Spencer first gained popularity by performing as a busker on the London Subway. He attracted the attention of commuters and tourists alike with his crowd-pleasing songs, and in 2014, a businessman from Sri Lanka invited him to perform in one of his well-known restaurants. He continued his travels from there, stopping in places like India, Switzerland, France, Spain, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, South Africa, and Portugal, growing his fan base along the way. Along with playing the guitar, piano, and harmonica, he is also a skilled artist and a burlesque dancer who has won awards. In fact, he won the 2007 award for “Best UK Male Burlesque Dancer.”
His captivating stage presence shows this off. With his command of the stage, he performed in a one-man musical comedy called Mixed Media Rock Opera, which was based on his second album, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2010 and 2011. The program received five-star reviews, solidifying Spencer Maybe’s reputation as a cunning man.
Goa, India served as the location for the recording “Wait and Patience.” Singer-songwriter Spencer is joined by a group that includes the Swedish guitarist Peter Tegner, the session bassist Denis Petukhov from Moscow, and the drummer and producer Bunny Batliwala from Mumbai and New York. The majority of “Wait and Patience” was recorded in Goa, and the mixing was done in London. Additionally, Spencer worked on this album with many international musicians, who each contributed their own special talent to the group and helped create a distinctive sound that is instantly recognizable. Check out the album and the exclusive interview below:
1. Can you tell us a bit about where you all come from and how it all got started?
SPENCER MAYBE: I was born in Leamington Spa. At the age of 5 my dad got a job in Australia, we were about to move and it fell through, we then ended up in Coventry and that’s where I was until I went to Art College in Manchester.
2. Did you guys have any formal training or are you self-taught?
SPENCER MAYBE: I had piano lesson’s when I was a kid which I hated and never wanted, only reached grade 3. I asked my teacher if I could drop the grades and if he’d teach me jazz and blues, he told me I could do that on my own. I never practised or moved forward from that point which is a shame in some ways as I had done much of the boring stuff, scales etc. I got a harmonica when I was about 15 and decided that would be my instrument. I came to Guitar much later buying one when I was 21. Mainly as I was tired having no one to find to play with, so I decided to learn and be able to do both together.
3. Who were your first and strongest musical influences and why the name ‘SPENCER MAYBE’?
SPENCER MAYBE: There was a lot of music being played at home, always had the radio on, my parents had great taste and good varied record collections. I’ve always loved great song writers. I loved the Stones when I was a kid, it was later I really discovered and appreciated and became obsessed with The Beatles and still am. Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Paul Simon are big cornerstones but hearing the Blues really lite a torch inside of me, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed all had a big impact, as did Otis Redding and James Brown, but there are so many other artists and musicians who have had a huge impact, I could write an essay it feels awful to leave anyone out, I owe them all a huge debt. So I will name check a few. (Nick Drake, Kate Bush, David Bowie, Kurt Cobain, U2 … )
As for the name Maybe, after my first band finished I decided to become a solo artist and started to perform under my full name, which I actually felt really uncomfortable about. Then I created 3 characters for my first solo album which was a rock opera. The 3 characters were a protest singer songwriter Jake Wellington, The Devil and The Devil’s Nemesis. I tried to bring all 3 out into the wider world and make each one independently successful and famous. The devil seemed perfect for the Fetish and Burlesque scene which was becoming quite big in London at the time. I inadvertently entered and won a Burlesque competition as The Devil, that then became successful and bookable. After I was asked to create other Burlesque acts, before I knew it I had more and more alias’s and my online presence was a nightmare. I consolidated all my names into one, Spencer Maybe…The Devil, The Pendragon Prince etc. I also just really liked it. It’s not that I am unsure of things, but I am always open to seeing all sides of ideas and arguments, so it felt apt in more ways than one.
4. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners, and how would you personally describe your sound?
SPENCER MAYBE: At the core I write on an acoustic guitar that imposes certain boundaries and I’m fine with that. My music is just another vehicle to tell stories, that’s all I’ve wanted to do, that’s what I use music for, to create and tell stories and take people on a journey.
6. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative and entertainment?
I was very political in my first 2 albums, my character and alto ego Jake Wellington was a protest singer songwriter and he had much fire in his belly, if I would have found wider success at that point who knows where I might have gone with that and what I might have tried to done with that platform. My third character was a spiritual guy/God like figure so I was really into exploring themes of love/peace and spirituality there, which I which is very tricky to do and I don’t think I did it that well. Now I am less inclined to go there, but mainly as I think when you are younger you have much stronger views, you think you know everything, the older and wiser you become you realize the complexities of so many issues and problems, I became less preachy and hopefully a little more humble.
7. Do you feel that your music is giving you back just as much fulfillment as the amount of work you are putting into it, or are you expecting something more, or different in the future?
The answer to this could change radically on a daily basis so I won’t try and answer it.
8. Could you describe your creative processes? How do usually start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a tune, a beat, or a narrative in your head? And do you collaborate with others in this process?
There is no set formula, songs are created in so many different ways so this is impossible to answer. I am obsessed with other peoples process though and have read so many autobiographies on my favourite songwriters, listened to interviews, podcasts, watched documentaries and films just to gain insights, all have helped enormously to expand my knowledge, understanding and approach to my craft.
9. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or music career so far?
SPENCER MAYBE: Probably having very little to almost no actual success or recognition, that’s pretty challenging.
10. On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your life or music career so far?
SPENCER MAYBE: I have created a large body of work, I have managed to continue to write and record, with only my own backing. I am proud of that determination and dedication I have shown. I have played on both the underground in London, to the streets of Portugal and on to huge stages in India, often to people who have barely noticed my presence, but as John Lee Hooker said in one of his song : ‘It’s in me and it’s got to come out’. I wanted a guitar when I was less that 5 years old, there has always been a sense of needing to express something deep within side myself, I have spent my whole life trying to do just that, with very little help or support from the outside world. That is the life of a true artist, you don’t choose it it chooses you.
KEEP IN TOUCH:
Photo credits: Karolyna Skorek