Garden · Friday
Ever since he began releasing music a decade ago Maverick Sabre has had one goal in mind, to create albums that land as close to people’s hearts as possible.
With his distinctive smooth vocals, cut through with lyrics that reflect his time spent in both Hackney and a youth spent in County Wexford, Ireland, he has stayed true to his aim and become synonymous with honest, soulful songwriting. Now, as he prepares to release his fourth album, Mav finds himself in a reflective mood.
Having finished touring 2019 album When I Wake Up just as the world was coming to terms with the enormity of COVID-19, he spent lockdown in an introspective space mentally and more creatively inspired than he’d been in a long while. He compares that initial period of isolation to it being “4AM for three months” and the songs soon started flowing out of him. While in the past Mav’s music has touched on a wide array of topics, including socio-political themes alongside more personal tales, this time out he found himself naturally drawn to the subject of love. So much so that he ended up with two albums worth of material. “When you’re removed from human connection you realise the importance of love even more,” he says of staying creative during lockdown.
Naturally, love was something he’d written about before but not in such detail; with songs varying from recollections of previous relationships to zooming out and examining the societal pressures placed on couples. “Not Easy Love” featuring London soul singer Demae, kicks off the album. It’s a frank admission of his own role in failed relationships and sets the tone for a project that is both intimate and inquisitive at the same time.
“It’s not a love album in the sense that every album is romantic, it's more open to interpretation than that.” Ultimately, he reasons, “music with the right intention is romantic because it heals a part of you.”
During the recording process Mav returned to his 2012 debut Lonely Are The Brave to remind himself of “elements of my young self I don’t want to lose.” He discovered a fearless artist who “didn’t give a fuck, at all” and was keen to reconnect with that freedom as he moved forward. That album, which featured the singles I Need and Let Me Go, was an honest and open collection of modern soul that mixed vintage references with modern electronic production to create something uniquely his.
It was followed in 2015 by Innerstanding, an album that again showcased an eclectic artist unafraid to expose his feelings and opinions. It featured appearances from New York rapper Joey Bada$$ and Jamaican reggae artist Chronixx as Maverick Sabre’s sound was expanding and his worldview growing more mature. “The second album was me admitting that I don’t know everything and I have a lot to learn,” he says. “I came out of it feeling free to experiment and closer to being the person I was trying to progress toward.”
When I Wake Up arrived four years later and, true to his word, found him in a more experimental place. In fact, it was so different in its early stages that Mav felt he might have to adopt a different persona to release it. Balaclavas were bought and videos in the rural countryside of Ireland were planned before it was decided that his most trippy and psychedelic work so far belonged under his own name.
That album was Mav’s first release as an independent artist, having signed with FAMM a boutique label run by his managers. The move from a major label to one headed by a team “I trust with my life” marked a new chapter in his creativity and also made him label mates with Jorja Smith, an artist he has worked with and mentored from her earliest days in the music industry. “Apart from my own career hers is the one I have followed the closest,” he says of their musical connection. “It's a beautiful journey and seeing my little sister grow like that has been an honour.” The pair have written and recorded together on both When I Wake Up and Smith’s Mercury Prize-nominated debut Lost & Found.
In addition to his own music and writing with others, Mav is keeping his options open. Having self-produced both his new album and When I Wake Up he’s keen to get into the studio as much as possible. There’s also a folk project and a rap album in the pipeline. “I always want to maintain that energy,” he says. “You don’t become a painter just to paint the same thing over and over again.” For now though all that energy is focused on the new album. “With this record it’s back to the simplicity that I needed,” he says. Lockdown reminded me of simple things that I needed and this album is another stamp in the diary. If anyone has ever connected with my music before then I would hope they would understand that.”