(UK Spotlight is an ongoing column designed to introduce GRAMMY.com readers to artists making waves on the other side of the Atlantic. You'll learn about the artists, their music, where they came from, and where they are going.)
Born in east London and raised in Ireland, Maverick Sabre — real name Michael Stafford — has a passion for music, a passion initially instilled in him at an early age by his father.
"My dad was a musician, not a famous or known musician, and he's been in a band for his whole life. I've just always had music in the house around me," says Maverick Sabre. "Instead of playing tapes and nursery rhymes before we would go to sleep, he would come in and do old American blues songs and traditional Irish music — it was like a little concert at the end of the day. Music has just always been in me."
Maverick Sabre's musical approach was born from his appreciation of an array of genres, something that also traces back to his father. "My dad also let me go through his record collection a lot, so I used to go up in the attic and would sit up there every single night and listen to the Beatles, Ray Charles, Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, and Johnny Cash — anything I could find, I just soaked it in."
However, the guitar-loving musician didn't find his singing voice until he moved to England at age 17. In his early teens, he honed his craft on the Irish hip-hop scene, inspired by a certain late iconic rapper.
"Overall, my biggest musical influence has to be my dad, because he introduced me to everything," says Maverick Sabre. "But apart from my dad, 2Pac was a massive influence for me. I was able to connect with what he was saying, even though we were from totally different backgrounds. Certain things he said had me thinking, 'Wow! You've connected with me on that.' He had the melodies in there as well."
Even though he's become known for his eerie vocals, Maverick Sabre's love for rap music has never faded. He's been featured alongside fellow UK Spotlight featured artist Wretch 32; GRAMMY winner T.I.'s latest signing, Chip; Professor Green, and 679/Warner Records' newly signed rhymer Benny Banks. Maverick Sabre describes his sound as "hip-hop-inspired, soulful folk music," which means more to him than you might think.
"I don't specifically mean the genre of soul, I mean the music," says Maverick Sabre. "I'm just trying to be real with music. Not to sound cliché or cheesy, but I always write from my heart and my soul. I say folk music because I love telling stories though my music and the roots of music was telling stories and moving people with folklore. Then at the same time, I'm a hip-hop head. I like to melt it all together."
Being a soul music lover, Maverick Sabre has hopes to work with some legendary GRAMMY-winning neo-soul talent. "I'd love to work with Erykah Badu. I'm listening to a lot of female vocalists right now: Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill and Adele — whose voice I think is amazing. I also want to do something with the Roots. If I could do something with the Roots and Erykah Badu, then that would be a dream come true."
With his debut album, 2012's Lonely Are The Brave, charting at No. 2 on the UK album chart, the young artist is already on his way to superstardom, but he wants his music to last much longer than any chart position.
"Twelve months ago, I never would've thought that I would have a Top 20 [album]. I'm not really into all the charts and stuff because, to me, it's just numbers," says Maverick Sabre. "I love to perform live and get the reactions of the people. If I have as many achievements as I had last year, I'd be delighted. I just want to have more of a fan base; I don't care about none of that fancy chart stuff. When I die, no one will give a damn about number one hits."
(At left, watch Maverick Sabre perform an acoustic rendition of "I Need," the lead track from Lonely Are The Brave.)
(From grime and UK rap to bassline and house and even a bit of pop, Joseph "JP" Patterson has played a vital part in promoting the UK's underground music scene over the years with his no fuss, straight-to-the-point writing style. He is editor of MTV UK's urban destination, the Wrap Up, contributing music editor for SuperSuper! magazine and music correspondent for BBC Radio 1. Follow him on Twitter @ Jpizzledizzle.)