English/Irish vocalist and rapper, Maverick Sabre, speaks to Evan O’Quigley about working with a major label, accents, and the Irish hip-hop scene.

Maverick Sabre isn’t the most traditional hip hop artist. Maverick, born Michael Stafford, in Hackney, London, moved to New Ross, County Wexford during his childhood. Maverick’s debut album Lonely Are the Brave is yet to be released, but the singer-rapper has been gathering a fan following and receiving critical acclaim for the past two years. In December 2011, Sabre featured on Professor Green’s single ‘Jungle’, which reached number thirty-one in the UK Singles Charts. Since then Maverick has released two singles of his own, ‘Let Me Go’ and ‘I Need’ which have both reached the Top 20 in the UK.

The multi-talented Maverick combines soul-singing, occasional rapping, and playing guitar on the album, as well as both using backing tracks and recording with a band, as he recently did during an appearance on Later… with Jools Holland. In order to achieve his unique sound on his latest record, Sabre used a blend of many different genres. “I blend, and I mix in every instrument I’ve ever heard really. There’s a mix of hip-hop, soul, folk, all mixed into one bundle. I’m hoping that’s what people like about it,” he tells Otwo. Maverick gets his varied musical tastes from a variety of influences, including his father, who brought the twenty-one year old artist up on traditional Irish music, folk, as well as American rock and roll and soul music.

Although Maverick has signed to Mercury Records, a major label, he does not feel it has impeded his creative ability in any way. “There’s a lot more opinions to deal with; I mean

I’ve got to listen to forty other opinions, but the only pressure I put up with is the pressure I put on myself. I don’t really allow anyone else’s opinion to put too much pressure on me.” Maverick explains that a condition of his deal with the label was maintaining “one-hundred per cent artistic choice,” which allows him to make the final decision on anything musically.

Sabre first released The Lost Words, a four-track EP with the label last year. Since moving to the mainstream, Maverick has felt there is a difference in audience reaction in general. “In the underground people judge more on music. In the mainstream they judge on a lot of other things. It is different, but I want to push the music to a wider variety of people.”

Before returning to London, his place of birth, Sabre often collaborated with Irish hip-hop artists in his hometown. So what is Irish hip-hop exactly, and how is it distinct from the more widely known American and British rap scenes? Maverick believes the differences are not huge saying that, “It’s only different in size. The gigs are the same, the entertainment quality is the same, it’s just the size of the scene. It’s a smaller scene in Ireland, and it’s not massively recognised by the mainstream yet.”

Maverick believes it is important for the young Irish rap artists to use their natural accent and speaking voice when performing. The artist explained why he always uses his natural half Wexford, half London accent. “It’s obviously quite hard for young people when their getting into it, it’s hard for them to get into the accent at the start. I was doing the American thing, then trying to sound like Dizzee Rascal for a while, and I think it’s hard to get the confidence because it’s not supported by the mainstream. But at the end of the day it needs to be real, because that’s what hip-hop is about; being real to your own emotions, and your own struggles. You need to represent yourself and your community fully, and you need to push that through with your own natural accent.”

As well as different accents, Maverick has also noticed a considerable difference in audience reaction between Ireland and the UK. “Irish crowds are different, because everyone plays in London, so it’s not as special when acts come into town,” he remarks. “But when you go to Ireland, where you have less [hip-hop artists] coming, people appreciate it more.”

Maverick’s main philosophy is that he believes artists should always be true to themselves. One word of advice that Maverick has for younger artists is not to be afraid to speak out on issues they feel are important. “I can’t speak for other artists but I think it’s important for me. I think it’s important for artists to have an opinion and voice that opinion, and for it to reflect somewhat in their music, because they’re the young generation and they need to be spoken for. Music is one of my biggest influences; music reflects what society goes through. I feel that, for artists who are in the industry now, for them not to speak about it is a bit disappointing to be honest. But I can’t speak for anyone else, that’s just me.”

Maverick Sabre plays The Academy on February 29th. Tickets priced at €19.90. His debut album, Lonely are the Brave, is out February 6th