Tearin' Up The Country
The Mavericks Celebrate 30 Years with a Party Tour

By Lee Valentine Smith

Led by founders Raul Malo (vocals, guitars) and Paul Deakin (drums) with guitarist Eddie Perez and keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden, The Mavericks have blurred the lines between country and rock for the past 30 years.
Founded by Malo and Deakin in Miami, the band rode a wave of instantly-recognizable hits in the '90s, then after an eight-year hiatus, came back for their second act with a stunning surge of creativity and focus.

Deakin spoke with INsite by phone from a recent tour stop in Ohio.

First, congrats on your milestone year. |

Well, thanks. It's been a blessing. It's fun to be proud of our time. But then the other side of it is like, holy sh*t, what happened to the last thirty years?

There's no new album to push right now, so you can easily look back on the whole catalog in celebration. I read a very teasing comment from Eddie hinting that you were working on new ways to present some of the songs.

Yeah, we'll revisit some of the old songs and we may put a different sort of spin on them. The music always seems to evolve over the years anyway but we've gone back to find some of the stuff we haven't played in a while. Some songs work their way in and out of the set but for this we're kinda making it more of a retrospective show. There's a lot to pick from.

Your most recent release was the Christmas album from last year. After this retrospective tour, do you have some new music ready to go?

We've been recording. Every chance we get, we go into the studio and work. We've recorded a bunch of instrumentals because it's like let's just get in there and work on ideas and experiment. Raul may write lyrics for them or they may stay as instrumentals. And we've done some country stuff and a covers record of music that inspired us to become a band and some stuff that's inspired us while we've been a band. We've also recorded a Spanish record which should be out in 2020 and after that, probably another studio record. We've been busy, we just haven't released it all yet.

It's not easy to do an all-original Christmas record and do it right.

It is! It's harder than you'd think to come up with eight or ten original Christmas songs. I was impressed with Raul's ability to write that many.

You have quite a cache of stuff because The Mavericks have two distinct periods. The early years and then the post-reunion era.

Yeah some people think our old stuff is from the 2000's. Some people don't even know us from the '90s at all. So they may think the classic song is "Back In Your Arms Again" or something. But we were going 20 years before that! So we can bring back stuff that wasn't necessarily a hit. It's whatever we're inspired to do on the night of the show. And sometimes where we are can change things. If we're in New Jersey, we'll do a Springsteen song like "All That Heaven Will Allow."

As you travel the world, do you notice that audiences react differently to certain material?

Oh, absolutely. Across the country and across the world it's different. In the UK, we had a massive hit with "Dance The Night Away." Over there, most of Europe still knows that song. I think it was the most played song in the UK the year it came out [1998]. That was a big time. We went from playing the Shepherd's Bush Empire to selling out six nights at the Royal Albert Hall to playing arenas. But I think there's a general feeling that people know about a Mavericks concert at this point. We're there to bring joy, have fun and hopefully dance. We enjoy the energy we share between each other and between band and audience. That's how it works. We're kind of a selfish band in a way. We want to play what we want to play. We just figure the best way for everyone to have a good time is if we're having a good time. Usually that works.

We're both old enough to have seen plenty of bands we know absolutely can't stand each other.

(Laughs) Well there's been a couple of times that I'm sure we couldn't stand each other that night, that does happen with us. But it's like we're brothers. I'd say over 90 percent of the time we're pretty happy and comfortable with each other. As brothers, you don't stay mad for too long. And the music is rarely ever affected by that on the stage. That's because it's one thing we know that we do well together. Music is always our sanctuary. We're not The Kinks or Oasis or something.

After 30 years, it's possibly a closer bond than marriage.

I always say, as hard as it is for any couple to stay together, it becomes exponentially harder the more people are involved. So with us it's about 16 times harder than a couple! But I say that jokingly because we actually revel in each other's idiosyncrasies. We're pretty self-aware now.

As opposed to The Mavericks of the '90s?

I would think we're a little more settled, yes. When it first happened for us, it happened relatively quickly. At that age, you're not necessarily prepared for it. Some of us definitely indulged in the rock and roll lifestyle. When you're in that you're not as self-aware as you probably should be, so hopefully we've grown a bit - both musically and in general. It makes it a lot easier now to do what we do. We've gotten better as musicians, I know that. We've gotten honed-in about what makes the band work.

You're your own boss now, which is definitely key to even more artistic freedom.

Yeah, we are and we have our own label now, too. It does allow us to do things the way we want to. We keep getting Grammy nominations and we still get airplay so it's OK. It's actually been fun taking over the business side. But with that, it's gotten to the point where we don't have anybody to blame but ourselves. When we make a choice to do something - if it works, then great. But then if it doesn't work - well, we chose to do it. So now it's always our fault. Nobody was making us do it.

No annoying label guy to pin the blame on. That's gotta be a nice luxury.

Creatively in the '90s, MCA gave us pretty much free reign to do whatever we wanted and then so did Big Machine. But before the millennium, we had just gotten burnt out on everything.

The early '90s was a good time to be on a major label, because they would still spend money on an act to generate the hits. Even if it was actually your own money.

Oh, absolutely. We sold millions of records. Now we sell thousands!

When The Mavericks came along, you were part of an exciting wave of new, genre-defying music.

Yeah but I think that's partly because we didn't know what the hell we were doing. We were a country band from Miami with a Cuban-American lead singer. We loved playing music. We were into the old stuff but we were also into the new stuff. We were playing in punk bars because that was the only place to play on South Beach. We were doing shows with us and Marilyn Manson because they were there too. And we were managed by the same person.

Historically, the punk scene has always embraced country.

Oh yeah, as well it should really. It's pure music and it tells a story.

So the real challenge at that time was finding a country bar to play.

Yeah because there weren't any down there. You had to go to further north of Miami to find a country bar. Plus it's funny, I think The Mavericks were way more of a country band than we are now. It's evolved into a kinda genre-less thing. Non-gen, I call it. Because we just play whatever we want. We play country to old rock'n'roll to Latin to jazz. Whatever tickles our fancy, we'll do.

That's pretty much Americana these days.

I guess that's where it comes in, yeah. It's certainly a melting pot. With [2017's] Brand New Day, we were up for a Grammy in the same category as the Rolling Stones. I was like, now wait a minute. First of all, they're not even from America and second of all, they're the quintessential rock'n'roll band. Get out of our category, man. It's like, 'Hey Mick, get off of my iCloud!'

The Mavericks play the Atlanta Botanical Garden (Gainesville) on Sunday, August 25. Marc Broussard opens. Showtime is 7 p.m. For more information, please visit atlantabg.org.

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