25 June 2012

Rattling the sabre

MAVERICK Sabre bounces across the BBC Radio 1 Hackney Weekend stage with the confidence of a veteran performer, drawing in the crowds with a combination of soulful dubstep, eerie folk, hip hop, rhythm and blues and East London stage banter.

Which is all the more surprising when chatting to the Hackney-born star, real name Michael Stafford. He’s softly spoken, modest, almost bashful, with flecks of Irish twang from a County Wexford upbringing. Now based in London again, he says: “I’m glad I can say I’ve got two homes – Hackney and Ireland – I’d say I’m a London Irishman, you know?”

He calls his performance at Hackney Weekend on 24 June a ‘homecoming gig’, adding: “Anything that pushes prospects for young people in Hackney – there are a lot of young Hackney artists on the bill – definitely gives a good, positive outlook to young, budding musicians in the borough.”

The 22-year-old claims to be joining the dots between folk and hip hop, citing as influences everyone from Tupac Shakur to Bob Dylan. He even wants to get a tin whistle on his next tune.

“I think a lot of people don’t know much about the traditional Irish music scene,” he says. Adding: “It’s very story-lead. The music is very powerful because it’s about struggle. So it’s very similar, when you break it down, to a lot of hip hop songs and soul songs in the Civil Rights era – and a lot of reggae. You can connect that human emotion. I think if you listen to it enough you can hear the similarities.”

His genre-hopping breakthrough album ‘Lonely Are The Brave’ peaked at number two in the national charts and hit single ‘Let Me Go’ still remains popular on the airwaves. With collaborations with the new generation of UK stars like Chase and Status, and his old housemate Plan B, he is quickly becoming a musical force to be reckoned with.

Michael learnt the guitar at eight and began to MC at 14, playing club nights and opening concerts. He says: “Obviously the music scene in Ireland is a lot smaller, and I was involved in the Irish hip hop scene – which is a lot smaller again – but it’s definitely quality over quantity.”

Michael first met Plan B when he supported him in Dublin, aged 16, and they kept in touch. He reveals that along with his father, Plan B was a main driving force for his career. He says: “Ben [Plan B] gave me a kick up the a*** – he really believed in me, he pushed me to do better, which inspired me and gave me the work ethic I keep now. He’s a very warm-hearted person.”

More support slots, including with Snoop Dogg, Cee Lo Green, signing to Mercury Records and a memorable performance on ‘Later with Jools Holland’ has helped his rapid rise in only a couple of years.

Similarly, Michael seems to understand the importance of supporting other artists and was involved in the BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra Academy that took place in the build-up to the Hackney Weekend, giving young residents the opportunity to get advice from stars across the entertainment, arts and media industries.

He said: “You get a lot of audiences who are a bit reserved or shy, and don’t want to ask questions, but the young people were really responsive and really wanted to know about me and any advice I had.”

A current tour is helping to spread the word about what must be one of the few Irish, hip hop, folk, soul, dubstep stars, he says: “The crowds are definitely getting bigger. It’s a nice vibe to have more people coming to see you and knowing the lyrics.”

Curriculum Vitae: Maverick Sabre

1990     Born in Hackney, East London
1994     Moves to County Wexford, Ireland
2008     Appears on the album ‘Sense The Terror’ by Irish rappers Terawrizt and Nu-Centz and moves back to London
2009     Features on Jermicide and Danny Diggs’ album ‘Middle Class’
2010     Releases debut mix tape, ‘The Travelling Man’
2011     Releases debut single ‘Look What I Done’        
2012    Releases debut album ‘Lonely Are The Brave’

Michael Stafford, aka Maverick Sabre, owns the stage at Hackney Weekend

Michael Stafford, aka Maverick Sabre, owns the stage at Hackney Weekend

Michael Stafford, aka Maverick Sabre, owns the stage at Hackney Weekend Maverick Sabre labelled Hackney Weekend a homecoming gig

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