Thursday, March 12, 2009

Q&A with Raul Malo

My feature on Raul Malo ran at this week. He plays the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach on Monday. Here's more from our chat:

You just returned from a press tour of Europe. What is your fan base like abroad?
The Mavericks’ “Trampoline” was a really big record over there. So we’ve got a pretty good loyal following, even still.

Since you're doing the Belly Up, got any fond memories of San Diego area shows over the years?
Oh man. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite cities and I love hanging’ out down there so much. I remember a couple years ago, we happened to be in town when the Italian Street Fest was on. That was great fun. I got to sing either “O Solo Mio” or “Santa Lucia” with one of the street bands. It was just everybody drinking wine and beautiful weather. It was just one of those nights. So that’s definitely a fun memory of San Diego.

Back in February, during Grammy Week, you did the MusicCares honors Neil Diamond event in L.A. What was that like?
You know, it was pretty amazing. I didn’t think about it too much because it’s a big event. On top of that, you’re singing a big hit for one of the world’s biggest artists. And he’s sitting right in front of you. Even though he’s an old friend and I’ve known Neil for a long time – everybody in the music business is there. It’s a who’s who of musicians and executives. I didn’t think about it too much until I was done. Then I was pretty nervous about it.

Didn’t you contribute to Neil’s country CD “Tennessee Moon” a decade ago?
I did. We wrote a song together and I sang harmonies on it.

One review I read of the new album "Lucky One" (Fantasy/Concord Records) said it comes closest in spirit to your Mavericks work. Would you agree?
Yeah, it certainly hints at some of the Mavericks album for sure. To me, that’s just a natural progression. I wrote all the songs on the Mavericks records so that’s going to come out. The “Today” record [in 2001] purposely explored the more Latin side of things. That was done that way specifically. This one, even though it hints at the Latin stuff, they’re all reflective of what I like to do. This one does hint at Mavericks work for sure.

At the end of the new song “Moonlight Kiss,” it sounds like a dinner party with all sorts of chattering and stuff. What was going on then?
There were cocktails being had and a lot of clowning around in the studio. We just wanted to evoke that sort of cabaret/Tropicana play on words.

If people listen carefully to “Haunting Me,” they can hear your dog bark.
He was on the original demo and I discovered it later as I was listening to it. He was a sweet Rottweiler and died way too young…I thought it would be cool to pay tribute to him because he was a good boy.

Do you think the fans that enjoy your songs in Spanish will get into “One More Angel” and “Lonely Hearts,” which have a Tex-Mex feel?
I hope so. I try to make the music that I like and hopefully that translates to a bunch of people likings it. The Latin side of me is always going to be there. You can’t shake that even if you don’t think about it much, which I don’t.

I read on your website journal about your dismay over the popularity of “Guitar Hero.”
[laughs] I got three boys. I think I’ve got them convinced that it actually doesn’t teach them anything. They’ll eventually figure it out on their own if they really want to play guitar, that’s not the way to go about it…I know if you play an instrument and try to play that, it’s some simulated thing and it’s not even close. If you spend four hours playing that stupid thing, in four hours you can play all the things on there.

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