The Mavericks ‘In Time’ Album Reunites Band of Brothers
Bands break up all the time. But it’s pretty rare that they get back together and have the guts to record their very first time playing together in eight years for their comeback CD. But then, most bands aren’t the Mavericks. True to their name, the Mavericks found their way to Nashville from Miami in the early ’90s and busted onto the scene with their refreshing brand of genre-mashing, jalapeño-tinged country, blowing fans away with their incredible live shows. Powered by lead singer Raul Malo‘s rich, voluminous voice and an incredibly talented group of musicians, the band released six albums from 1992-2003. Though radically different from the sounds that Garth Brooks and other traditional country artists were topping the charts with at the time, they still found success with tunes such as “Here Comes the Rain,” (which won a Grammy for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group,) and “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down.” After a decade on the road, the group disbanded, with the five members, including drummer Paul Deakin, guitarist Eddie Perez, keyboard player Jerry Dale McFadden, and bassist Robert Reynolds all going their separate ways. The Boot recently sat down with the guys to chat about their recording-session reunion, how second chances in life can sometimes provide the best surprises, and why their children’s musical talents are both a blessing and a curse.
You had all gone separate directions for eight years before reuniting. Did you entertain thoughts of doing this through the years, or were you just burned out from the first go-round?
Raul: I think burnout was probably the correct phrase for that. We were all feeling varying degrees of it, and that was a big part of what led to everybody going their separate ways. Plus, at the time, some of us were starting families and the thought of the endless grind of the road just started to take its toll. Creatively we wanted to do other things as well. Then as time went on, I found myself on more than one occasion really missing playing with the band. I would just keep that to myself, but almost like a perfect-storm scenario happened. Two years ago, there was talk of getting together and doing a tour and I thought that was interesting. But just to go back and do a summer reunion tour wasn’t reason enough to get the band back together. I thought, if we’re gonna do this, it would be great to have new music out. That’s when it changed it from just a thought to a reality. I happened to have a batch of songs that were sounding like it could be a Mavericks record. So once Big Machine signed off on it, that sealed the deal. The x-factor was our fans stayed loyal through all that time.
Paul: Relentless is the word!
Raul: Everywhere we went, no matter where we went, people asked, and I always took it with a grain of salt. I thought it would die down, I didn’t really think it would continue, but no matter what language I sang in, or what part of the world, it was always, “When are the Mavericks getting back together? What are the Mavericks doing?” Now we’ve been out and the fans have been amazing. So we really owe a lot of this to them and their love of the band.
Did the ways your lives changed during those years inform or influence the new music?
Raul: All our lives definitely changed … we’ve all spawned offspring since then, so that’s one thing that’s different! [laughs] It gives you a whole different reason for working.
Jerry Dale: I feel like there’s so many different things we’ve all done that it’s hard to pin it down. It felt like that chapter of our lives was done, but obviously it wasn’t.
Eddie: For me, the first couple of years it was same thing — no way we’ll go back. But it always felt like unfinished business. We had a lot of frustrations, a lot of things didn’t happen our way the last time we were there. I don’t feel like we were in a place then where we were really ready to come together as brothers in this band. Being in a band is a relationship, if you can equate it to that, it’s almost like everybody needed to go out and date other people to realize how special it was.
What were some of the different paths you each pursued?
Raul: I made albums and was out touring for years, and there have been so many fun musical moments. I got to work with [famed producer] Peter Asher, which was a fun learning experience. I got to make a symphony record live with Northern Symphonia, a symphony out of Newcastle that was really a beautiful record. I hope we as a band get to do that someday, because that really was special.
Paul: Jerry Dale had moved to Chattanooga and was curator of an art museum, Eddie was out with Dwight Yoakam, Robert was working at a digital company, and I was home raising my kids and being a carpenter. So to sum it up, the beauty of it had a lot to do with why I believe the band has come back together and made a record that was this strong … it had a lot to do with going and getting away from this thing. We were all in the right place mentally and emotionally to get together and do this.
How was that first time playing together again after eight years?
Paul: Interestingly enough, the first time we got back together was making this record. We hadn’t played live. When Raul brought up the idea of making a record it happened really quickly. We talked in November, and were in the studio in January. I love that we did that, because you’re in an environment that’s performance-oriented and also creative. So you’re not just running old tunes, you’re really super-fresh going in.
Eddie: It was such a great feeling just to see everybody in the room for the first time, and the fact we were getting ready to cut something and Jerry Dale was driving in, that was the first time I’d seen him in eight years. We hadn’t rehearsed, we didn’t know the songs, and I drove in from Jacksonville and an hour out Robert calls and says, “How far are you, we’re ready to start, as soon as you get here we’re gonna throw on some headphones and start recording.” That was “Back In Your Arms Again,” the first song we recorded! I hadn’t been in the studio ten minutes, and we’re already recording the first song. Now it’s the single on the new album!
Eddie: That moment JD got there and we started rolling, it was like, click, here it is! It was as if those years had not even gone by.
Robert: In a weird way, it was like the music was a nonverbal communication and that was our greeting to each other, playing that music. The real communication happened during those first days recording. Raul sort of said, “I’m handing you my songs trusting you with these.” In a way, he was for the first time saying, “Let me see what you do with these things.”
Raul: It was certainly a test in my head, because I thought, “Well, here we go, if we’re gonna play as a band, play as a band.” I just told everybody there’s no pressure, we can get into the studio and we don’t have to have all the songs done, we have the studio for this week. By the second day, we had recorded nine songs!
Paul: I thought we were done, and then Raul says there’s one more were gonna do and it’s kinda like this, follow me! The map for this record was “follow me.” [laughs]
Paul: I personally hadn’t played as much. I’d go out some with some songwriter friends, but my tour pass was kind of cut off by my wife … we had young kids and she said, “No, you’re home.” So I did the carpentry. One nice compliment I got was one of the guys in the studio said, “Paul, you sound better than you did from the old period of the Mavericks. What have you been doing?” I said, “I guess seven years of carpentry makes you a better drummer!” [laughs]
With the music business being so different today, is it easier to mix genres and blur the musical lines?
Robert: We’re just getting a feel or taste for it, but we didn’t have an Internet presence because that period in ’03 when we were working, it was brief. Back then, the way the music flowed on the Internet was still choppy, so we didn’t engage heavily in that, and back in the ’90s, I found letters where we were hand-writing to the fans — there was no email, no quick response. So it’s a new world for us. I was watching the Grammys and that unique thing Bruno Mars did with Sting, and Mumford and Sons and the Lumineers — that stuff challenges any format that’s known to exist, yet it’s rising to the very top of our musical pyramid. I hope that this record we’ve made can be seen and heard as purely music, forget the category.
Eddie, your time out on the road with Dwight must’ve been inspiring musically as well.
Eddie: The great thing about that whole tenure for me was I got to meet a lot of fans at the shows and Dwight has a similar fan base in the sense that they are loyal — they’re with him for the whole artistic ride — and a lot of that stuff is what this band does as well.
Robert: I’ve been digging up some old Mavericks history and found some amazing things, and there was only a handful of artists at the time that were a signpost or signal to us that we could aspire to something and it might be achievable. I remember a couple of conversations we had, and Dwight was one of the artists Raul referenced. It really did give us a sense that there was a neo-honky-tonk thing about to explode. Rodney Crowell, Kentucky Headhunters, k.d. lang, these were the bands that said to us it might be able to happen, you’re on the right track. It kind of gave us a green light, and the fact that we might work with some of them today and they’re still around, that’s amazing.
You guys have always had a Latin influence to your music. Will that open up a new audience for you now as well?
Paul: We hope so. It’s something that is being explored for the first time and being the new age that it is, it’s a lot easier to get music out to different places.
Raul: For the first time ever our songs are being serviced to radio stations in Mexico. We were band of the week on one of the big pop stations down there.
Robert: I think that’s bando of the week! Says the gringo in the group! [laughs]
Most of you have kids now. Are they following in your musical footsteps?
Raul: My sons were born a year apart, and my oldest is quite the little drummer. They all study. It’s funny, Eddie’s kid was over here not too long ago. He’s 5, and he got on the percussion and he was playing a groove. Eddie said, “He’s never seen it,” and I’m going, “Eddie, he’s playing a beat!” It was kind of freaking me out, honestly.
Eddie: Raul was doing something with the maracas and he went up there and started drumming with him, and he was right there jamming with them! He can already carry pitch and he remembers everything. He’s got a natural sense of rhythm already. But how can he not, he’s surrounded by it all the time.
Jerry Dale: I have two teenage daughters and my 17-yr-old plays circles around me, she’s unbelievable. It blows my mind, especially for that age, I couldn’t play what she plays. She’s amazing.
Raul: It’s cool and gut-wrenching all at the same time. [laughs]
Robert: It’s tough to watch a young child go to pot just like that. [laughs]
Jerry Dale: Luckily, she’s really good at science!
Raul: There you go! There you go! We’re totally unimpressed by their musical skills! Get out of it, kid! [laughs]
Paul: My grandmother’s thing was our rent was you had to play an instrument when you came to her house. I think everybody to whatever degree should have that experience, because it’s pretty amazing. My 12-year-old is a great clarinet player, he’s all-state and it blows my mind because it’s an instrument that I don’t understand how you get a sound out of it. So, yeah, everyone has to play a little bit of something, and are discouraged not to go into the business! [laughs]
You’re getting back on the road in March. Do you have any fear about returning to that grind?
Paul: There is a little bit with getting back together of 20/20-hindsight that you use and hopefully apply to how we do things. It wasn’t just the fatigue of travel and play. Certain aspects of the business can beat you down just as much as the road. We’re aware of how we got to the place that eventually imploded us, and I think we’re aware of how to keep ourselves happy.
Raul: And, we have better weed now! [laughs]