Raul Malo from The Mavericks talks about performing and ‘keeping the lights on’ during the pandemic

Raul Malo will play two shows at the Ridgefield Playhouse on Feb 20.

Raul Malo will play two shows at the Ridgefield Playhouse on Feb 20.

Alejandro Menendez Vega / Contributed photo

For three decades, Raul Malo has led the Grammy-winning The Mavericks, creating country alternative hits such as “Here Comes the Rain,” “What A Crying Shame” and “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down.”

The band, which has reached the Billboard charts 14 times through the years, began playing punk clubs on Miami Beach in 1989 and released a self-titled album the following year.

Malo also has had a successful solo career and was part of the all-star Tex-Mex band Los Super Seven, He recorded an album of bluegrass music and created two high-selling cover albums.

On Feb. 20, Malo will perform two solo shows at Ridgefield Playhouse and, during his recent interview with Keith Loria, he said he is happy to be getting out of the house. It marks the venue’s first live show in 2021 and is among the few live shows happening these days across the state as COVID-19 continues to affect the live music and event scene.

Keith Loria: How have you and the Mavericks been spending your time during the pandemic?

Raul Malo: We’ve stayed in touch and done some Zoom calls, and did a few pay-per-view shows that allowed us to stay connected and do something creative, and keep the guys paid. We’ve been trying to maneuver this whole thing month to month, doing what we can.

KL: You’re heading to the Ridgefield Playhouse this month. Will this be one of your first live gigs?

RM: Yes, but it’s just me. I’m not sure if we’re even going to get to see a Mavericks show this year. That will depend on a number of things, but for now I get to do some solo shows safely with social distancing, and at least keep the music going.

It’s also about keeping the venues going. They employ a number of people for these shows, and a lot of them have suffered. So any venues that are able, I’ve put it out there that I’m available for these solo shows.

I can’t stand another year just sitting around, so I expect to be doing this for most of 2021.

KL: Give us a little preview of what those coming to the shows will see.

RM: It’s just me and my guitar. What would happen in a normal year before I went out on a Mavericks tour, I would always do a solo tour as it gets me ready, performing in front of a live audience again.

It’s a good warm-up. So, I would normally do these shows anyway, but it’s only a handful. I enjoy them because I get to tell stories, anecdotes and engage more with the audience. I like that they are more personal.

KL: How else is it different than a Mavericks show?

RM: At a Mavericks show, people don’t want to hear me talk. They want to get up and dance, groove and have a good time. These are completely different, for sure. They are fun, but a completely different thing.

Of course, I’ll play Mavericks songs, but it also opens me up to play really whatever I want and break away from what I normally do.

KL: Did you find more time this past year to write music? Will we be seeing anything new released in 2021?

RM: I’m always writing and creating. I’m actually working on an instrumental record right now, which will be out later this year. I’m just going to stay creative and stay active.

KL: What made you decide to become a professional musician?

RM: I don’t know what I was thinking. The music is this thing that you just have to do. You don’t think it through, because if you did you probably wouldn’t do it. It’s not an easy business to get into and not easy to sustain. And there are no guarantees.

But I had to do this and knew it was real, and even against all odds and everyone’s advice, I knew it was right for me.

KL: When you were starting out in small clubs in Miami, did you think that you would be doing this all these years later?

RM: I think so. I had a vision of where I wanted to go, even though it was not so clear. In many ways I reached that vision, and in some other ways I didn’t. I’ve been doing this for more than 30 years, and I definitely didn’t think I would be doing it this long.

KL: Do you and the Mavericks have any goals or hopes for the year ahead?

RM: Honestly, the goal is just to keep the lights on. We’re nowhere near getting out to a normal touring year, and there’s no way around that. I’m not sure what this year will bring.

KL: Any last message to those coming out to the shows?

RM: I think these shows are going to be a lot of fun. We’re going to keep everyone safe, follow all the guidelines, and it’s going to be a great way to get through what’s going to be another long spring.

Raul Malo will play shows at Ridgefield Playhouse at 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20. Tickets are $55. For more information, visit ridgefieldplayhouse.org.

Keith Loria is a freelance writer.