A couple of years ago, The Mavericks announced a reunion tour, with a few festival dates.
Two years later, the band is still on tour, and has just finished recording its second full-length album in the past 15 months.
So much for easing back into things.
“It’s one of those things – be careful what you wish for,” said lead singer Raul Malo. “You know, you want it to go well; you want to stay busy and all that, and all of a sudden it’s happening and you’re really caught up in it. But it’s fantastic. We just made another record, that will be released in early spring next year, so we don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. We’re loving every minute of it.”
Having fun on stage
Seeing them on stage, when they close the three-day Vancouver Island MusicFest on July 13, will attest to how much fun they are having.
Malo is the affable frontman for the band. He will be smiling when he comes on-stage, and it’s highly unlikely that he’ll stop smiling until the show is over.
He and his bandmates – drummer Paul Deakin, multi-instrumentalist Robert Reynolds (the three founding members) as well as keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden and guitarist Eddie Perez – clearly love where they are and what they are doing.
Trouble in paradise
It wasn’t always that way.
The band split up in 2004, only 12 years after their major label debut album, From Hell to Paradise, was released. (They also had a self-titled indie-label release in 1991.)
Four albums, a slew of country music awards and a Grammy for Best Country Performance followed From Hell to Paradise, but, as Malo explained, there was trouble in paradise as well.
“I think it was a lot of different things,” he said, recalling the split. “I know everyone was burned out. I think everybody was pretty tired of the business and the way the business was going.
“And it was also a time in our lives when a lot of the band was starting families, and the road was just wearing us out. It seemed like we were working for everybody else except for ourselves. It was like the hamster wheel thing. We were just spinning and we were tired of it.”
Break served band well
The time apart served the band well. From solo projects, to raising families, to personal growth, Malo, Deakin, Reynolds and Perez (who originally joined the band in 2003) all returned refreshed and invigorated.
They added session keyboardist McFadden as a full-time member, and all is good. Great, actually.
“The reaction from the fans has just been amazing,” said Malo.
“They have fallen in love with the new music and this new era of The Mavericks. It’s funny – some of our new stuff even seems to get a better reaction than some of the older hits. There’s something to be said for that, and that’s a rare thing. Usually everyone wants to hear the old songs [All you ever do is Bring Me Down and Dance the Night Away come to mind] – and of course we still do those, we play them – but it’s nice to have that feedback from the public.”
The Mavericks have a sound that transcends any single musical genre.
While they have enjoyed the majority of their commercial success on the various country charts, their sound can be just as welcome at a folk or blues festival as it is with the ‘two-step and twang’ crowds.
Malo said that although that sounds advantageous, it has its setbacks as well.
“It does (create opportunities) but in other ways it kind of hinders you, because the industry is so regimented and has such (staunch) partitions. They don’t like you to do more than one thing: This is what you do and this is what you have to do for the rest of your lives.
“We never subscribed to that. I love all kinds of music… I love that we have been able to forge ahead and make our own way.”
Malo credited the band’s following for giving them the musical freedom to explore new sounds.
“The fans are what makes all the difference,” he said. “If the public doesn’t want to hear it, there’s no point to it.
“So we are really lucky. I love that freedom and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
The Mavericks are in full “festival mode”, with the outdoor concert season in swing.
They played at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival at the end of April, will play in Prince Edward Island, at the Cavendish Beach Festival a week before the Courtenay show, and will be in Ottawa the day before hitting the MusicFest stage. Along with their various festival appearances, they have numerous individual gigs – all part of their In Time tour.
Malo was hard-pressed to pick a favourite, between the festival atmosphere or the intimate show.
“I love a long set in a theatre, where you can throw in the little extra things here and there, whereas a festival set, it’s a little bit shorter, so you have to be more concise,” he said. “But then at a festival you also have a chance to play for a lot of people who might not necessarily be fans of, or even be familiar with, your music. So you pay attention to that and maybe alter the set to try to draw people in who have maybe never heard The Mavericks before.”
Malo said he can comfortably speak on behalf of the entire band when he says that there is nothing better than performing.
“I think everybody in the band loves music just about more than anything else,” he said. “The fact that at this stage in our lives, we still get to do this and still make music that matters to a lot of people is a real blessing. We work hard, no doubt, but like Confucius said, choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”
As for closing out the weekend at the Vancouver Island MusicFest, The Mavericks will approach it like they approach all their shows.
“We want our concerts to be a celebration – just want people to forget about whatever is bothering them, for just a little while, and be entertained,” he said. “We want the audience to walk out of there as exhausted as we will be, and believe me, we will be exhausted at the end of the night. But it’s a good exhaustion, and I want the audience to feel that with us.”
Sunday day pass tickets are $99 (plus tax and online ticket fee) and are available online at www.islandmusicfest.com or by calling 250-871-8463.