SWAG : PRESS
Country Music International (UK)
The Music Man
The Mavericks' bass player Robert Reynolds' whole life revolves around music - and not just with the band that's taken the UK by storm. He writes music for children's videos and is heavily involved in preserving the memory of the late, great Buddy Holly. 'Music?' he tells Alan Cackett, 'It's what I do.'
The Mavericks were back in town for the latest round of concerts and a busy schedule of TV, radio and promotional appearances. Not only in Britain, but also across Europe, where they have yet to repeat the phenomenal success they currently enjoy in the UK. An ideal opportunity to catch up with the news of the hottest band in country music.
CMI managed to track down bass player Robert Reynolds, who, like fellow band members Raul Malo, Nick Kane and Paul Deakin, immerses himself in various other musical projects outside of the Mavericks. These include producing musical scores for children's videos, arranging Buddy Holly tribute shows, guesting on sessions and checking out some of the new talent emerging on the still vibrant Nashville club scene.
'We're really pleased to be here. Really, honestly, very pleased to be here', Reynolds says in the nicest, most sincere way. 'The UK's become the most important market, because of what people have given to us in terms of, you could say respect, but I think that sounds a little too formal. Just say enthusiasm. Really, I think that strikes a better chord. The enthusiasm has been so good here for the Mavericks.'
Success for the Mavericks in the UK has been hard-won. It has been a seven-year growth that has seen a small, dedicated cult following build into a sizeable pop explosion ignited by the runaway success of Dance The Night Away and the big-selling Trampoline album.
'The way the public has accepted our music, purchasing it, coming to our shows has been amazing', he continues. 'The press has been good to us, and radio and television. Nobody's closed the door on us. So I think you'll always see us here, as long as everybody's happy to see us. We'll come and put on the best show that we can.'
The Mavericks' commitment to their UK audiences was further reinforced by the fact that they saw the New Year in at Edinburgh's The Concert in The Gardens, part of the Millennium Hogmanay Celebrations. They had made a pact not to work over the New Year, intending to spend the holidays at home with their families. But, as Robert explains, this was a once-in-a-lifetime show that they did not want to miss.
It meant that Robert and his fellow Mavericks only got to spend a few days at home with their families after the European trip. They had around 10 days in Nashville, and then it was time to pack their bags yet again and jet back across the Atlantic. One of the few Nashville-based acts to recognise the importance of the international marketplace for their music, the Mavericks have become experts on how to handle a foreign career.
'We're very proud to take home our experience here in the UK back to Nashville', he says. 'They're very proud of us there at home because of what we've been able to do here. Not everybody does it. I just did a panel back in Nashville that dealt with international travel and endeavours. I spent one afternoon addressing some very important people on the value of working abroad and what experiences the Mavericks have had, so as to increase the interest in Nashville acts in going outside the US. My experience here has been so good that I guess they're calling me a professional international ambassador now.'
Though originally from Miami, the Mavericks have been based in Nashville for the past 10 years. Reynolds acknowledges that it is a great town for the Mavericks, a very wealthy town when it comes to musical resources.
'One of the best towns in the world for that', he says. 'Small town, very accessible, and it's been a good home for us. Also, I might add, you've got recording facilities all over the place, you've got publishing opportunities, you've got anything from commercial work to arty, full-blown experimental music. So all points are covered.'
His most recent outside project, that he is very excited about, is working on the soundtracks for a series of children's videos. Working alongside animators and video producers, he has been creating short films based on children's books. So far he has completed two: Miss Nelson Has A Field Day, a story about having school morale, and Antarctic Antics, about penguins.
'Both are semi-educational, and that's the focus of this particular company, they work largely with the public school system throughout America', he explains. 'It's been really, really stimulating. As far as music goes, it's tapping into another part of your musical brain. It's been fantastic, really been a lot of fun.'
Being based in Nashville has made it much easier for him than if he had been based in any other town. He is able to draw upon the local music community, hiring in various musicians and singers to fill out the musical requirements. Among the players he has used are Sawyer Brown drummer Joe Smith, Mavericks' current pianist Eric Holt and former band member Jerry Dale McFadden, Scotty Huff, the Havana Horns leader, who is also Reynolds' co-writer on most of the music and, of course, various members of the Mavericks also dropped in to play on some of the sessions.
'Raul is scheduled to appear on the current project', he says. 'When I return from this trip, I'll have Trisha sing on the same project. You can't really buy talent like Raul's or Trisha's. I mean, the fees that this project pays wouldn't be enough to cover the talents of Trisha Yearwood. Obviously my relationship with her and our interest in similar things has made that possible.'
Something of a musical perfectionist, Reynolds admits that he has spent a lot of time on the project, and is still not totally happy with the results.
'I've not yet tapped into the perfect story or feel like I've created the perfect music', he admits. 'It's still very much a work-in-progress, where each time I'm very satisfied, but I'm never completely satisfied. I think that's really good, because that kind of keeps you striving for your best.'
The Mavericks have appealed to a wide cross-section of the British public with their music, but unlike the majority of country-styled acts, they have also pulled in a large percentage of younger fans. Dance The Night Away, particularly, caught on with the kids, who were hooked by the infectious rhythm, danceable beat and catchy lyrics.
'I think its very good for us as a group to do projects like this, because it stimulates another thought process', Reynolds says. 'So when you come back to the Mavericks, whether it's in the studio or on the road, you've experienced something stimulating outside of the group. You always bring that back. Obviously, the Mavericks aren't necessarily going to do children's music, at least not at this point, but something of the experience does always come home with you.
'There's a song on the Greatest Hits album, Pizziricco, about a mischievous child. When Raul brought the song to the band, one of the things he thought of was the concept of maybe doing a children's project. Though it wasn't conscious, I might have responded to that much more positively based on my recent experience with this children's video. So that could be a direct example of how work outside the group affects work inside the group.'
Also very close to Robert Reynolds' heart is his love of the music of Buddy Holly and the Beatles. He has long held an ambition to meet up with one of the Beatles, and this past September he reluctantly had to turn down the opportunity to meet Paul McCartney because he was involved in arranging a Holly tribute in Nashville at the same time.
'I have been involved n this Buddy Holly Tribute over the past four years', he says. 'I have done anything from one to two projects per year, depending on my availability with the Mavericks' schedule. We celebrate the anniversary of Buddy's death and his birth week each year. What happened this past year was kind of unfortunate. I had assembled my all-star tribute to Buddy Holly - Bill Lloyd, Kim Richey, Chuck Mead from BR549, a host of people that want to do Holly songs and play his music.
'At the same time, Paul threw a party in New York City in honour of Buddy, and I got an invite. I had already planned the tribute in Nashville and knew that I could not disappoint those people. I could not have gone to New York to meet Paul McCartney, which would have been wonderful to me, but it felt like it would have been a shift in the focus. The focus that night was Buddy's music, and I had committed myself to a project in honour of Buddy and stayed with it. So my chance to meet a Beatle was foiled.'
The importance of Buddy Holly, his songs and his recordings, continues to be a towering factor in pop and country music. The amazing thing is that Holly had a short-lived, but spectacular, three-year career that proved to be as innovative and legendary as any in rock'n'roll history.
'On a basic music level, I think that he was one of the early pioneers of rock'n'roll who actually brought something new and personal to the form', Reynolds says passionately. 'At the time there were some really great visionary pioneers, and then there were a lot of people who did a nice job with the simple form of rock'n'roll, three-chord rockabilly and shuffle. But some people - Elvis through his energy, Buddy Holly through his writing, Chuck Berry through his amazing writing - brought special things to the music.
'Buddy brought songwriting and a new twist to it. I really feel like that is part of the magic. The other is the amazing story of Buddy Holly. The fact that he was only 22 years old when he died. The guy did all of that work in roughly 18 months. Before that, of course, he was developing. But in 18 months he wrote, recorded and left behind this amazing legacy. At a young age and in less time than most of us today could do in a lifetime. So I'm very moved by the whole Buddy Holly story.'
Each new generation gets hooked on the sheer magic of Holly's musical artistry. He stands as one performer who has seldom disappointed his listeners - the kind of singer that fans of any generation will always turn to when they want to listen to a story line that has meaning and a tune that is unforgettable.
Charles Hardin Holley was born in Lubbock, the centre of a major cotton-growing area in West Texas, on September 7, 1936. He died on February 3, 1959 in a snow-covered field between Clear Lake and Mason City, Iowa. The events that transpired during the last three years of his life proved to be one of the most important stories in the history of American popular music.
'I have been involved in doing a thing that was based on his last tour called The Winter Dance Party, where we recreate and retrace the last 11 days of his life', Reynolds says. 'It was a succession of 11 concerts in a row in the frozen upper mid-west. We travel them in order as Buddy had done them, playing the same venues he'd played. It's a very haunting, very moving experience, finishing with the last night at the Surf Ballroom, where he did his last show.'
The Winter Dance Party was a large rock'n'roll package show, and alongside Holly and the new Crickets, it starred Dion & The Belmonts, the Platters, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens. The bus that was chartered for all the artists to travel on was old, cold and lacking any decent facilities. It was the middle of winter and Holly and his band members were not used to the cold weather.
Holly decided to do something about the poor conditions, and when they reached Clear Lake, Iowa on February 2nd, he set about chartering a plane to take himself, Jennings and Allsup the 430 miles to Moorhead, Minnesota, where they were due to play the next day. During the show at the Surf Ballroom, Clear Lake that evening, the Big Bopper persuaded Jennings to give up his seat on the plane, whilst Ritchie Valens and Tommy Allsup tossed a coin for the third passenger seat. Valens winning the toss.
'We went out to the crash site, and it was a very moving experience', recalls Reynolds. 'I've spent time around all the Crickets, I consider them friends. I've spent time with Waylon, had dinner with Tommy Allsup, who was the guitarist on the last tour, and I've talked with many, many people who saw the last tour. Because we toured these dates, people who had been at the first shows came out to see this 40-year anniversary tour.'
Too many singers, musicians and performers are in the music business just for the money. Not Robert Reynolds. Recreating a tour like that could never be termed a commercial proposition, but a labour of love.
Talking to Reynolds, you get to realise just how passionate he is about music.
'Yeah, he's one of my heroes', he says. 'I think that if I weren't a musician, I might like Buddy Holly just fine, but I might have different heroes. As a musician, my heroes are fellow musicians. I'm a big fan of Elvis and Buddy and the Beatles. I'm really moved by the whole thing: music and life's great mystery. One of my big passions in life is reading the biographies, watching the old films, and playing and writing music. It's what I do!'
Country Music International (UK)
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