An Interview with The Mavericks' Paul Deakin

Paul Caparotta
The Maverick's kick off a two-night stand at the Great American tomorrow night and we had the chance to speak with famed Maverick's drummer, Paul Deakin, earlier this week about their new album Mono and performing in San Francisco among other things! Tickets are still available for the Thursday night show (tix here), but Friday's performance is sold out!

SF Bay Area Concerts: It’s impressive all the styles you tackle just in the first three songs of your new album, Mono. Early on, it seemed like characterizing the Mavericks as country & rock was mostly appropriate, but now, you guys pretty much defy categorization.

Paul Deakin: Quite a bit. Right. I think I’ve come up with a new name called “non-genre” [pronounced non-jean], like, we’re non-genre-specific, which actually there are quite a few bands nowadays that are falling into that. I think we just touch on and dabble in a lot of different areas, so when people ask ‘how would you describe yourself?’ — Raul [Malo] would say “you expect me to do your job and my job too?” But I say it a little more diplomatically... It’s a band that’s made up of audiophiles that happen to be musicians and one of our tenants has been to please ourselves, thus we have a good time recording and performing. And that carries on to the audience — both our listeners and those who come to our shows. And that we really do pay a lot of attention to what we want to do, and it’s gotten easier for us, where we are right now, I mean, we’re not really getting played on country radio... There’s still some stations that will, but we barely snuck in the back door of country radio back in the 90’s and now with radio markets shrinking, and to their defense, they have to target their markets more and more... But then you have these things that have opened up, like Internet radio; like pandora and xm/sirius and everything, and they don’t have to be as genre-specific and put you in that bin, so that curse of not being able to fit into that one thing, is also a benefit for us, so we’ve embraced that. And along with the record label has been supportive of that. It’s really about what we’re listening to and what moves us… And we’ve always had a ska influence in there, for example as you mentioned in the second song. The latin influence has always been there… That’s coming out more in our later records because we’ve been listening to it and we’re allowing it to creep in there more. And it makes it a lot of fun to play and tour.

SFBAC: Tell us about the song writing process.

Paul Deakin: Absolutely, the song writing is pretty much exclusively left up to Raul. He’ll have a co-writer once in a while, but it’s really, he’s one of those triple threats who writes, and plays, and sings. His writing is based on simplicity. Raul’s absolutely the main songwriter, and the band is sometimes arranging. It just seems to work. That’s the undefinable chemistry of The Mavericks.

SFBAC: So much of what makes The Mavericks great is reflected in your live performances. Do you have any favorite live TV performances?

Paul Deakin: Wow, if I go way back… Playing with Carl Perkins and Duane Eddy on that Red Hot + Country was a dream come true. That’s a live dream! In terms of performances, there are a few that stick out to me, and I remember just going ‘wow’… We did a Roger Miller tribute and that was really special. 

SFBAC: I want to take a quick step back to Mono for a second, and ask about your thoughts behind releasing the album in Mono versus Stereo?

Paul Deakin: I think what it comes back to is back to the studio... We’d all roll into the studio around 10 or 11 and start listening to vinyl records and that was our motivation for our day of recording — and then realizing that a lot of them were in mono — and they sounded great, and we just said we should do it in mono! And we all had ribbon mic’s and recording multitrack… you know... there’s a studio in Nashville called Blackbird run by Josh McBride who’s a hoarder of really great vintage mic’s and equipment and so we had access to these great classic vintage ribbon mic’s. And we just decided to mix the album in mono. And at first it threw me a little bit, but Raul talked to me and used a Harley Davidson analogy, when you ride a Harley, the suspension is horrible, it’s loud as fuck, but you don’t feel like anything. You know? You can ride a BMW or something, but nothing feels like it does when you’re sitting on a twin engine Harley. Nothing feels like it. It’s about the feeling that it gives you when you’re riding it. And I listened to it with those ears, and I felt it that way… And then talking to Jerry Dale, it’s a testament to Raul’s writing and the bands’ arranging, that he’s able to write a song that doesn’t need the ‘trickery’ or the bells and whistles of ‘stereo’, if I can say just ‘stereo’. It’s all coming right down the middle, so that’s the actual performance. And if the song doesn’t hold up, then it’s not going to work. And if the arrangement doesn’t hold up, and you have to have in the right places, and everyone has to play a certain way… And remember, we weren’t playing that way for that purpose, it just came out that way. So to me, it’s another compliment to Raul’s songwriting.

SFBAC: Are there artists that you’re listening to right now that you’re surprised by?

Paul Deakin: JD McPherson is getting popular now. I was blown away when Bruno Mars came around because he was borrowing from a lot of different genres and still had that feel of something classic and yet new. That’s when it really hits home for me, when I’m listening to something that sounds classic and new, and just like, ‘wow, that sounds good,’ you know? In her day, Amy Winehouse did that, even Adele to a certain extent. People who can sing. I’m drawn to really good singers who wail.

SFBAC: Well, getting back to your upcoming shows in San Francisco, what are you looking forward to most?

Paul Deakin: I love the [Great American Music] Hall. First of all, that’s a great hall, I like that it’s a classic place. It’s a smaller venue for us, so it’s more intimate for us. And that goes a long way. I mean we play everything from 2000-3000 seat theaters, which can be a little more subdued, and it takes a little longer to get to the thing, compared to something like the Great American Music Hall which holds five or six hundred people, I think, but you’re just right there. And I’ve always said that when you do what we do, especially this band that puts out whatever energy that we put out there and it’s either a cyclical thing or it just goes out there… And so, it can go to those weird heights it makes a show a great show, to when the audience becomes involved in the show and when the energy starts to go back and forth, then it gets exponentially cyclically. And so that’s what motivates me about playing. It’s a little easier to get there sooner, at a venue like that. And then there’s the Bay Area… I’ve never had a bad meal there, period. I can go to a taco stand at a grocery store, and it’s going to be one of the better taco’s you’ve ever eaten. San Francisco, hands down, is the best food city. And the culture, and everything. It’s a place I would love to live at some point.

SFBAC: So for our last question, I’ve got to ask about one of my favorites, What a Crying Shame, why does that album have such persistence?

Paul Deakin: Gosh… We were so young back then… I believe it was when we became, when we actually started… we matured enough… we had done an independent record, then we did From Hell to Paradise which was done in Miami, which is when we started maturing as players and Raul as a singer. We bolstered ourselves in that inception with some great side musicians which we’ve never really done before. That raised our level of playing. Raul was just getting started, he’d written a lot with Costas who at the time was writing that Everly Brothers-esque kind of great stuff that was getting played on the radio at the time, so we were at the right place at the right time, where we were able to have that type of music and that particular song I remember sitting in our manager’s office and hearing Raul strumming some songs and hearing that one, ‘OK, that’s a really good song, I really like that one.’ It’s kind of hard to say why that that has lasted, but it doesn’t surprise me, because that particular song, "Crying Shame," was the song that really broke us out. I think it only went to #26 on the charts, but there’s so many articles on it because it was on the charts for about half a year… Because it kept going to #1 in different markets, but never at the same time. And the country radio market was so hard to get on even back then… It’s nearly impossible now, but we had.. that had just been around for so long… And it just kinda hit home with people. There was no one that really sounded like that. Raul got to stretch out his vocal abilities, and I know there’s always been Roy Orbison analogies with how he sings, it’s kind of interesting… I think everyone in the band plays for the song. So when you have that ‘hive-mind’ of what we’re doing is trying to give life to a song, a great song, that’s when it all comes together, and no one's trying to do anything fancy outside of that to make themselves shine, unless the song demands it.

SFBAC: Excellent. Well, we’re really looking forward to your shows at the Great American and thanks so much for your time!

Paul Deakin: Thank you very much!

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