The 22nd annual Rhythm & Roots Festival will once again be taking over Ninigret Park in Charlestown during Labor Day weekend. This year’s lineup is stacked with alternative rockers Son Volt, bluegrass band Railroad Earth and Rhode Island staples Sarah Potenza and Jabbawaukee among over other acts on multiple stages. Another band taking part in the festival are The Mavericks from Miami. This country quartet incorporates many influences into their sound while keeping things fresh. As part of their 30th anniversary tour, they’ll be headlining the Rhythm Stage on Saturday night at 10:30 p.m.
I had a talk with drummer Paul Deakin from the band about how singer, guitarist and main songwriter Raul Malo influences The Mavericks’ sound, thoughts on the current state of country music and his favorite moments from the past 30 years.
Rob Duguay: The Mavericks have always had a Latin flair to their music. When the band first started writing music, what would you say was the main catalyst for embracing that influence?
Paul Deakin: Raul has always been the primary songwriter so the influence definitely comes from him. He grew up listening to music in Miami, which isn’t a hotbed for country music but his parents were first generation Cuban-Americans and they grew up with a lot of old music. Raul’s background comes from that Latin music along with Frank Sinatra, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and others. When the band first started, we leaned more towards country and Raul wanted to incorporate that Cuban style and The Mavericks is actually the first band he’s ever sang lead in. He was usually a backup singer and a bass player in bands before.
RD: That’s cool how Raul’s upbringing has such a big effect on the band’s music. You guys initially broke up in 2004 and reunited in 2012. What do you think is the main difference with the band after the reunion versus what things were like before the breakup?
PD: Hopefully we’ve grown as people and I think we have musically as well. We’ve had the opportunity to explore different ideas and incorporate them into what we do, which I think is great. The main reason why we got back together centered on Raul working on a record and he thought that it was very appropriate to be released under The Mavericks’ name. We did get offers before to do tours but one of us was always doing something else but the wanting of doing a reunion was always there. When we got together to talk about it, this record was being made and we all joined in on it to see what would happen.
It all picked up where it left off and in my mind it was where it temporarily left off. We had many different influences coming in there too. Like I said, hopefully we’ve grown as people and I think we have but we’re also doing things more on our terms. We’ve always done it that way musically but Scott Borchetta, who runs Big Machine Records, helped us put out our albums during the ‘90s when he was part of MCA and he helped us out a lot when we got back together. We know more about how to do the business side of things these days and with good management and a good lawyer we have more control so we can do our own thing.
RD: It’s great these days that bands can get rid of the middlemen and forge their own path rather than being held to a contract and being stuck in a bad situation. There are so many variables that go into it with the Internet, how labels operate and other things.
PD: We now completely drive in our own lane creatively. We’ve done the records that we’ve done, which have been up for Grammys in the Americana field. We’re now working on a covers record that’ll be out in November so that freedom we have now is definitely contributing to the longevity of this band.
RD: A couple of months ago it was revealed that The Mavericks were one of the bands who lost some of their material in the 2008 Universal Studios fire. Did you guys know about this before the news came out about it? How many recordings did you guys lose?
PD: We found out at the same time everyone else did when the news came out. We did not know before then, we weren’t told about it and I do not know exactly what was lost. I do know that at one point we were going to put out a box set so we were talking to some of our people at Universal about it and it was slow going so maybe that’s why. I can’t really figure out one way or the other whether they knew that or they didn’t know at all. I can assure you that we’re looking into it.
RD: It’s strange how you guys found out when everyone else did. You’d think they would let you know right after it happened. There seems to be a big divide in country music between the mainstream pop side of it and the independent side of it with musicians from the latter always calling out Music Row in Nashville for all sorts of stuff. Where do you stand on this?
PD: I’d say that we stand more on that side more than the commercial side and we’ve always have been. It all depends on people’s perspective, you can say that Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson aren’t any less commercial some of the other acts because of the attention they’re getting. Chris Stapleton is kind of in the middle, he has a great voice like Jason and Sturgill do but he’s won a bunch of awards and he’s getting played on country and even Top 40 radio. He arguably should be on that independent side but he’s gotten commercial success. It’s an interesting thing, I don’t fly a flag but I know we’re not in the mainstream so that’s where we’re at.
I understand why labels do what they do. Radio is stretching itself thin with these target markets and their grasping for the last scraps. Is the mainstream less creative because of it? Of course it is but they have their own market and they want to sell records so it goes both ways with the commercial side versus the independent side. It is what it is, when we were first cutting our teeth we were making less money than artists who are on that level today. This is all just coming from me, I can’t speak for the rest of The Mavericks.
RD: What are your favorite moments of being in The Mavericks since the band started 30 years ago?
PD: I’ve thought about it a lot, especially with it being 30 years you tend to reflect on what you’ve accomplished and experienced. I’d have to say winning a Grammy in 1996 for Best Country Performance with “Here Comes The Rain” and we’ve won a bunch of other awards which I’m very proud of. We’ve sold a lot of records, we’ve been on TV shows and we’ve met some movie stars. Getting to perform with some of my heroes and I still get goosebumps when I think about when we made the Red Hot + Country record with Duane Eddy and Carl Perkins while doing a version of “Matchbox.” I’ve been on stage with countless numbers of people, including a Johnny Cash TV special where The Mavericks were the backing band.
To be able to meet those people and perform with them is what I put on my mantle. There’s nothing physical I can put up there but emotionally those are some of the things I can put up there. Well, I guess I can put the actual Grammy up there. That was fun.