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Sometimes all you need for things to come right is a little time. The Mavericks – masters of country-Latin rock’n’roll, born in the rich cultural mix of Miami then tempered in Nashville’s country hothouse – rode high in the country and rock charts of the 1990s with culture-crossing hits like ‘What A Crying Shame’ and ‘All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down’.
Then they conquered Europe with the titanic feel-good party classic ‘Dance The Night Away’, a 400,000-seller in the UK. Yet nothing lasts forever, and in 2004 The Mavericks went on hiatus while frontman Raul Malo explored new musical avenues.
But since a reunion in 2012, this most singular of bands has re-established itself as one of the most exciting and joyfully entertaining acts on touring and festival circuit across the planet. It’s a reputation based on their irrepressible mix of country, Tex-Mex, rockabilly and Latino sounds plus a riotously entertaining, world-renowned live show. A Mavericks gig is a guaranteed party night encompassing everything from the essential ‘Dance The Night Away’ to the infectious Tejano-ska hybrid of ‘Back In Your Arms Again’ – and, on occasion, even wild cards like a Mavericks take on The Beatles ‘Back In The USSR’.
The Mavericks are true American originals, heirs to the great songwriting traditions of Cuba and Miami, of Nashville and San Antonio and Memphis. Now, on their 30th anniversary as a band, they’re back to remind the world why they’re so good.
The Mavericks’ rise in the 90s was meteoric. Within a year of forming in 1989 they had signed to MCA Nashville and in 1992 they released their major label debut ‘From Hell To Paradise’. There were hits on the radio and in the Billboard charts and, from 1994 to 1996, a string of Country Music Awards. Album number three ‘What A Crying Shame’ went US Platinum in 1994 and the following year they won a Grammy for their single ‘Here Comes The Rain’. And if the USA cooled a little on The Mavericks by the time of their fifth album ‘Trampoline’, 1998’s departure in style for the band, the rest of the world opened up to the classic ‘Dance The Night Away’ – a bona fide worldwide smash which remains a party standard to this day.
Not long after the release of their 2003 album ‘The Mavericks’ the band split. Raul Malo went on to a series of solo and band projects including time with the acclaimed Latino supergroup Los Super Seven alongside Los Lobos, Caetano Veloso, Lyle Lovett and Calexico. Paul stepped away to tour with different bands and fulfilled a lifelong ambition to train as a carpenter, building a successful company from scratch (he’s still doing it, and recently put in a fine set of sliding doors for Mavericks sax player Max Abrams.
For extrovert guitarist Eddie Perez, who’d only joined The Mavericks in 2003, the split was kind of a surprise. “I never felt excluded in the band, but I was born and raised in Los Angeles not Miami, and I was stepping into something that already existed,” he explains. “I’d jumped on to a moving train with its own drama that I knew nothing about. I was just glad to be playing music with these guys, I was the youngest guy in the band – and I was learning.
For Raul, The Mavericks’ hiatus years became “a kind of musical quest… I threw myself into the lion’s den.” But playing with other people gave him some perspective on why he does what he does. There were rumors that the band would get back together and though they weren’t true, he kept them at the back of his mind as a ‘What If?’ Then the offers of touring deals became more real, and he realized that the songs he was writing had more and more of a Mavericks vibe. “It made me think, Damn, is this the time?”
The band was clear from Day One that this was not some nostalgia trip. The Mavericks were back for real. When the band sat down for their first dinner together in many years, Raul was clear that he didn’t just want to play the old stuff this time. He’d written a really great record, a Mavericks record. Did they want to do it? Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Records, home of Taylor Swift, were interested and within two weeks the reformed Mavericks were in the studio with Niko Bolas producing. The first track they did was ‘Back In Your Arms Again’.
“From that note when we first played together, those eight years we’d been apart were just wiped away,” says Paul Deakin. “Whatever that indispensable connection we had, it’s right there.”
The band are now four albums into their second phase and thoroughly enjoying the new world of the music business, where it’s all about the live performance – an arena where The Mavericks always excelled. A Mavericks show mixes the best of the past with the new material and the fans love the latter as much – if not more – than the former.
For Eddie Perez it’s more fun this time around. “In all my years of being a touring musician this moment is the most special one,” he says. “It feels like this band are doing things that are right. Being kinder to each other but challenging each other too, in the best way. We’re grateful and we know that not too many bands get to come back and write their own ticket like we did.
“You have to work at it – even chemistry takes work. But if you stay focused on the bigger picture, you can make it work. What’s different now is that we recognize that everything everyone says is for the best and the betterment of the band.”
And now the band is in charge of its destiny. They run their own label Mono Mundo Recordings, deal directly with their booking agents, develop their own artists and choose their own path. They’ve long transcended the country bracket and now play eclectic festivals with artists from across the board – in 2019 they again performed at Glastonbury, perhaps the planet’s most diverse musical event.
Thirty years in, The Mavericks are doing it their own way – and enjoying it. “Musically it’s way more interesting now and I love that the fans will go with us wherever we’re going,” says Raul. “We have a great canvas that we can use at will, and that’s the ultimate reward for an artist. There’s nothing more satisfying.”
Amen. Maverick by name, maverick by nature.