Raul Malo has no retirement plans.
“The music keeps you young,” Malo says from a California tour stop. “I remember opening for Willie [Nelson] last year, and it was amazing. It was one of those life-affirming moments. We were sitting there at catering, [and] in comes Willie and his whole crew. I was like, ‘Oh, my god, they all look like Willie,’ and I just realized, you don’t retire from this. You just keep going until you don’t have anything to say anymore. I think that’s just part of the [musician] DNA — if you can do it, do it.”
Malo and the Mavericks, an alt-country band with a vivid, polyglot sound, are doing it once more.
After a hiatus of nearly a decade, the quintet that first burst onto the scene in the early ’90s is back on the road, celebrating 25 years of existence and touring behind last year’s superb comeback record, In Time. The band headlines the Main St. Fort Worth Arts Festival on Saturday.
The album’s title slyly hints at the passage of years, or, perhaps, the Mavericks’ genre-busting style, but ask Malo if such an inference is over-thinking, and he demurs.
“It’s a nod to all of it — it was a phrase that was just ambiguous enough and yet, specific enough,” Malo says. “We just wanted something that was ambiguous enough that people could make up their own interpretations.”
It is a deceptively carefree album, one that maybe shouldn’t feel as effortless as it does, given the lengthy layoff.
And whatever alchemy the band rediscovered in the studio pales next to what it brings to the stage — at last fall’s Granada Theater performance, the Mavericks gave their all, sending a near-capacity crowd into a state of extended bliss.
Expect no less Saturday night.
But to hear the bourbon-voiced Malo tell it, delighting audiences is just what the Mavericks are built to do. That they have been fortunate to have done it for so long — the tour’s title, “25 Live,” acknowledges as much — is icing on the cake.
“We aren’t spring chickens anymore, [but] in a real sense, it’s a source of pride,” Malo says. “In this business, as fickle and weird and as tough as it can be … to come back after a seven-, eight-year hiatus and do this and still be at least relevant to the fans, and be making halfway-decent music, I think is an achievement in and of itself.”
There were plenty of distraught fans when the Mavericks pulled the plug in 2004, scattering its members into various solo endeavors. For his part, Malo felt the split was necessary, and it allowed him to undertake something he may never have otherwise.
“I wouldn’t change a thing — I honestly wouldn’t,” he says. “When we took the break … we really thought we were done; I thought the band was done. Then what happened [was] I went on this musical quest to educate myself and learn as much about music as I possibly could. … Everything I learned … informed this new Mavericks era.
“I can’t really say I regretted the break because we’ve come back stronger than ever. If we’d kept going the way we were, it would’ve imploded anyways and it would be a different story.”
What hasn’t changed in the interim is the fundamental nature of the music business itself. Malo freely admits that the Mavericks have had some commercial success (“One song that crept into the Top 10 for a second,” he says), but broadly speaking, the group still effectively operates on the fringes of the mainstream.
“I look at it like — imagine you’re going down the highway and you pull into a town, and you want to eat at a good restaurant,” Malo says. “You’ve gotta get off the highway, otherwise you’re gonna eat at Cracker Barrel or Applebee’s or McDonald’s or whatever’s on the highway. It’s the same with the music. You have to sift through that and you have to get off the highway and find the cool s--- in town. That’s kind of how I see what we do — we’re offering the cool little restaurant off the highway.”
While much of 2014 is booked solid with touring, the Mavericks are planning to get back into the kitchen by year’s end (“The songs are starting to come together,” Malo says) to record material for a new album, tentatively due out at the top of next year.
After all, there’s no retiring from music — and the Mavericks still have so much left to say.
9 p.m. Saturday
UT Arlington Main Stage, Main St. Fort Worth Arts Festival
For a listing of all musical acts playing this year’s Main St. festival, visit mainstreetartsfest.org.