Monday, March 25, 2013

Bonus Q&A with The Mavericks

photo by Mark Tucker/courtesy Valory Music Group
Here is more from the insightful interview I had with Mavericks guitarist Robert Reynolds...

Q: Earlier this month, all of you were immersed in the craziness of SXSW. How did that go?
Sometimes you ask yourself why you go do it. I don’t mean to be too harshly critical of this very notable music fest, but if I’m trying to be honest here, it’s madness. It’s a little intoxicating, so you buy into it one more year. That can leave you a little hungry for more. What we really seem to love is being in Austin. In that regard, we’re just celebrating being in Austin, Texas. It’s so musically and culturally developed. Really wonderful for us. 

Q: How have the new songs been going over live with the fans?
It would sound almost boastful if I tell you, but it’s crazy. We’ve been selling out venues, so that’s amazing. The sales of the new album have been really nice - both out here on the road, in the shops and the digital realm. People are singing the lyrics; they already know the record or know what they’ve heard and are anxiously buying the record. The comments have been phenomenal...We want to take care of the fans and really protect the music - make sure we get to each show with the right amount of energy to give that night’s audience the best night ever. You got to pace yourself for that. [Yesterday] we were shooting a pilot for a TV show.

Q: Really? What was it about?
It’s a dramatic police kind of thing, like “Walker: Texas Ranger.” We did a bar scene with some cool Tex-Mex sounding music. It puts more music on network television. That’s always worthwhile.

Q: Speaking of TV, you’ve had a song featured in the ABC-TV show “Nashville.” Have you watched it?
Yeah. It’s come closer than any other show before to getting the essence right. I don’t have to praise the show, but I have enjoyed it. I can’t keep up with it on my current schedule, but when it premiered, I probably stayed tuned for at least six or more episodes.

Q: Regarding the reunion, were you surprised when everyone was fully on board with the idea?
Once you’re talking to one another, the surprise is over and now you’re down to the nitty gritty. The surprise comes on that initial phone call, like ‘wow, out of nowhere, the band wants to talk again.’ We can’t do it without each other because that’s how we’ve arranged it - that it would only be The Mavericks, when it was truly The Mavericks [guys] and nothing short of that.

Q: Did you miss playing with these guys over the years?
Completely...I’ve played with some great people, but it doesn’t equate to the Mavericks, you know? I’ve played great songs that were written by incredible writers. I’ve done things that are extremely enjoyable but none of it is the Mavericks. So there’s only the Mavericks to fill that void…among the things that would give you a pang of sadness or a lonesome feeling was imagining not playing those songs for an audience again. Sure, I could go out there and riff through a Mavericks tune or two in a solo performance, but that’s not the same thing. 

I’m probably taking a real risk here [but] Raul probably had to learn himself that going out and doing songs he had written and had been lead vocalist on was still not always the same as bringing the Mavericks back out. Here’s the voice of all the songs out on solo efforts, solo periods of his career, and even that would not fulfill the void of the Mavericks. I think he had to reckon with that and decide whether or not he too felt the void and wanted to get back to it. That seems to be the conclusion. We all thought that ‘this is something worth returning to.’

Q: Weren't some of the new songs recorded live?
That is true. ‘Live’ doesn’t have to come off a live concert stage and become a ‘live’ album. Live can be a band performing in the studio and playing as fully orchestrated combo with 5, 8, 10 pieces, whatever and leaving very little overdubbing processes because you were actually recording performances. 

Q: I could tell because a few times Raul is heard saying things like, ‘ok guys, one more time.’
Those calls you’re hearing are actual cues. In certain cases, you could edit them out if you wanted. Or you could leave them so they become a little evidence of your truth and honesty. We serve up something honest. We live in an age where you can make a marginally talented person sound like a supremely talented person. I’m not being hyper-critical, but if you fool people over the course of a decade or two, we lose our ability to gauge things. We get lost along the way. It takes something like going out to see a band. 

Q: A couple ballads, like “In Another’s Arms” and “Amsterdam Moon” have a timeless quality. Did you intend to leave the musical arrangements sparse on those?
It’s a music we all love in our own private way, these classic recordings. Raul, having co-written all the songs and always our chief songwriter/vocalist, he always interprets things the way he loves them. In a way, you’re hearing our contribution to traditionalist song craft of yesteryear. Stuff that I don’t hear enough of really these days.

Q: What was it like working with veteran co-producer/mixer Niko Bolas in the studio?
Raul and Niko had worked on a solo project together…he came in as an engineer, but Raul enjoyed the collaborative nature of it. So it shifted to a co-production. It’s quite true to the nature of this album. It mutated in the moment. Niko became a part of the family. He did what Raul knew he would do: come in and kick some ass. And be one more of the musical minds that were swirling around.

Q: How do you think country music has evolved in the time the Mavericks were away?
I live in Nashville. I have not shied away from anything. I remain a student of that stuff. I feel a huge blessing to live in Nashville, wake up every day and your office is a historic music epicenter. In the years were we apart, you saw mega-stardom happen like Taylor Swift. Doesn’t mean you always identify with it. I believe she’s a gifted voice of her generation and it permeates. We get those earworms into our head. I think she’s a good example of what can happen in this town I’ve enjoyed. 

Q: The album cover has a sideshow theme. What was the thought behind it?
It’s part of a visual dialogue we wanted to have. We knew we were going to do vinyl and have the larger format…we’ve explored that before with ‘Trampoline’ and the fact that there’s a little possible thread of continuity is more coincidental. Or maybe it’s just in our DNA. The cover is not what we were first working with – our first non-band cover. There were [things] to deal with and different points of view. We chose an alternate outtake photo for the cover because it was perfectly expressive of who we are…on the inside of the sleeve are these portraits shot on a period camera from the 1860s. It literally had no negatives and printed on a tin type metal plate. Those portraits are closer to the kind of expression we were aiming at: old time photography and still life, a flower.             

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