Typically, when an act leaves a label, there are usually some rough waves in the water that cause such a shift. However, if you are expecting any such notions from The Mavericks concerning issuing their new album Brand New Day on their own Mono Mundo label — rather than Big Machine/Valory, the home of their past three releases — lead singer Raul Malo advises you to think again.
“Big Machine was nothing but great to us,” he tells us. “I think there comes a time where certain realities set in, and as an artist, you look at the big picture of the landscape, and see what’s best for you. Those guys at Big Machine worked hard to put The Mavericks back on the map. But, I think creatively for us — not that Scott Borchetta ever said ‘You have to record this or that.’ He wanted us to be ourselves. There was never an issue of them not letting us record this or that, it just had to do with the realities of the business that we are in. The business that we are in is a little different than the business that Big Machine is in. That’s just the reality of it. We had to make that switch for ourselves, not because of them. It wasn’t anything they did. A lot of those guys are our friends, and I still seek their counsel.”
Malo admitted that the group is a unique musical offering, and now being on their own suits today’s model both artistically and business-wise. “The Mavericks are kind of a world unto ourselves — creatively, and the paths that the music has taken us, everything about the band is an island unto itself. Our business model has to reflect that. It has to be custom-tailored for us, just like everything else about us.”
Listening to the album offers listeners a chance to head into a time machine when artists were allowed to veer all over the musical map. The first track, “Rolling Along,” owes equally to 60’s Elvis Presley and Marty Robbins for its’ inspiration. Malo likes the comparison. “I grew up listening to so much music. It’s funny that you mention Marty Robbins because he was another artist that brought a lot of influences together,” the singer says. “His records were different, one from another, and he really pushed the boundaries a bit. To me, Elvis was the first artist that I heard, and It’s Now Or Never in particular was probably the record that had the most impact on me musically. Here was a record that combined opera and rock ‘n’ roll. It was an amazing piece of music, and of course, his music was as impressive as anything else. That record made me listen to music in a very different way.”
One track from Brand New Day that has a special significance for Malo is the emotional ballad “I Wish You Well,” which he says comes from a special place. “I wrote that about my dad, who passed away last year. As he was coming around to the end of his life, I spent as much time with him as I could. We would sit around and watch baseball and the news, and really not talk about anything heavy. We’d just treat it as if it were another day. I would find myself not really saying much. There was never really any heavy ‘end of life’ conversations or anything like that. All I could say was ‘I wish you well in your next life.’ Everything has been said between us that could be said. We had said everything that we needed to be said, and that was all I could say. I wish you well. It was very beautiful, but that was my dad. He wasn’t much for emotions or sentimentality. He was old school. He was tough. He never complained, even though he was in pain. He just wanted to watch baseball and talk politics, and that was it,” he recalls.
Speaking of politics, Malo is mindful of the volatile tone that everyone is striking nowadays with the new administration in power.
“It is very divisive, and I hate that we can’t have political opinions without someone jumping down our throat. There’s been years of that on both sides, and I think that moving forward, if anything, what this president is going to do is show us how we relate to each other from this point on, how we criticize each other from this point on. When you cry wolf so many times, and there’s really a wolf there, you can’t keep crying wolf all the time. I think we’re all going to have to learn how to criticize properly. There’s a way to criticize policy and ideas, but it’s certainly been taken to a personal level that I don’t think we’ve seen in a long time. It’s going to take us a minute to sift through all of this,” he says, while adding that Americans can navigate these waters in time. “I do think this president is going to be challenging in many ways, not only constitutionally, but the media is challenged now in the world of alternative facts. It’s a scary thing for everybody to be dealing with. I really do think we’re going to be a better country because of it. I am optimistic. I’m not one of those that thinks the world is coming to an end. I still believe in this country and democracy, and I think we’ll be ok.”
Of a more humorous note is the road song “Ride With Me,” which he’s very excited for fans to hear. “That’s a very true and honest song, if ever I’ve had one. It’s definitely autobiographical. It’s one that is just a fun road song. Sometimes you just sit down at the piano or with a guitar, and one comes along that just writes itself. There’s nothing heavy or serious about it, it’s just fun — the fight in the French Quarter, that really did happen with our tour manager. He ended up whipping this guy’s ass who grabbed him by the neck. If you saw our tour manager, you would never want to grab him by the neck. I don’t know what he was thinking, but it ended quickly. The part about Chicago, I did go there as a child — ‘I was single when I went to Chicago, then I left a married man.’ That’s a fun and autobiographical song.”
Those hours spent on stage still are the highlight of the group’s career in Malo’s eyes, and though time has mellowed his thoughts on traveling, it’s something he still enjoys.
“At this point, when you’ve been doing it as long we have, there’s a little bit of gypsy in you to where you are ok with it. I actually do enjoy traveling. I like hotels, and I do like living on a bus. It’s a great way to make a living,” he suggests. “There are some days where you wish you were a carpenter, but who doesn’t have those days? I can imagine that with any gig, there are days where you wish you did something else. I think everybody has those days, but all in all, when you get on the stage, that’s the most fun you can have on a day for us. That is the reason you do this — to connect with the audience.”
What brought about the name of the group’s new label, Mono Mundo? Again, Malo said it was in fun, though it does make a point. “We wanted something that reminded us of [Spanish network] Telemundo, and we had done our record Mono. We were messing with possible management/label names and finally said, ‘This is a great name’ because it basically means ‘one world.’ It touches on the singularity of us all, and we all come from this one place. There’s a little bit of idealistic jargon in there, for good measure, but it was just a fun name coming from the musical language that unites us all, no matter what walk of life or where you are from — music is a very powerful equalizer and unites us. That’s really at the heart of the name of the label.”
Brand New Day will be released March 31.