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The Mavericks’ Raúl Malo on his band’s first-ever Spanish LP ‘En Español’

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The Mavericks are a band that have always followed their hearts, and that credence has earned them both Grammy Awards and CMAs, but it’s also led frontman Raúl Malo to ask “Do you want to be an artist or do you want to be famous?”

Three decades after issuing their self-titled debut, The Mavericks have managed to check off a bucket list item this year by releasing “En Español,” the group’s first Spanish language/Latin music album.

The record’s five original songs accompany seven Latin tunes – a mix of standards and rarities that Malo says have always been close to his heart. On “En Español,” The Mavericks literally reconnect with their roots on a record the band has wanted to record since reforming in 2011 after seven years apart.

Cuban songs reside comfortably next to songs from Mexico, Columbia and Argentina and blend seamlessly with the new tunes penned or co-written by Malo.

Guest vocalist Lissette Diaz of Cuban band The Sweet Lizzy Project performs with the band on “En Español” and co-wrote some of the new material with Malo.

Malo’s bandmates in The Mavericks include drummer Paul Deakin, guitarist Eddie Perez, and keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden.

Born in Miami to Cuban-American parents who escaped the communist Castro regime in the early 1960s, Malo had a childhood steeped in music of all styles, including the rock and pop hits of the day, Latin, salsa, country, jazz, swing, Tex-Mex, opera and classical music among them. It only made sense that those influences would eventually find their way into The Mavericks’ songbook. They’re a band built on diversity.

The 1990s saw The Mavericks releasing multiple gold and platinum albums that spawned more than a dozen hits on the Billboard country charts, which is where I first encountered them as program director of a radio station with an eclectic multi-genre format. As I told Malo during my interview with him, whenever a new Mavericks record crossed my desk, it went on the air, because they were a perfect band for a radio station that played a little bit of everything.

The Maine Edge: Is this album something you’ve been thinking about for a long time?

Raúl Malo: When we got the band back together in 2011 and 2012, one of the bucket list items was to make a Spanish record. There were no songs per se, it was just a loose concept, but as we began to tour, record, and get our business going, I’d have an idea for a Spanish song or an arrangement. We’d set aside from extra time in the studio to record and after a couple of years of doing this, we realized we’d accumulated enough good material for our first Spanish album.

The Maine Edge: Everything was finished before the pandemic hit?

Raúl Malo: We used up every minute we had in the studio and finished it in February, then the pandemic hit in March, and that certainly threw a monkey wrench in our plans for this year, but we weren’t the only ones.

Since touring was out of the question, the best thing we could do was to put this out and it’s been connecting with people in a beautiful way. It’s not the same as touring, of course, but this record has been a little silver lining in a year that hasn’t offered many.

The Maine Edge: I have a couple of questions for you from two big fans of The Mavericks: Rick and Cindy from Exeter, Maine. The first question is about a song on “En Español” called “Cuando Me Enamoro.” It’s listed as an original standard by (Italian opera singer, songwriter and producer) Andrea Bocelli. Rick asks if you would someday like to sing a duet with Bocelli or submit an original song for him to record?

Raúl Malo: (laughing) Of course, all of the above. Could Rick make that happen?

The Maine Edge: He does have connections but I’m thinking you could make that happen, Raúl.

Raúl Malo: Oh man, who knows (laughs). It would be a dream come true. I’m certainly a huge fan of Bocelli’s, no doubt. Oh my gosh, if he were to record a song of mine, that would be a dream.

The Maine Edge: The second question is about The Mavericks’ trip to Cuba in 2017, where you filmed a PBS special and sang many tunes in Spanish. Was this trip part of your inspiration for the new LP?

Raúl Malo: You know, that’s a good question. For sure, that was part of it. It certainly lit a fire to make us realize that we needed to finish this record.

The Maine Edge: I’ve always had the impression that The Mavericks have been guided more by their hearts and ears than by outside voices when it comes to the music you write, record and perform. In other words, if you’re happy with it, so will be the real fans of the band. Am I on the right track?

Raúl Malo: Yes, absolutely, and I think that’s always the struggle that artists have to go through. I ask this of young artists all the time: Do you want to be an artist or do you want to be famous? They don’t always coincide. If you’re a little different or if you have something to say, you’re going to have endure some record business stuff.

These days, it’s easier in some ways for artists to follow their dreams, but it also has its challenges. I feel that if you’re making music that you feel good about, it’s a lot easier to get up onstage night after night and project that onto the audience. If you hate what you’re doing, the audience can see that, unless you’re really good at hiding it. I don’t want to do that because music is too personal for me not to enjoy doing it.

Last modified on Wednesday, 28 October 2020 07:35

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