Words: Dylan Murphy
Photography: George Voronov
This year, Jameson has brought artists from across genre lines together to create and showcase innovative new songs. The latest collaboration sees two enduring artists – Daithí and Maverick Sabre join forces for the first time ahead of an emotional pre-Christmas gig in The Workman’s Club. With the performance in their crosshairs, the pair spoke to Dylan Murphy about the importance of intention in the creative process and the field recordings that fuelled an authentic collaboration that celebrated home.
Get your free tickets to the Jameson Connects immersive seasonal experience at The Workman’s Club on December 12 – here
Ireland’s history is irrevocably intertwined with emigration and since day dot it’s been documented in art and culture. Think of the famine exodus recorded in The Pogues’ ‘Thousands Are Sailing’, or more recently, Kojaque’s rocky move to London depicted on ‘Shmelly’. Music routinely distils complicated and familiar feelings that rear their head every time a friend leaves for London into emotive listens. What’s more is, it’s what keeps people connected when they are physically so far apart.
When referencing home becomes the emotional centrepiece of a song, it’s a delicate tightrope to walk. It’s easy for samples to sound contrived and for new iterations of traditional sounds to feel like the backing track to airport tourist shops. That’s why Daithí and Maverick Sabre gravitated towards subtle references to the island when Jameson brought them together for the first time ahead of a gig that sees Maverick Sabre return home from London for a special pre-Christmas performance. The pair linked up as part of the latest Jameson Connects series to create a new remix of Mav’s ‘Open My Eyes’, which dropped as part of his debut album Lonely Are The Brave and the subsequent re-recording which landed this year.
“There’s a weird thing that kind of happens when you’re working with Irish traditional music. You can very quickly get into a really cheesy territory that’s super awkward and like cotton-eyed Joe where there’s a pump going underneath. The stuff that can translate really well is rhythm, atmosphere, and emotion. If you can pull that stuff out of it and leave all the cheesier aspects it works really, really well”, Daithí explains, as he reclines in his studio in County Clare.
There’s a weird thing that kind of happens when you’re working with Irish traditional music. You can very quickly get into a really cheesy territory that’s super awkward and like cotton-eyed Joe where there’s a pump going underneath.Daithí
“I mean my general theory has always been this kind of idea where you never put a sample into a song that doesn’t mean something in some way”, Daithí says. “He [Maverick Sabre] grew up in New Ross, a small town which has a river running through it . So I had a sample of a beach that was quite close to there in my library of samples. I pulled that into the core structures. I built it all around stuff that I recorded from here and all around this area.”
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Having never met each other before the collaboration, it’d be understandable if either were apprehensive about the process. However, having spoken on the phone broadly about their approach to music, Mav instantly connected with Daithí’s intentional manner of creation. “I think we’re both very intent on telling stories and communicating emotions”, Mav says. “From being around him, I think our intention is to make people feel something and you know, things can be hokey and poppy and connected and they can have heavy drops and that’s all great, but I think if you’re not telling anything and you’re not bringing some kind of emotive element to music, then that only has a lifetime of however catchy it is.”
From my experience when you and the other person are on the same page and you both connect, the music will always reflect that.Maverick Sabre
“I think you make the best music with other people when your intentions are the same. And when you get each other when it’s not forced and it’s natural. There’s a lot of opportunities in music to make unnatural collaborations, and sometimes they can still connect and make a good song. From my experience when you and the other person are on the same page and you both connect, the music will always reflect that and I think that’s the most important point… In my experience, if you approach collaborations like that, I always feel like that’s when I’ve had the best outcome musically.”
If there was a venn diagram of the pair’s mission statements, the crossover would look very healthy. Having bonded over core beliefs, Daithí’s intention to connect to Mav’s hometown through field recordings only reinforced the idea they were on the same page. “I thought that’s a beautiful way of being able to thread stuff that maybe the listener may not realise into a piece of music that has a deeper relevance than just a nice sound”, Mav beams. “It’s kind of like there’s actually a story told within the instruments and the sounds that are being created and I think that’s quite powerful. Those who know about it can tune into it and those who don’t are maybe getting a Trojan horse of the influence in the background.”
Following some tweaks and in-person meet ups in London, the pair landed on a final version of the song. Prioritising Mav’s vocals, the remix brings them front and centre in an imaginative flip that doesn’t abandon the soul of the original. It recontextualises it rather than breaking it down and building it new.
“I think his voice is the kind of thing that makes him stand out”, Daithí says. “He was one of the people bringing the Irish accent into a hip hop environment and actually making it something that was interesting and palatable to listen to. So that was always really amazing for me… I thought it’d be interesting to do this thing where I just kind of strip everything back as far back as possible and just have his voice as like the thing that pushes through.”
He was one of the people bringing the Irish accent into a hip hop environment and actually making it something that was interesting and palatable to listen to.Daithí on Maverick Sabre
The reinvention is the latest in the Jameson Connects collaborative series which has brought together Irish artists across traditional genre lines to create innovative new music. Monjola and Biig Piig laid to rest any fears about frankensteined link ups when they united for a reworking that made too much sense not to happen on ‘Feels Right’. Elsewhere, Narolane rapper MuRli and electronic producer Elaine Mai stretched listener’s imagination in their transcendent electronic rap cut ‘Ready’ before debuting it at All Together Now. So ‘Open My Eyes’ feels like a natural successor in the Connect series lineage, especially given the fact it’ll be debuted in the intimate settings of The Workman’s Club, a venue much smaller the 3Olympia Theatre gig Mav has later today or the festival stages Daithí has graced over the years.
“Yeah, I think like as well, I’m sat in the Olympia Theatre ahead of my own sold out show. I haven’t performed here since I was like sixteen when I supported The Game years and years ago. It’s like a full circle thing. All my friends, family, and my extended family are coming down. Then obviously there’s the tune coming out and I’m coming back to the performance of it on the 12th of December. I think, you know, sometimes the meaning of stuff takes you on this journey before you even realise what the meaning is”.
Get your free tickets to the Jameson Connects immersive seasonal experience featuring Daithí & Maverick Sabre at The Workman’s Club on December 12 – here
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