Grammy winner and former Mavericks frontman Raul Malo lets his sugar-coated pipes loose on his new CD, Lucky One, his first record of new original material in seven years (3 March, Fantasy). (See tour dates here.) He chats with PopMatters 20 Questions about his aversion to ewoks, a longing for Harlem circa 1930, and the fiercest bird on the planet post-prehistoric times.
1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
The last movie that made my cry was Wall-E. Especially the part where he plays Louis Armstrong’s “La Vie En Rose”. That song will make anybody cry.
(Fantasy; US: 3 Mar 2009; UK: 9 Mar 2009)
(New Door; US: 17 Jul 2007)
You're Only Lonely
(Sanctuary; US: 25 Jul 2006; UK: Available as import)
2. The fictional character most like you?
The fictional character most like me is difficult to pick because of perception and reality. My perception is the brooding, creative, self-destructive type like Hank Moody in Californication. In reality, I’m probably more like Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm.
3. The greatest album, ever?
The greatest album ever is impossible to choose. But if I had to pick one right now it would maybe be the Beatles Revolver.
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
I’m definitely a Star Trek person. I think Gene Rodenberry was a genius. Don’t get me wrong, Star Wars was great, but they lost me when they introduced the ewoks.
5. Your ideal brain food?
My ideal brain food is brown rice, broccoli, and fish. I may not be any smarter when I’m done but I sure feel smarter.
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
As far as I know, I’m the only Cuban to have ever played the Grand Ole Opry and I’m proud of that. It may not be that big a deal really, but it’s just one more stereotype and barrier eliminated.
7. You want to be remembered for…?
I want to be remembered for being a good father, friend and husband.
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
I would say that the most influential artist for me is probably Louis Armstrong. Not stylistically, per say, but certainly when it comes to his attitude in the music. When hearing my music, if people come even close to feeling the joy that I feel when I hear “Satchmo”, then we’re on the right path.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
There are many songs that I wish I had written. But if I had to pick one it would be “Stardust” by Hoagie Carmichael. A very close second would be “Moon River” by Mancini and Mercer.
10. Your hidden talents…?
I don’t really have any hidden talents. I don’t even have any other marketable skills. I can play racquetball well enough to enter a tournament in the “B” category. (That’s not really much of a hidden talent though is it?)
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
The best piece of advice I actually followed was to listen to yourself. Chances are you know what to do before anybody tells you anything.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
The best thing I’ve ever borrowed is a classical guitar from David Vincent at Takamine. This was about 12 years ago. I’ve traveled all over the world with this thing. I’ve recorded with it. On the Mavericks’ Trampoline, the song, “Dream River” was recorded with that guitar. I’ve performed countless solo shows with this baby, and she’s still part of my life and going strong. Almost every song I’ve written in the last 12 years was written on that guitar.
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?
I’m definitely more at home in Armani than in blue jeans. Plus blue jeans now cost as much as some suits, so I refuse to wear them even more than I used to.
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
My guest at the Ritz would be Dean Martin. You know you’re at least going to get drunk and have a good time.
15. Time travel: where, when and why?
I would go back to the 1930s and be in New York city in Harlem. I want to dress up and go hear some great music at the Cotton Club. I would be there every night and I’d figure out a way to get in the band.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
Prozac is not my medicine of choice. I would combine my medicine of choice with a spa vacation on an island somewhere where scantily clad women would bring me drinks with little umbrellas in them.
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or…?
Things essential to life are wine, women, and song. They seem to be joined at the hip, those three.
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
I am a city slicker for sure. I wouldn’t make much of a farmer really. I really dislike chickens. It’s like, personal. I just don’t like them. I don’t eat them, I don’t want to be around them. As a matter of opinion, I think if those things weighed 40 pounds or so we’d be scared to death of them. I’ll take my chances in dark alleys to facing a chicken any day.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
“PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, LEGALIZE IT ALREADY!”
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
Right now, I’m working on my tan, or at least I will be as soon as I’m done with this questionnaire.