Latino contributions to rock and roll have been significantly overlooked historically. Artists like Richie Valens and the Sir Douglas Quintet influenced the layout for popular music in their time and beyond, without always getting the credit they deserve. Raul Malo of The Mavericks agrees, “It certainly is under appreciated, but not in Texas,” he laughs.
Raul Malo will be visiting Houston, a city he admits he loves to visit, for an almost sold out, tw- night stint from Saturday, March 14 to Sunday, March 15 at the Heights Theater. Malo will be joined by Canadian transplant and Austin darling Whitney Rose. Malo produced her 2015 album, Heartbreaker of the Year, and fans can most likely expect a duet or two.
Malo is considering this solo tour a kind of warm up ahead of his 30 year anniversary tour with his legendary band the Mavericks, which kicks off next month and does not have a planned stop in Houston.
“It’s my by myself. It's like a Mavericks show except a lot lamer,” laughs Malo in his classically rich baritone voice. Malo has written the majority of the Mavericks catalogue and his unmistakable voice is a huge factor in the band’s sound and success.
“It’s just different,” he says of his solo show. “I can get up there and talk about the songs and maybe tell a story or an anecdote that you wouldn’t get to do when you have the band because it’s a different show.”
Malo admits he likes to mix it up when performing two night gigs not only for audience members who may be joining him for both nights, but also for himself. “It's fun for me to switch it up. You never know, it's like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get,” he laughs.
Solo shows provide Malo with an opportunity to be free from set lists and on stage communication, it’s Malo doing what he does best, singing and playing his songs.
“It leads to a more free form kind of night which is fun and it is completely different than a Mavericks show. You might hear an occasional song that you may recognize, but it's going to be played how it was written because that’s how a lot of these songs are written, just me by myself and my guitar.”
Most recently Malo, who lives in Nashville and has no shortage of choices when searching for a quality instrument, posted a picture of one of his favorite guitars bought right here in town at Houston’s legendary Rockin’ Robin Guitar shop. “Those are my buddies there, I love going to visit them. Every once in a while they have something I need, they always have stuff that I want.”
Malo does whatever he can to shed light on independent artists of all kinds and sees the importance of maintaining music stores in cities, as he has seen them disappearing over time. He is aware that online shopping is the new normal but he advises young musicians to visit a brick and mortar shop whenever possible.
“You can't look at a guitar online and know what it's going to do. You have to walk into a store and play one, feel it in your hands and see what it feels like. In our travels we try to visit music stores and every once in a while we write about them to maybe encourage somebody to go to a music store and pick out an instrument.”
“You can't look at a guitar online and know what it's going to do. You have to walk into a store and play one, feel it in your hands and see what it feels like."
The Mavericks and Malo have been recording and touring for 30 years, with a short hiatus in the early 2000s. They were initially linked to the punk rock scene in Miami, not because of their sound necessarily but because there was simply no other bands like them.
“Well, I think they used that term early on because quite honestly, we were terrible when we started,” says Malo of the Maverick’s early days.
“In Miami, we were so different. We were a four piece, we were really loud and we would play the punk clubs and the rock and roll clubs not because we were punk, but because they were the only places to play. We didn’t care, it didn’t matter, we had a punk attitude anyway but we weren’t really.”
Punk rock in Miami is not the kind of punk rock the rest of the country imagines, but the Mavericks were definitely off the grid in their early days. They have made a name for themselves in their ability to cross multiple genres musically mixing rock and roll, Tex-Mex and Rockabilly influences.
Last year the band released their eleventh studio album, Play The Hits, tipping their hats to artists they admire. The range of covers on the album is as ranging as the bands own sound. Their version of “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” is a funky take on the country classic and leads seamlessly into Joe Cocker’s hit “Feeling Allright”.
Malo’s voice has been an undeniable asset to the band, it’s equally smooth like butter and loud as thunder. Malo grew up in a household where both of his parents played all kinds of music and his exposure to Latin operas is clear when his voice shakes the walls.
“I always viewed it as a work in progress,” says the singer. “I don’t remember ever having that moment of, ‘Oh wow, I can sing!’ I could always sing, I just got better at it with time.”
When asked how he manages to preserve his strong voice when on long tours Malo says, “What you have to do is you have to find your quiet time during the day. People have no idea how it will wear you out after a long day of really just talking, so I try to keep that to a minimum, which of course keeps everybody happy,” he says, chuckling.
Raul Malo will perform with Whitney Rose Saturday, March 14 and Sunday March 15 at The Heights Theater, 339 W. 19th. Doors open at 7 p.m. $28.