“It was a hub to go down to and more than just music,” says MAVERICK SABRE as the closure of several branches of HMV was announced. Now, though, all he can do is reminisce about the era when “I was still on the dole and doing open mic nights. Any change I had, I’d go into HMV and buy a CD or DVD.”
As Sabre broke through with debut LP, Lonely Are the Brave, it became a place where “I’d buy my friends’ physical albums from there“ – but now, in 2019, his observation that “it is sad for us because we’re the last generation that grew up with it, but that’s a change of the times” resonates with everyone still investing in physical products. The digital era we are currently experiencing is partly to ‘blame’ for the closures, but Sabre doesn’t think that everyone is opting for headphones and Spotify.
“There’s a lot of digital if you look at numbers, but there’s still a strong number of physical sales. A lot of artists such as Liam Gallagher or Rag ‘n’ Bone Man still get a lot of demand for a physical product.” There is an optimism with digital consumption, though, and as Maverick Sabre puts it: “I just feel like this is our first couple of years of being able to stream and people are saying this is what it is, when they don’t even know what it is capable of. We’re still in the baby stages of streaming.”
As aforementioned, HMV was a place he would pick up physical copies of albums and he admits “I’m a big vinyl collector. I’ll buy a CD every now and then, but I’m more into vinyl.” His latest album, When I Wake Up, is available on gatefold vinyl and when asked if nowadays fans need to be offered something ‘more’ than just the record for them to opt for the £22 product as opposed to streaming it, he simply offers “it is about offering as much as you can for people so they feel like they’re getting something extra rather than just buying a CD.”
Describing the creation process behind When I Wake Up, he reveals “it was about me wanting to create a piece of art that people wanted to go out and buy, so it was about getting the artwork right and getting the lyrics printed on the inner-sleeve to put in the record.” The lyrics being readily available is important for Sabre because “I used to print lyrics out from Google and sit and learn all my favourite tunes lyric by lyric.”
He hopes that people will do what he’s done with other musicians and buy his music on vinyl, and once again reminiscing, he explains “I’ve been going to Jorja Smith tours from day one and I’ve been watching from her merch table who’s buying vinyl and it is a lot of young kids. Some of these kids might not even have a record player at home, but if they have it as a memory from the show and only listen to the album on Spotify, they’ve still got something that’s a product of the ages.” There is no elitist attitude from Sabre, or a sense of ‘you must be serious about vinyl if you want to buy this album’ – but instead offers the idea that “I think whether it is a T-shirt, a record or a keyring, people still want an ownership over something.”
I agree with Sabre. Of course you want to see and be able to hold where your money has been spent. There’s a beautifully nostalgic vision he predicts when he says “in twenty years someone might pull the record out and play it for the first time on some new age vinyl player. Not many people hold on to tickets so it isn’t like we would have those memories anymore.”
Whilst on the subject of gig memories, some of Sabre‘s are brought up. “I’ve gone to see Lauryn Hill a few times and thankfully she redeemed herself last time, but I saw a couple of shows over the years and it made me stop listening to her music for a tiny bit. It confused me. I didn’t hear songs the way I wanted to hear them. I’d spent years listening to these songs that changed my life and when I seen them live I didn’t feel anything from them.” This admission from Sabre quickly turns into a discussion about artists not living up to our expectations and he points out “one of my favourite artists of all time is Bob Dylan, but I’ve never seen him live because I’ve heard horrendous things. Sometimes he isn’t that good. Sometimes he doesn’t want to play the classics.”
Not demanding “the classics” from Dylan, but insisting he would give the fans what they wants, he explains “I’m not going to criticise or judge another musician’s choice or what they do in their own space, but for me if I’m going to see a show I want to see little bits of every part of that artist.” Promising to pull out a combination of both newer and older material, he goes on to say “there will be a lot of new songs on this [tour] that I want to play for the first time because you’ve got to do something for yourself, too – but if it is one of the leading singles or a song that got people into your music then you’ve got to do something for everyone!”
The setlist curated for this tour will be written as if Sabre is attending as a fan. “I’m my own biggest fan first off, so I try to write the set as if I’d want to hear it. The other day we were running through the songs because now we have to pick songs from this album and the last two to fit on the tour.” Hinting that the newer and older tracks will be given a run out throughout this tour, he jokes that he has TOO MANY songs to choose from nowadays. “It it just difficult choosing what not to play – even the songs from before my first album. They’re some of the songs we ever released and they fit alongside songs from the new album.”
His approach to writing music involves making sure it stands the test of time. He is aware that most artists tend to do this, but he offers the observation of “people put music out in their career and it might be difficult for them to come back to that because it is from a certain time. I’ve always wanted to make music and write about things that aren’t about a specific time. I want to make timeless music and I want to keep making music and I’ve never wanted to be restricted to a time, so hopefully people have got that with me.”
Making music that is timeless is one thing, but it resonating with the fans and giving them something to engage with is a whole different task. A ‘sold out’ caveat on most dates for his UK tour is reassuring; not only that the music he is releasing is still as popular as his first album, but also that fans have not forgotten him. He humbly admits “it has been about four years since I’ve toured with the full band. It is always good to be with them because you get stuck in your own head sometimes. You spend quite a lot of the time in the writing an album process by yourself, or with a producer, or the very small world that you’ve created.”
His band add something ‘more’ to his live setup, but without footfall in the venues, it would all be in vain. He is thankful when he says “it is always positive to see people are still wanting to come to the shows. Without fans coming to shows or buying the album there is no career. It is a beautiful thing to see people still part of the journey.” It is the second part of his point that sticks with me as the interview comes to a close.
The notion that he is aware that his fans are “still part of the journey” indicates Sabre is still pining for more. When I Wake Up isn’t his final chapter. It isn’t simply a comeback album to rake in some more cash before disappearing into the sunset. The journey he mentions has simply took a D-tour, but Maverick Sabre is finally ready to regain control of his reigns and lead his soulful charm back into the music industry.