MAVERICK Sabre, aka Michael Stafford, spent 2011 gathering fans via singles Let Me Go, I Need, and No One, as well as his amazing live shows and down-to-earth but passionate take on the business of making music.
He was runner-up in the 2012 Brits ‘Critics Choice’ award voting. His debut album Lonely Are The Brave entered the chart at No.2 last week and he tours the UK in March.
Lonely Are The Brave is a really accomplished album. You can tell that a lot of work has gone into it, it’s a very polished, strong production. Did it take you a long time to get there?
“Yeah, some of it took a long time. There’s a song on there called Sometimes that I recorded back in Ireland when I was 17. There’s a one-string violin on there that I grabbed from upstairs. It was my grandad’s violin that he never re-stringed.
Then there are other tracks on there that are more recent that have full bands and full strings on them. There’s a lot of years that it took to make the album – you can see the growth on there.
I feel like it kind of represents a large part of my life. It’s the first time you put yourself out there properly, the first time people get to bring a piece of you home. So it’s the first time you get a chance to explain yourself and say ‘Look, this is who I am – so you’re gonna be a fan of the music or not.’”
There’s a lot of depth in the samples and different instruments you’ve used.
“There’s a lot of different genres in there, and a lot of different topics, and a lot of different influences. I’m influenced by music in general. I didn’t want anyone to listen to it and go ‘I can’t listen to it.’ Music’s so segregated now – people feel that you have to be a certain age or be from a certain background to listen to certain types of music. I look like the kind of lad that can sit in the corner of your pub on a Saturday, but I sing soul music. I love hip hop.”
You can hear the influence of soul and hip hop. You mention influences – who are the people that influenced the album and influenced you?
“Each song is influenced by different people. Overall my Dad was a big influence – he loved music. He did it himself for years, just for love. Acts like Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Tupac, Johnny Cash, they did it for love. People like Lauren Hill, Erykah Badu, Bon Iver influenced me. Reggae in general, soul in general and hip hop - Pete Rock.”
Hip hop draws on so many influences itself, right?
“Yeah that’s what it does – jazz, soul. It’s a melting pot. But what really drew me in to hip hop was the directness. There was no dilly-dallying about. You got it in one line. You felt that straight away. If someone wanted to say something, they said it. You felt that.”
You’re from Stoke Newington in London and grew up in Ireland. Do you think either affected you and your music?
“Definitely. When I was 4 or 5 we moved over to Ireland. I moved back to London by myself when I was about 17. Then again properly when I was about 19. It kept me open-minded. That moulded my music. Being influenced by traditional Irish music, the blues, the soul from my dad.”
Do you think the variety in where you’ve lived and the different cultures have given you a wider outlook?
“Yeah, you can tell people who’ve lived in different places because they have that universal outlook, they can talk on different levels, adapt in conversations. Well, most people can – you do meet people who’ve travelled who are p***ks!”
Any plans to tour in the US soon?
“Actually yes, it’s just getting confirmed but I’m touring to the big SXSW festival in Austin. I did it about two years ago and met my American ex-girlfriend there actually. American women are lovely!
So hopefully we have a little show in New York before we go down there. I Need got played on a show on VH1 recently. My friend called me the other day and he said ‘Mick, I Need is on the jukebox in this little bar in Pennsylvania.’ My ex rang me the other day and said she heard it playing in a department store in Chicago.”
What are your hopes for the album? Do you just want to go and play it live?
“I get the immediate reaction of people when I play it live you know? I’ve got a singing voice that not everyone can hear exactly every word I sing cos of the way I sing it. So I made sure to stay up all night writing all the lyrics out so they could put them in the booklet. Now people know what I’m saying and can connect with me as a person, we can all be on a level. I’m looking forward to finding out what people like, what songs and lyrics, the different vibes – then I can take it on into the next record.”
You seem to achieve a real connection with the emotion of the crowd.
“Music’s about unity, positivity, love. That’s what I want my music to be about. I want it to break down walls. I want my shows to have people of different races, different ages. Everybody’s there – enjoying it. Like with Bob Marley – everyone in the world can listen to him. I’ve never heard anyone say ‘Bob Marley’s s**t.’ And you know that for me is what music’s all about. I was doing the dishes the other night – feeling a bit down. I put on No Woman No Cry and it made me feel better!”
Songs bring people together don’t they?
“That’s why I did Wonderwall on the Chris Moyles show. People loved it! Chris Moyles and Mistajam were singing it. They were singing Wonderwall with me. Music’s about bringing people together. That was actually inspired by when I saw Oasis play at Slain in Ireland and everyone was singing along to Wonderwall, everyone on a level.”
Finally, what’s next for Maverick Sabre?
“More music, more shows. Pushing my music. So as many peoples as possible before the day that I die can hear my music. And that’s it. I do as much as I can everyday. For me music’s about being timeless. I want my music to be timeless.”
March 2, Leeds Metropolitan University, Calverley Street, Leeds, 6.30pm, £12.50. Tel: 0113 209 8435. www.seetickets.com