As a country band emerging from the Miami club scene, The Mavericks have always sounded different – and that distinctive sound has carried the award-winning band across three decades. The band broke out internationally in the ’90s with dazzling singles like “O What a Thrill,” “What a Crying Shame,” and “Here Comes the Rain.”
Marking the 30th anniversary of the Mavericks’ formation this year, founding members Paul Deakin and Raul Malo and longtime members Eddie Perez and Jerry Dale McFadden caught up with CMT Hot 20 Countdown before a gig in Texas. Rather than rehashing their ’90s heyday — when they won a Grammy and a couple of CMA Awards — the Mavericks today are most interested in the present, as a new generation of fans are thrilled to discover them.
CMT: It’s the band’s 30th anniversary. How did you wrap your head around that?
RM: I gotta be honest. At first I was I was probably the one most hesitant to celebrate 30 years because THAT’S NOT something to celebrate! That’s sick. That’s crazy that we’ve been doing this for 30 years. It’s like, “Who celebrates that? That’s insane!” Also you start to say, “My gosh, 30 years, that’s pretty incredible in this business.” And you start looking back on all the stuff you’ve done.
We’ve been, throughout this year, reminiscing a lot and really digging up a bunch of old skeletons in the closet and whatnot, and it’s been a lot of fun. It’s been a beautiful journey. It’s been a crazy journey for 30 years, as it would for anybody in this business.
But all in all at the end of the day, here we are, still fighting. It feels good to be able to make music for so long, for so many people, for so many tours, for so many shows, and people still want to hear it. It’s a beautiful thing.
To still be relevant and to still have fans, that’s the whole thing, right?
RM: That’s what keeps you in the game. It really does and I think luckily for us — we’ve been fortunate enough in this regard — the [new] music we’re playing resonates as much as the old stuff with the fans. That’s important because we’re not just relying on past glories. We’re pushing forward and making new music. That is very rewarding in and of itself, so we’re loving this.
What is the most different about life for the Mavericks now?
JDM: I would say that as a band we are more in control of everything we do. It still requires people that you can work with and to get things done. But we make a lot of the decision ourselves instead of letting other people make the decisions for us. And that’s probably considerably different than the ‘90s.
RM: I gotta say, musically we are far more interesting now than we were back then because we’ve been able to explore and do whatever the heck we want. When you operate from that premise, when the shackles are off, it’s up to you, and that’s been really fun.
If we want to record an instrumental, if we want to record a Spanish record, or we want to do this — we can do it all. We have nobody to tell us no. … So far, and certainly creatively, it’s been the most rewarding time of my life in music.
PD: And that’s why the longevity. You have to get to a point where you’re fulfilling those creative needs. If not, then it’s a grind. So it’s not a grind, it doesn’t feel like a grind. It’s hard to call this a job. There are challenges with our families and stuff, but the fact is that we are able to do, like Raul said, pretty much what we want to do, which has been the recipe for success for us in the past and continues to work.
When things started clicking for you in country music in the ‘90s, what was that like?
RM: Those days — it’s such a whirlwind that you don’t really enjoy it, I gotta be honest. You don’t have a life. It’s work, work, work, no sleep, you’re doing this, doing that. You don’t know if it’s happening.
All of a sudden you’re staying at fancier places and people are recognizing you and you can afford nice things. But to really grasp what’s happening, I don’t think you do — at least I didn’t — because you’re just constantly working, you’re constantly doing.
And that’s not to say we’re not constantly working now. It’s different now. I think time and perhaps a little wisdom has afforded us a little more balance to really take in what is happening.
And now we can look back and go, sure, those days we’re great but the truth is those days were a blur because it was one thing after another, one party after another, one industry thing after another, and it was just constant.
So what kept you grounded, if anything, was families and friends, and if you happened to survive all that, then you’re better off for it. And most of us have. We’ve come out of that craziness and we can apply all that we’ve learned, all the mistakes, everything that we did wrong.
What are you most proud of the past 30 years?
EP: Mine is easy. What I’m most proud of, in all of us, is how much closer we’ve become as friends and partners. It has nothing to do with the music because to me the relationships foster everything else that’s good. If that’s not right, then it’s not worth doing. Then it really becomes a chore. This should not be a chore, the Mavericks is not about that. To me, I’m most proud about that. We’ve all lived a lot in the time the band went away for a few years, and I think coming back together, we realized if we’re gonna do it, we need to put as much of ourselves into it as we can.
Number one is our relationships with each other. There’s a lot of trust and there are disagreements and all that stuff, but it’s a business. That’s to be expected. But what has come out of it more importantly for me than anything is the connection to my musical brothers here. After all these years I feel like we’ve worked really hard to attain that, too. That doesn’t come easy and isn’t just automatically there. It’s something that everyone has to work at and I feel most proud about that, honestly.
RM: I would say that at this point looking back, I think I’m proudest of the fact we’ve always maintained — musically at least — a pretty high standard for ourselves. Whatever we’ve put out, I don’t think there’s anything that we’re… Well, not that I’m ashamed, I am embarrassed about a couple things we’ve put out, of course.
But overall we’ve really stuck to our guns. And especially the last six or seven years, that we’ve been able to come back and make these new records, and make music that matters to people again. And maintain our own standards. I don’t know if they’re lofty or higher, but they’re for us. We’ve been able to maintain that kind of quality.
PD: We’ve doing this pretty much since the beginning really – to try to please ourselves musically with what we want to do. … We want it to be as good as it can be and to please us. So when you take that and record it, and take it to the stage, you’re going to enjoy playing that music. We’ve always kind of been known as a live band for a good live show, and I believe that one of the main reasons is because we’ll get up there, we’re playing the music that we love, that we created, and songs that we like.
And that energy goes out into the audience. They feel that energy and hopefully that comes out to you in the Mavericks show, and then the energy becomes cyclical and exponential and that takes that energy up there! And we’ve been able to maintain that, so it’s not like, “Oh, you should’ve seen them in the ‘90s.” I agree with Raul, it feels like we’re a better band than we were then.
JDM: Kind of along the same lines, I would say that I’m most proud that we bring so much joy to people. I love that our music has always kind of been that way and even more so these days in this crazy political world we live in and all the insanity going on. People rely on Mavericks music to put them in their happy place.
We see it in the audience, we hear it from fans directly – “Your music means so much to me! When I need to be in a good mood I put on some Mavericks and it makes me happy!” And I think that’s something to be proud of.