Fresh off the double Grammy nominations behind 2015’s “Mono,” The Mavericks are returning to the road with their robust blend of neotraditional country, rockabilly, Tex-Mex and Latin-infused rhythms. As extraordinarily eclectic as the album sounds on a stereo or headphones, there’s nothing like seeing the electrifying band perform live, whether it be tunes from the current collection, 2013’s equally acclaimed reunion record “In Time” or a whole arsenal of ‘90s singles. Here’s more from a Chicago Concert Reviews exchange with keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden on The Mavericks’ recent creative renaissance, defying convention and classification, plus their ongoing love affair with the city prior to stopping by the historic Thalia Hall on Friday, March 18.
There are definitely tunes from past albums in the live show, but we do perform a lot of new music. This is not a reunion show of hits, as though we really ever had hits. The music we’ve been making the past four years is relevant and most of our fans like it as much if not more than our older work. I think being nominated this year for two Grammys proved that.
How would you describe your latest project to those who’ve yet to hear it?
Jerry Dale McFadden: “Mono” is probably the best document for what we’re all about, for what we do musically these days, as compared to in the ‘90s. The combination of musical styles is probably better suited to a name like The Mavericks!
The Mavericks have always been difficult to classify, but writers have often tried. Do you enjoy reading what folks have to say or is that counterproductive to the band trying to simply be a melting pot of sounds?
McFadden: After all these years of doing this, I think we still find it difficult ourselves as to how to describe our music! It’s hard to boil it down to a word or two especially if you’re going to mention various genres. If I’m talking to someone who has never heard our music, I often just say that it’s joyful music! That is the only way I’ve been able to simplify it.
The last two records could be considered a reunion renaissance of sorts. Did you expect the wheels to start turning as easily as they did after so much time apart?
McFadden: It came to us easier than most would imagine. The truth is, without any rehearsal or pre-production, we went into the studio and began recording immediately. When I say immediate, I mean I was driving up to Nashville from Jacksonville (where I live) and about an hour outside of Nashville, I get the call saying we’ve been getting sounds and we’re ready to cut a song as soon as you get here! I got to the studio, hugged everybody, put on my headphones, and we recorded “Back In Your Arms Again,” the first track that appears on “In Time.”
What did the hiatus and separate projects allow you each to bring back to the band?
McFadden: We all did various things during the time we weren’t working together, some musical and some non-musical. A lot can happen to a person in nine years! I think what we all brought back to the band once we decided to do it again, is a love for the music, a love for each other, and a respect for what we had accomplished in our past career. We realized how special this was and we were from here on out going to take care of it. People often ask if we’re really having that much fun on stage as it appears. The answer is always a resounding “yes”! We’re having the best time ever and we can tell that our audience is too.
In the ‘90s, what type of challenges did you face being so bold and creative with your musical choices when much of Nashville was taking a much safer approach?
McFadden: I’d say The Mavericks were lucky in that we had some success in the ‘90s even though we didn’t really get that much radio airplay. We got some airplay, but we won people over with the live shows. Funny how in this new chapter of our career, we still don’t get much airplay and our live show is still our strongest asset. There’s nothing as wonderful as a loyal and loving fan base. Mavericks’ fans are the best!
What are you most proud of from that time period?
McFadden: Lots of things. We’re proud to have ushered in music that was a little against the grain, though when you listen back to the early records now, they don’t seem that cutting edge. We were always thrilled to find fans across the pond and bring country music to those who might never have considered listening to it. We still do well in the UK, Europe and Australia. To take our show abroad is one of my favorite things about my job, if you can call this a job!
Will the current tour be a mixture of from eras or just the new stuff?
McFadden: There are definitely tunes from past albums in the live show, but we do perform a lot of new music. This is not a reunion show of hits, as though we really ever had hits. The music we’ve been making the past four years is relevant and most of our fans like it as much if not more than our older work. I think being nominated this year for two Grammys proved that.
And last but not least, what comes to mind when you think of The Mavericks’ relationship with Chicago?
McFadden: Chicago has always been one of our favorite towns! I think we’ve played at least a dozen different venues there over the past 25 years. It’s a city that got us from the get go. By the way, we’ve been recording some new music for another studio album to be released in 2017, and there’s a new song with a whole verse about Chicago, if that tells you anything!