Is it Country or is it pop? There are at least two interpretations of the phrase “music with horns on”: MAVERICKS’ rhythm section Robert Reynolds and Paul Deakin tell Jeremy Isaac what it means to them.
In recent years the music press has given you labels like ‘cutting-edge country’ and ‘left-field country’, but the pop success of Trampoline and Dance The Night Away has blown country considerations sky high.
What’s your take on that?
Paul: Country is definitely where we started. We were firmly tied to our interpretation of the country music we love, which is kind of late ‘50s and early ‘60s. If you listen to our records you can see that we started with that intent and passion for that music.
Robert: We first got together on the basis of country music meets rock’n’roll, and we never played with any different energy than we do today. It’s not like the sounds on Trampoline didn’t exist for us in 1990 - they did, but we were just more focused on certain sounds and left other sounds out for the time being. The idea of using horns wasn’t where we were at the time. It was far more novel to be a Miami group that hired a great steel player, whereas now it’s equally novel to be a Nashville-based left-of-centre group and have a great horn section. We’ve always tried to throw a wrench into our own works!
What do you say to your detractors who claim that the new album breaks faith with your country roots?
Paul: We probably have a greater sense of what country music is about than those people who say we haven’t. What is country music these days? But it’s been that way for a long time - when they heard our country single with horns on it they forgot that six months ago they had a Number One record from Reba McEntire that had horns on it. It’s goofy.
Robert: I’ve always found it laughable that country radio DJs at home always want to talk about what is and isn’t country, when six months earlier they were DJs on a pop station. The people who are saying that we broke our relationship with country radio are the same people who are playing Shania Twain’s single, which has nothing to do with country music. It’s the same people who are playing pop singles by well, my wife (Trisha Yearwood) for one, and LeAnn Rimes, who has also cut some records. My wife will admit that How Do I Live is a far more pop-type record.
So what’s it like being a left-field band living and working in the Nashville community?
Paul: Nashville is not the community of country radio. Even though the promotion and everything else comes out of Nashville, we don’t really see it. But from the very beginning this band has really been rooted for. Even though some people thought it wasn’t going to happen, there was always a healthy respect for us. We’ve always been treated really well, and we’ve succeeded in breaking enough tradition that when Trampoline came out, people in town said ‘Man, this thing is fun - and your record label let you do that?’ That was the biggest reaction. They love that we get away with it, and they give you a pat on the back for what you’re doin’.
Robert: You can take a Seattle for the moment, what’s going on right now. You can take a Liverpool in ’62 or ’63. You can take any moment in time that may have been a super white hot light. But Nashville is just a great hardworking, neverending machine of music. But it’s a good one, not just a machine that cranks up.
The new album and single have been particularly successful in the UK, and you also keep selling out all your concert dates, both back in March and again this month. What is it about British audiences that you think you’re connecting with?
Paul: We’ve been coming here for years - this is our fourth visit - and we sold out three nights at Shepherd’s Bush Empire before the single hit, so we did have a fan base here for live performance already. As for the single - it has somehow caught people’s attention. Maybe it’s because it’s the perfect summer single, or that it’s a nice thought.
Robert: I think we’ve developed a live relationship with the UK in general, because it hasn’t just happened in London, where you might expect more of a music savvy audience. Sure it’s happened for us in New York and Chicago and LA, but it’s also happened for us in Manchester and Glasgow. We’re selling out shows, and it didn’t just happen with this single. I do think we’ve got a challenge ahead of us, because right now, for the public at large, we have a one-hit-wonder situation. The first single happened to become a smash hit single for us here, but there are 14 songs behind Dance The Night Away that are absolutely fantastic if somebody cares to hear them.
What was it like playing the Prince’s Trust Concert?
Paul: I actually called my wife and said “This is one of those things that, as you go through your life as a musician, you think ‘If it ends here that’s OK. We’ve done this.’ I hope I’ll see more things like that - to see 110,000 people when you play a song clapping and dancing and the whole thing moving up and down - that was just unbelievable.”
So what’s up next for The Mavericks?
Paul: The success of this record has sparked off a lot of interest elsewhere. We have the Number One-selling album in the world for Universal - That’s exciting, so we’re setting up another single, and our international department is confident of many singles from this album. So we’re in at the very beginning of this record, and we’re going to be working it for a long time.
Robert: This way of working, taking a long hiatus before releasing a record, has set a pattern for the Mavericks. So, in grooming ourselves, once again we’re breaking Nashville tradition. We’re not making an album a year with three set singles, bang, bang, bang. If you think of Crying Shame as a ‘94/’95 album, Music For All Occasions our ’96 tour, a year off in ’97, Trampoline being largely promoted in ‘98/’99, realistically the next record is gonna be the New Millennium Mavericks. Put the word out……