SWAG : PRESS
Interview with Raul Malo, Robert Reynolds, Paul Deakin, & Jerry Dale McFadden.
Raul Malo, Paul Deakin, Robert Reynolds, Jerry Dale McFadden, Eddie Perez
Photo (c) Raeanne Rubenstein
The Prodigal Sons Return
MAVERICK: Merriam- Webster Dictionary Definition; an unbranded range animal; especially, a motherless calf; an independent individual who does not go along with a group or party.
The first known Maverick was an American pioneer named Samuel A. Maverick, who achieved fame in 1867 for refusing to brand his cattle. Later, around 1935, a Congressman named Maury Maverick also became famous for inventing the word 'gobbledegook' which means obscure and euphemistic bureaucratic language. And where, oh where, would we be without that word? But by far the most important Maverick of them all is unquestionably The Mavericks, an original, genre-defying Americana/country/rock band that came together in 1989 in Miami, Fl.
The talented and versatile Mavericks consists of the charismatic, Cuban-American Raul Malo as the band’s co-founder, bandleader, songwriter and lead singer; Robert Reynolds as co-founder, former bass guitarist and current additional guitarist, lead guitarist Eddie Perez, keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden, and drummer Paul Deakin. But don’t be deceived, because between the 5 members of the band, they can play an unknown number of instruments, if not more.
The band achieved great success in the years they performed together, leaving many hit songs, memorable tours and awards in their wake. Fan favorites include All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down, What a Crying Shame, The Air That I Breathe, and O What a Thrill. In 1996, the band also won a Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
The secret to this group’s success is that each member is a true artist on his chosen instrument, but it is the combining of each of those individual sounds into The Mavericks sound that makes their music great. To phrase it another way, The Mavericks as a band is so much more than the sum of its parts!
It seems to be law in the music world, though, that if you’re too good, you must break up. And wouldn’t you know that The Mavericks had so much “too much of a good thing” (plus, they were not getting along anymore), they did break up, with lots of bitter feelings, as rumor at the time had it.
After the 2004 split, each of the band members went their own way. Lead singer Raul Malo released six solo albums. Robert Reynolds worked at a digital company, released two solo EPs, and co-founded “supergroup” SWAG with Jerry Dale McFadden, who was working as a curator at an art museum in Chattanooga, along with Ken Coomer of Wilco, Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick and Doug Powell. Paul Deakin was home raising his kids and being a master carpenter. And Eddie Perez joined Dwight Yoakam on the road. Still, with the exception of McFadden, all members of the band also continued to play music in various configurations, joining other bands, freelancing as musicians or recording their own projects.
Did I mention there’s yet another law in the music world iconography that says if you’ve had hit songs, sold millions of records and won Grammys and other awards, you must get back together! So in 2012 the band announced plans for several reunion festival dates, originally planned mostly for fun.
But when Scott Borschetta, music business mogul and star-maker extraordinaire, head of three successful record labels and promoter of some of today’s top artists including Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw, The Band Perry and newcomers Florida Georgia Line, among many others, stepped up and offered The Mavericks a record deal on Big Machine Records. As a result, the band, after 8 years apart, reunited. Happily. And their much-anticipated album In Time was released in February 2013 to great reviews.
Dish had a chance to talk to the band when they came through Nashville to appear on the recent 2013 CMT Music Awards show, where adoring fans roared their approval and gratitude because the band was finally where they felt it’s meant to be - together again. Here’s what the guys had to say!
RR: What does Maverick mean to you, after all these years?
Robert: I think you stop thinking about that, to be honest with you. It’s a good name for a band, and it sounded good at the time. But the truth is, if you are a real Maverick, and you have to say you are, then you’re really not.
RR: For 8 years, you guys were separated. Do you consider that time lost to you, individually, or did it create an opportunity for this reunion?
Robert: With the heavy work schedule that we had back then, I think it was anything but fresh for us, which is when we always had said that we would stop, and we did. I believe without the time apart, we wouldn't have what The Mavericks are today. Raul calls it the perfect storm of events, each of us being in the right place in our lives at the right time, both musically and personally. We were able to come together, from the fact of Raul having the songs he had that were Mavericks-style songs, to finding a label who knew us from before, who were willing to put out a record, to everything. It wouldn't have happened without those 8 years off.
Raul: I don't think time is lost at all, you know. I think that I learned a lot in those 8 years. I went on a musical quest, and I think that that knowledge and all the lessons learned, the music, the people I've gotten to play with, the music I've had the opportunity to make all over the world - I think that informs this era of The Mavericks better than ever. If anything, for me, there are no regrets about it at all.
Paul: All those great songs Raul got to write, the great records he made during those years - they wouldn’t have been made if Raul didn’t have the time to make those records.
RR: Was there anybody in particular who caused you to start thinking that it was time for your music to change?
Raul: A lot of people. I remember working with (producer) Peter Asher. He works a certain way, and I learned a lot from him. Steve Berlin and Los Lobos and how they work, I learned a lot from them. It's always like this, so I don't know that I could pinpoint one person, because so many people had such an amazing influence on us. Early on, we got to play with Duane Eddy and Carl Perkins, and that was an amazing experience. And recently, a transatlantic session with Jerry Douglas, who turned me on to this whole other world of music that I'd been missing out on. I couldn't believe it. I love stuff like that. To me, that's the most important thing.
Robert: The Mavericks' first formation and incarnation is special, and it felt like we met for a reason. We created this group, we ran for a decade without stopping, but it finally stopped. It was a true break. When we came back together, we came back less like a reunion and more like a rebirth that carried with it some of the same special ingredients that the first incarnation carried. So Raul comes back with some definitive ideas. We’ve changed up many things in our lineup. Not to make too much of this, but I really feel there was a re-awakening versus a lazy little nap and then back to work.
In a weird way, this isn’t The Mavericks you once knew. I got this incredible life lesson about change and taking change as a growth opportunity. I absolutely love playing guitar in this band. I love it. I would never go back to being a bass player for this band. I play in other bands and do some sessions and I still like dabbling in it, but I would never go back and call the bass my first instrument ever, ever, ever. In fact, I wish that I had this clarity back then, because I almost wish that I had done this forever. I could not feel more excited by what we're doing right now and being up there, in this role. The bass thing has its complexities, certainly, and it's a lot of weight to carry, but the rhythm factor of bass and the rhythm factor of a good, strong rhythm guitar - they’re really punching the same point on any given song. In a way, I'm just playing a new instrument that's just the same range of pulse, you know. And I can keep learning at 50.
Jerry Dale: I would agree with Raul. In this time apart, we've all done different things. Some of them are not even music related. But they all involved living a life that has formed us to where and what we are right now. I think when we say we're gonna take care of it this time, maybe we didn't realize how awesome what we had really was. It's like getting a second chance at this point, so we're a little more into taking care of this thing, this beautiful thing that happens, when we all come together.
Paul: I think that this time, you have a different appreciation for it, because now you know that this can go away. I think that at some point, every artist thinks that you're gonna have hit records forever and that you're gonna have hit songs on the radio forever, and you're always gonna be young and handsome. I had those thoughts, and we all had those thoughts, or at least acted that way. Now you realize that it can go away, so it's a little more precious.
RR: You were separated, and now you got back together. Was the realization of 'Oh my gosh, I really missed this' something you didn't even realize how much you missed it?
Robert: I’ve got to grab a piece of that question. Because I gotta tell you, the one thing that was constantly killing me, nagging me - my wife would constantly say, 'I want you to be OK with what you do next.' I always created jobs, I’m a creative person. But she always tried to get me to process that some things will be left to the past in a certain chapter of your life, and there's nothing wrong with that. She was constantly encouraging me to create new opportunities.
But the thing that was hard to rationalize was the body of work, the songs that we had created, whether Raul did them solo, and occasionally Paul and I would play them in these little groups we were in, and go to Europe and play them. Now and then, we would do a little Mavericks moment, but I dare to say that even Raul covering those songs isn't The Mavericks. I felt like this group of songs, and the audience that celebrated us originally and had ridden along with us, and the newbies that came along the way - I felt that they were never gonna hear that stuff, and I was never gonna play it again, and that was the weirdest thing. I still wanted to engage an audience with the stuff I was so proud of from our past. I never wanted to do it under the banner of reunion tour stuff. That never felt like the kind of group or people that we were as individuals, and certainly not collectively. So it was a tricky, tricky landscape, and I struggled with that. It was the one thing I could never process - how do I tell myself ‘I will never be on that stage again, playing those songs for those people?’ And it just killed me. Ate me up internally.
Paul: When you have something that had the highs that it did, musically and personally, you can't not miss that. You can maybe accept it, like ‘That was a wonderful time, and I really was fortunate to have that time.’ Personally, I was a carpenter for 7 years and loved doing it, but there were times when I would be crawling under a house, and a tour bus would go by, and it would be like ‘What the f**k am I doing here? Why was this a good idea?’ I always felt that it would come back around again, but this has exceeded my expectations, personally, to what this was going to be, and to have the brotherhood that we do now. I thought we would go out and have some fun and relive a moment instead of creating a whole new future for the band, which is where we are now.
RR: Raul, I read in an interview you did recently that when this opportunity to get back together came up, you said you were thinking that you wanted to ‘step in like men.’ What did that mean to you?
Raul: Just what it says. Make music like grownups. No bullshit. You know, go in and make this record. No pretense, no work tapes, nothing. No bullshit, just go in and work it out. That’s been the mantra ever since.
Jerry Dale: I think it just exemplifies our conviction to what we're doing. I think, above all, we have a true conviction to how music makes us feel, and I think we recognize it now more than ever. It means more now. We've gone through a lot in this whole year of seeing it to this point, and we've put a lot of work in it so far, so it means a lot to us. So I think it’s a very empowering statement.
Paul: Success is a little more taken for granted. Making this record, we have that passion again. That hunger feels like the early days to me. The early days, with a little more wisdom and knowledge.
Robert: Raul's desire for excellence can be demanding as hell. There were a lot times in the early years where you weren’t quite going to reach his desire, so we had this sense of ‘We almost got it’ a lot of the time.
RR: Is that true?
Robert: Well, perception can be the same as truth. My perception of Raul was that he could deliver, and he was a damn good musician on most anything he touched, so when he hands you the bass after playing so well on it, it's like ‘Here's a .50 caliber machine gun. Good luck firing this thing.’ It was like handing me something that I didn't even know the parts to. But I think what's interesting to relate to today is that now we have a band, and I see the guy coming offstage a lot closer to pleased than at any point in the past, and I've enjoyed that.
Raul: The knowledge and all the lessons - musical, spiritual, personal and all that - informs this era. That’s part of it. The bass is a simple matter to me, and once I started using upright bass, that’s all I ever wanted to hear. I think that’s important, too, to make music with no pretense about anything that we have to do, you know? If your role in this song is to play a cowbell, then do that. If your role is to play a cymbal splash and that’s it, then do that. If your job is to play a four-string guitar, that’s it. If there’s no solo in it, there’s no solo in it. I think when you get to that point, and you’re making music at that level, that’s when you’re the best - when it’s just about the song, and you’re honest, and you’re in there with each other, in control of the creative process, and there’s nobody telling you what you can and cannot do.
We approached every song like that - making music from an honest point. It's not ego-driven music. It’s not based on the past. It’s in the moment. You’re doing whatever it takes to make that song better. But you get to that point now. You don't get to that point when you’re 20 years old, and you’re figuring it out, and you’re full of piss and vinegar, and you have more testosterone than common sense.
RR: You go on tour in June, and you have dates through August. How do you feel about your booking on August 24 at the Gympie Music Muster at the Amamoor Creek State Forest Park in Australia?
Raul: It’s an awesome festival. It's gonna be awesome. It'll be the first time that we've played as The Mavericks in Australia. I think each of us have been there, but The Mavericks have never been. I think we had a gold or a platinum record there back in the day, but we had never played there. It's the biggest festival in Australia, so it's really, really cool.
RR: When you envision the future, what would each of you like to see happen? Best possible scenario?
Robert: I think we’ve often said that we came together to do 20 dates, but we'll probably end up being together for 20 more years. I think that's true. I think we all want to keep doing this. We’re enjoying this. Its not a one-off, that’s for sure. It would be fun to be sitting here a year from now, having a meeting about something still working. I think there’s some good plans. I don't think there’s any definitive plans. We are gonna make another record at some point, we just don't know which one. We have a lot of records in our heads.
Raul: We have material for a Spanish album, so that may or may not be the next record, but it's certainly in the cards for the relatively near future. The rest of the time, we have a lot of ground to cover and a lot of places to go see.”
RR: Anything else?
All the guys: Variety show. David Letterman. Or the biggest band in Cuba. We’re pretty good at hamming it up these days!
Jerry Dale: In some ways, I think we arrived subconsciously knowing that it's the time to do this, so let’s see if we can do it right.
Jerry Dale: A democracy and equality was being established, almost like rectifying the past. It was like claiming our space.
Robert: Jerry Dale also is a lynchpin, musically. He came in and really, having not touched his instrument for eight-ish years, was brimming with musicality that hadn't left him, and he ended up punctuating the whole record, really. Eddie had to dilute what he does to play either simpler parts or give way to Raul's ideas. Generously he did that. I had to change instruments entirely.
Raul: We've already been through trials and tribulations. We've already had tough times together in the year, but we deal with problems better. We may not be happy with certain things, but we still stand by, and we get ourselves and each other through it. We care. It's really nice.
Check out what's up with The Mavericks (and there's always something) www.theMavericksBand.com
Dishmag.com, July, 2013
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