The Mavericks: "We're Having So Much More Fun Than Ever Before"
In 1989, the year the Mavericks first convened, the divide between pop and country was still relatively wide. "Americana" was a term that hadn't entered the popular lexicon just yet, and Nashville was by and large still off-limits to any artist who arrived sans a cowboy hat and a good-ol'-boy attitude to boot.
Not surprisingly, then, the cultural expanse was larger still for the Mavericks -- a band from Miami, boasting a lead singer of Hispanic heritage. Their odds at achieving successes seemed slim. Still, the group's singer/songwriter/guitarist Raul Malo's obsession with American icons like Roy Orbison, Hank Williams, Gram Parsons, Johnny Cash, George Jones, and Elvis Presley eventually prevailed, and within six months of the release of their eponymous debut on the small South Florida independent label Y&T, they landed a contract with MCA Records. Between 1991 and 2003, they landed 14 singles on the Billboard country charts and produced a string of successful albums, among them From Hell to Paradise, What a Crying Shame, Music for All Occasions, and Trampoline, each a showcase for their unlikely blend of country, Latin, and pop. They took the country-music world by storm and left an increasingly diverse musical landscape in their wake.
"The Mavericks deliver a rich blend of pure Americana. Here's a band that mixes country comfort with rock 'n' roll attitude, a group that also proves that soul music can reach beyond the streets of Detroit or Philadelphia." I actually wrote that in the liner notes for that album. Looking back, the choice of verbiage seems to suffer from overreach, but happily, the Mavericks' music never did.
In 2004, the band underwent a bitter breakup, frayed at the seams from internal strife and pent-up animosity. Each of the members went their separate ways, indulging in side projects and sessions that allowed at least momentary fulfillment. Malo was the most prolific, issuing six solo albums that gleaned everything from his love of traditional Latin melodies to his admiration for classic American standards. In a 2010 interview, he told me that a reunion with his former colleagues was clearly out of the question and that anyone who still hoped it might someday transpire would do best to buck up and move on.
It was somewhat surprising, then, that in 2012, the band opted to reconvene. Original members Malo at the helm, Paul Deakin on drums, and Robert Reynolds on bass were joined by longtime keyboard player Jerry Dale McFadden and the group's most recent recruit, Eddie Perez on lead guitar. An EP, Suited Up and Ready, preceded the release of their comeback album, In Time, an effort that was lavishly praised and given an apt title, especially considering the decade of inactivity that preceded it.
We recently caught up with Malo at his home in Nashville and asked him about the current state of the group and what led to the reunion. Seemingly relaxed during a rare respite from a touring schedule that had them on the road the better part of a year, he was casual, candid, and optimistic about the Mavericks' future.
New Times: Last time we spoke, you completely dismissed the idea that there would ever be a Mavericks reunion. So what happened?
Raul Malo: It's just life, ya know? It was really like a perfect storm scenario. What happened, at least musically, was that these songs were starting to come out that really sounded like they needed to be on a new Mavericks record. And this was before I talked to anybody or there was any inkling of anything. I'm saying to myself, ya know, this does sound like a Mavericks record. If ever there was a chance to do a Mavericks record again, these songs would be perfect... At least in my mind.
Fast-forward. My manager at the time said we had this offer for the Mavericks to play a couple of festivals. And I thought, "Really? That sounds interesting." And the reason I thought it was interesting is because I know this business doesn't operate on nostalgia or feelings. So when money gets put on the table, there's a reason for it. So I started thinking, if a promoter is willing to do this, maybe there is money for real somewhere -- not enough money for us to retire on or anything -- but that maybe a record label would be willing to put up some money for us to make a record. So I asked my friends over at Big Machine Records if they would be interested in a Mavericks album, and they were like, hell yeah. So that changed everything, because what my manager wanted was just to go out and do some summer festivals and then call it a day. But that's not what we were thinking, or at least what I was thinking.