wasn't massively academic. Not that I was bad, but I just wasn't a big fan of going to school. And music kind of saved me from going down any other routes."
Maverick started singing when he was 14. A year later, he got involved with Rap Ireland. Eventually, he began landing support slots with The Game and even Plan B. And it wasn't long before he heard London calling.
"For me, it was more of a choice; a time of my life where I felt like I needed a fresh start," he says of his return to his birthplace. "I needed something new. I'd finished school, had just turned 17, and I kind of wanted to push my music. I already had connections in London, so it was a spur-of-the-moment move, and I just packed my bag and hoped for the best."
The move paid off. Collaborations with Professor Green and British drum and bass duo Chase & Status increased his profile. Having teased his fans with a couple of singles and an EP last year (not to mention an impressive slot on Later . . . with Jools Holland), Maverick's signing to a major label and the forthcoming release of debut album Lonely Are the Brave says things are working out just fine.
It's the voice that's got people talking -- a soulful, often reggae-flavoured tongue that, while a little forced at times, is by far his strongest instrument. The album, a smooth and intriguing collection of slick beats, clever lyrics and catchy hooks, was supposed to be released last October, but the timing wasn't right.
"Personally, I felt like people hadn't heard enough of me," he says. "I just felt people didn't know me as an artist and I wasn't really out there in the public view as much as I could have been, so I thought I'd wait until I had a better profile."
A runner-up behind Emeli Sande for this year's Critics' Choice Brit Award, Maverick's success hasn't come as a surprise. "I always had that belief in what I was doing," he nods. "I always knew that there was no other option for me. I just had it in my mind that there was no back-up plan -- I just wanted to do this and that was it."
He's working on album number two. "You never know when a writing block could happen," he explains. "So, for me, I just make the best of it. When I can write, and when I've got ideas, I just get them down.
"I signed my deal about a year and a half, two years ago, with more than 50 songs written, and I've probably written the same amount since then, so I'm already focusing on writing my next album.
"I'm a musician," he finishes, "so I create all the time."
Live at the Academy, Wednesday, February 29