December 14, 2011
Christmas Meets Politics ... Chatting with Raul Malo
Mike Ragogna: Hello, Mr. Malo.
Raul Malo: Hey, how are you?
MR: I'm pretty good, how have you been doing?
RM: Great man, thank you. I'm just out on a little holiday tour right now.
MR: Where are you going to be playing?
RM: Well, we're just basically going up and down the East Coast. We'll hit a little bit of the Midwest as well. We'll be in time to be home on Christmas.
MR: I also want to bring in at this point that you have not only your latest "I'll Be Home For Christmas" video but also an album called Marshmallow World & Other Holiday Favorites. You're certainly no stranger to Christmas, sir.
RM: (laughs) No, no stranger to Christmas at all. We recorded that a couple of years ago. I think we only skipped one year and I think we had been out pretty substantially that year. I try to do a holiday tour every year, just because it's fun and we don't really get to play the Christmas songs that often. We figure, why not? Once a year we can do it.
MR: Maybe you could do it all year round.
RM: (laughs) Yeah, I think that would be a bit much. But we enjoy it and it's been fun. We've still got a lot left of this tour. and look at the rest of that.
MR: Let's get to "I'll Be Home For Christmas," which is a special video because of its origin. Can you go into why?
RM: A lot of people may not know this, but "I'll Be Home For Christmas" was originally written for the troops during World War II. It was a wartime song, so it's always had that special meaning and this year with the troops finally coming home, it's taking on a special meaning again. The story behind the video and how that came about...I was at the San Antonio airport about a month ago, and San Antonio has a large military population there. So, a lot of troops are coming and going, and a lot of them are coming home and as you can imagine, they were all pretty psyched-up about making it home after God knows how many tours of duty. At the airport, on the TV monitors up and down the terminal, was a press conference. It was from our GOP nominee, Michelle Bachman. It was so amazing because the TVs were on mute, so everything was closed caption, so there was no denying what she was saying. There was no hiding around it or misinterpretation. It was incredibly stark and real, you know, how closed caption is. It doesn't capture on any emotion and nuance, it's like a tweet, basically, of what you're saying. Basically, her words were--and it was at this particular moment with this airport crowded with troops--how the troops coming home represented a major failure and embarrassment for this administration, or words to that affect. I was standing there and I'm surrounded by these kids who are kids in uniforms, basically, looking up at the screen, and I was in shock and embarrassed. I was beside myself completely and I didn't know what to do. I was so ashamed and angry, I called a friend of mine and told him the story. He got even angrier and he made a couple of calls to some friends, he set up this video shoot at the beautiful Franklin Theater in Franklin, Tennessee. It's basically just me on the guitar singing "I'll Be Home For Christmas" to an empty theater. This video is not intended to raise any money, there's no purpose other than me just saying thank you. I didn't know what else to do, I felt like we had to do something to let the troops know that not everybody in this country is an idiot. That was really the whole point of doing the video, and we did it and put it together. It's not even a gift. It's a thank you card from us to the troops, that's all it is.
MR: Why would someone say something like that?
RM: That's exactly it, and first of all, it's just a ridiculous statement. It's completely wrong, and if she knew anything about anything, that that was written into law by the president who she supported and stood by as they signed the War Powers Act before they invaded Iraq. So, it's completely ignorant and insensitive and just completely wrong on so many levels. To me, I cannot understand for the life of me how this person is even running for Commander In Chief. There's just no way that a person like that should even qualify for Commander In Chief, there have to be standards. We can argue about how to tax and how to spend and how to not spend and all of that stuff. But when you say that stuff, it should immediately disqualify you for running for Commander In Chief.
MR: I love that finally we're getting the troops home.
RM: It's a time to rejoice and reflect and give thanks that they are coming home.
MR: Rumor has it, by the way, that a certain group--let's call them The Mavericks--will be getting together next year. Is that a rumor?
RM: Well, I think it's a little bit more of a rumor. It started out as a rumor and it's now become as much of a fact as it can be. We're going to get together next year and make some music--not only go out and tour, but we're also going to get to make a record. I'm looking forward to 2012. It's going to be an interesting year.
MR: An interesting year in terms of the election as well.
RM: There is that too. This is certainly gearing up to be--and pundits love to say this all of the time because it draws ratings--but it is going to be a crucial and important election.
MR: Everyone get your passports ready if the words "President" and "Gingrich" wind up next to each other.
RM: I don't know about that one, but it sure is interesting watching it. It really is incredible how he got to where he is right now, but I understand it. Look who he's competing with. As far as his intelligence level, it's way above any of those guys, except for maybe Huntsman, but Huntsman doesn't have a shot. He's too good, he's probably to honorable. (laughs)
MR: I guess this is officially our political Christmas interview.
RM: You brought it up. (laughs)
MR: (laughs) Your Sinners & Saints album was released last year, right?
MR: You're going to still be recording your solo albums as well as that new Mavericks project?
RM: Yes, for sure. This is going to be a little intermission on my solo stuff. For me, The Mavericks were such a part of my life that to me, it's just a natural thing to fall back into. We'll be playing bigger stages and festivals, but all in all, it's still going to be an extension of what I do anyway. It's just going to be a little different, that's all. I'm looking forward to it though. I'm looking forward to getting back with the guys and getting back in the saddle again, so to speak. It's been a long time since we've made music together, and there's nothing like a little time to give you perspective on what you did, what it meant to you, and what it did to other people. That's been nice and it's been nice to think about that kind of stuff. When we were in it, we were burnt out and couldn't take it. We would say, "Please, not one more trip!" We were starting families and everybody was really pretty burned out at the time. When you feel that collectively, it's a hard thing to fight, and you just have to walk away from it and it's hard for people to understand that sometimes. But I think it was the right thing to do. Now, we can come back and really enjoy it and have complete control and autonomy over what we do and not have it be run by a bunch of accountants and have you out there working. We can do this as long as we want and as short as we want, and I like that a lot.
MR: The name of the group The Mavericks was so appropriate, because you pushed the boundaries of country. You also had many hits and you accomplished a lo.
RM: Like I said, when you're doing it, you don't think about it because you're in it. You have no life besides the work. You don't really have perspective on it, and through the years and your own time, you're able to piece things together and go, "That was kind of cool and we did do that." It gives you a different attitude towards it. That doesn't mean we are going to rest on our laurels by any means. We're going to go out and make music, and hopefully make music that matters to a lot of people.
MR: You can also see the lives of other people and it's always exciting to have a new album by the group that you like a lot. A lot of fans live with their favorite groups from album to album.
RM: Right, we used to do that a lot.
MR: As far as the band's creativity, you guys get together and collectively come up with your body of work. I imagine that's not changing this next time out.
RM: Absolutely, and we're supposed to go into the studio in January.
MR: Is the writing and co-writing happening beforehand?
RM: Yeah, it's happening before then, it's already been happening. There will just be more of it from here or there.
MR: So, this is genuinely happening?
RM: Yeah, this is really happening. (laughs)
MR: What is your favorite Mavericks song that you've ever recorded?
RM: Oh wow, I'll just say the one that comes to mind right now. It was on Music For All Occasions, it's a song called "Missing You."
MR: I also wanted to mention that you co-wrote Rick Trevino's single "In My Dreams."
RM: Rick is one of my favorites, and I love that song. He's a great singer and doesn't always get the breaks that he should get. Any chance to mention him and give him any props, that's a nice opportunity and thank you for that.
MR: What is Raul Malo's creative process as a writer, like when you worked on your last album, Sinners & Saints?
RM: There's really no method to it, at least not with me. It happens all of the time. I could be on the back of the bus with a guitar and a cup of coffee, I could be in a hotel room or in a car. When I start getting in the writing mode, I at least try to have a notebook or notepad to jot down some ideas. Sometimes, it's just as methodical as trying to sit down and write, but you never know how inspiration is going to come or how it's going to come. Sometimes, it's at the strangest hour, and sometimes, the strangest messengers deliver the creative process. Sometimes, all it takes is somebody walking in the room and saying something. You never know if a little title will make something good for the song. When I'm in the writing mode, I get into this whole other space and you start to not necessarily look for inspiration because I don't think you can go looking for it. You have to be open to it. That's what is important. You need to be open to it and recognize it when it's around. So, what I'm saying is that it can happen at anytime. I don't have a set method of saying, "I'm going to write today at 9:00 am." I don't do it like that.
MR: Do you find yourself singing into your cell phone's recording device?
RM: Whatever recording device I happen to have. Luckily, the iPhone is always around and I can use that in a worst case scenario.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
RM: It's a cliché, but I think it's about as solid advice you can give to anybody that is going to do this, that is to just be yourself. Be as honest as you can with your art, whatever your art is, whether it's music, painting or photography, be as honest as you can with it and it will always take care of you. I believe that to this day and I've seen it come true for me many times. I think that's probably the best advice I could give them.
MR: Thank you so much for talking with me, Raul.
RM: Beautiful man, thank you for having me and Happy Holidays.
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