Feature: Return of the Mavericks

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NASHVILLE, Oct. 6 (UPI) -- Even when fans wondered about a future for the Mavericks, band member Robert Reynolds always knew the band would make more music, despite the five-year break.

"I was hopeful and always thought that we still had some records in us as a group," Reynolds, bass player with the Mavericks, said recently from his Nashville home. "I was really hopeful that sooner than later, we'd have a new Mavericks record."


The time is now, or rather Sept. 23, when "The Mavericks" was released by Sanctuary Records, an independent record label based in the United Kingdom. The new project is the first new music from the popular group since 1998, when MCA released "Trampoline." In an atypical marketing move, the 11-song CD was released simultaneously in the United States and the United Kingdom, primarily because of the band's popularity on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.


"The Mavericks already had a platinum record in the U.K. with 'Trampoline,' said Meg Harkins, senior director of marketing at Sanctuary's New York City office. "We thought it was going to be very important to have an international release date to take advantage of their strong fan base in the U.S. and the U.K. ... It's exciting when you have a band that has that broad of a reach, and we are thrilled to death with this record and believe in it strongly and want to give it the attention it deserves internationally."

Mavericks fans will be pleased to hear that the four-piece band has continued to make music that is uniquely Mavericks. Despite the hiatus, when lead singer Raul Malo, Reynolds, drummer Paul Deakin, and new guitarist Eddie Perez (who replaced original member Nick Kane) come together, the sound is consistently their own. The Cuban sounds remain, the Roy Orbison-influenced music is there, the rock undertones, along with the country style is prevalent. All of the elements remain that keep the Mavericks from fitting neatly in a pre-conceived genre with neatly printed labels in the record stores.

And therein lie the appeal and the challenge, depending on whether you're a music lover or a music-marketing executive. Music lovers have indeed embraced the Mavericks to the tune of several million records sold all over the world, from Denmark to the United States. All the while, MCA Nashville, where the Mavericks had their initial major label recording success during the 1990s must have struggled with what to do with the band that referred to itself as "too country for rock and too rock for country," according to a phrase often quoted by Malo.


Even members of the band find their overwhelming success of the previous decade perplexing.

"Who knew that in 1994, '95, '96, the time was right for a band from Miami that was reinterpreting country and rock from yesteryear would be acknowledged, sell millions of records and win all of the awards? It was kind of like, possibly, a fluke," Reynolds said.

Fluke or not, the reality is that the Mavericks owned country music in the mid-90s, when "What A Crying Shame" and "Music For All Occasions" produced a string of hit singles. Along with the platinum sales figures, the band added a collection of awards to their mantels from the Grammys, Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music. About the time that interest from the fickle country music market was waning domestically, the band gained momentum overseas. "Trampoline," which had poor sales in the United States, sold more than a million copies in the United Kingdom, more than 500,000 in Sweden and New Zealand, each, and earned the Mavericks three Great British Country Music Awards and two Dutch Country Music Awards.

A break in the late '90s, primarily for each band member to pursue his own muse, resulted in an extended hiatus. Reynolds and Malo each worked with other groups: Swag (with members of Cheap Trick, Wilco and Sixpence None the Richer) and Los Super Seven (with Caetano Veloso, Susanna Baca and members of Los Lobos), respectively. Ultimately, Malo, who has always served as the band's primary songwriter, released a solo project in 2001, "Today," and wrote, played or produced for artists as varied as Dominic Chianese ("The Sopranos'" Uncle Junior), K.T. Oslin and Los Super Seven bandmate Rick Trevino.


It was while writing songs for Trevino's new album that Malo first considered making a new Mavericks record.

"It was reminding me a bit of Mavericks-type music," Malo said. "By the end of it, I had a collection of songs, and that was pretty much it - 'sounds like a Mavericks record, let's put this thing back together!'"

The early months of this year found the guys back together, listening to the music, landing the deal with Sanctuary, working out the legal wranglings and by May back in the studio recording. The new music was ready by July 1.

Though the collection of new music has been highly-anticipated, the band, as well as the executives at Sanctuary, has no false notions about its potential success.

"We don't have country radio necessarily there for us," Reynolds said. "I don't want to rule them out, but I don't feel like I can rule them in either. Now it's more likely that we'll have to pursue being a unique sounding group. ... We're going to use every conceivable outlet to promote this thing. But it is a new time. We aren't that country group that wins CMA and ACM awards anymore."


Harkins agreed, adding that Sanctuary intends to capitalize on the band's diversity by promoting the new record across musical genres, as well as across international boundaries.

"My job is to make sure that enough music lovers hear this record," Harkins said, "and I don't care what radio station they tune in to."

The single "I Want To Know" initially is being promoted at Triple A radio, a collection of 50 stations that play roots music. "Would You Believe," an energetic, pop-sounding Beatles-style single, is being pushed throughout the United Kingdom. A video for "Would You Believe" is being serviced to cable's Country Music Television, Great American Country and VH-1. An appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" occurs Sept. 29, along with print and radio ad campaigns encompassing country, rock, Triple A and traditional mediums.

Nashville hosted many of the release-week festivities, with an in-store appearance at Tower Records, multiple television appearances and an upcoming performance on Saturday at the Grand Ole Opry.

Whether the band is country or not, Reynolds reminded, Nashville is still home.

"If we had a big adult contemporary hit right now, I wouldn't be moving to L.A. or New York," he said. "I've told people for years how much I love them in this town."


Because of the dual release, the Mavericks must repeat all domestic publicity in the United Kingdom. They were overseas earlier in September for a string of public relations appearances, and they return in October for tour dates.

The double work is no problem for the band members, who understand the challenges of reestablishing themselves in the marketplace.

"The nice thing about Sanctuary being a London-based operation with New York offices is they knew there were getting something potentially bankable (by signing the Mavericks.)," Reynolds said. "I have to think they're thinking 'These guys came off a whopping success in '99. Seems like there's still something there.' Sanctuary is about marketing to your original fan base and then adding to that. They are all about unique marketing, so I think we might be able to live up to redefined expectations.

"We're expecting to approach our bottom line by working aggressively in the U.K. and part of Europe and also the U.S.," Reynolds said. "The anticipation of this fall tour (in the U.K.) is really, really good. ... It looks like right now it's going to be a profitable tour. That will be a good thing for the Mavericks organization, but also a really good thing for the label. ... (As musicians), we should be more concerned with the creative elements, but I don't want to turn my back on the business either."


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