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Raul Malo

A Conversation with Raul Malo

Raul Malo: Hey, Frank, it's Raul.

Puremusic: Raul, thanks so much for calling back. Where do I find you this morning?

RM: Man, I have no idea.

PM: [laughs]

RM: I'm in the back of the bus, we're rolling down the highway. Well, right now we're at a truck stop, and we're about 250 miles or so from where we need to be.

PM: Holy jeez.

RM: So we'll continue rolling today.

PM: Indeed. I'm talking to you from South Beach this morning. But until recently, yeah--

RM: Ahh! I don't want to hear that, man... I saw the 305 area code, and I'm like, ahh, oh....

PM: [laughs] But until recently I lived in Nashville for many years. So yeah, we have a lot--

RM: Oh, no kidding, man?

PM:--yeah, a lot of cronies in common there.

RM: Oh, right on.

PM: I've been a fan for some years, but I don't know much about your background, and haven't been able to come up with much. I go for a bio at the website, and I get a bunch of quotes! Amazing quotes, no doubt, but hard to get the story.

RM: Right.

PM: What kind of a home did you grow up in? And when did music first take hold of you in a way that would direct your life?

RM: Wow, man, early on, I got to be honest with you. Early on. I grew up in Miami. My parents are both from Cuba. So I was first generation Cuban-American.

PM: And you're a Spanish speaker, obviously.

RM: Oh, yeah, of course. I was raised there, and got the whole bit. And a hardworking middle-class family, nothing spectacular there. My parents both worked. They worked to give my sister and me an education and all that. I mean, no musicians in the family, really. My mom played piano, so there was always music around. We grew up listening to a bunch of great music.

PM: Right. And was it a mixture of Latin music, Cuban music, and American? Or what was going on on the stereo?

RM: It was a mix of everything, absolutely. It was a weird combination, because Dad, he is a country music fan, but he liked Buck Owens and Johnny Cash and all that stuff. And I remember as a kid we'd watch--I would watch Hee Haw.

PM: Wow.

RM: And not so much for the humor or anything, I just loved the music.

PM: Oh, the music was great.

RM: I loved the stories and I loved the--I don't know, I just liked the music, always did. And so that was really kind of my introduction to country music. I didn't have friends that played steel guitar or anything like that.

PM: Right. In Miami, no, I wouldn't think so.

RM: Yeah. But as time went on and I started playing music and started learning to play guitar, and began really listening to song structure and this and that--and I'll tell you what really turned me onto country music was the Beatles.

PM: Yeah, because they played good country.

RM: Well, whenever you'd hear an interview with George Harrison, he'd go, "Well, Chet Atkins is one of my heroes." And I'd be like, "Well, who is this Chet Atkins guy? I got to check this out."

PM: Wow.

RM: And so I would buy Chet Atkins records. And then, "Oh, Chet Atkins played on Everly Brothers records. Oh, Chet Atkins also produced Elvis records." So the country music and all of this music was just connected to me through that whole six degrees of separation, where everything is just interconnected. So I grew up listening to all that stuff, really not as genres, but just as music. And I loved all of it. And then Mom was a big band crooner fan, so she had all the Bobby Darin records.

PM: Oh, and that was a big influence, obviously.

RM: So she had all that. And she had a big opera collection, so I liked opera early on.

PM: Wow.

RM: I mean, most kids don't like opera, but I listened to--

PM: You could have done that.

RM: Yeah, maybe, that's a different discipline. When you hear Pavarotti's "Nessun Dorma" it's like, come on man, that's right up there with like Roy Orbison's "In Dreams" or something.

PM: Excellent.

RM: Yeah, it's just haunting. I don't even know what he's saying, it doesn't matter, it's just beautiful. So I grew up listening to everything. And I loved it all. And what I loved really stuck with me. I was one of those obsessive kind of--I still am--music fans, where I hear something and I like it, and I listen to it over and over again.

PM: Yeah.

RM: I mean, I'm still finding new stuff on Beatles records, or whatever, even after years of listening to them.

PM: Absolutely.

RM: Yeah. And I think that because of the way the industry's gone, we've lost that a little. I remember when The Police came out with Synchronicity. Man, that was the big album to go buy.

PM: Right.

RM: And you went and bought the record, and you sat down with your buddies. I remember we had a listening party at our house, me and my buddies. We sat around and listened to this record. And who does that anymore?

PM: Right. I don't think they do that with Beyonce records.

RM: Yeah. They're listening to them on their phone.

PM: Yeah, right. [laughs]

RM: They got like 30-second ring tones out of them, or whatever. There was a real audiophile thing, too, that was happening then, which I loved. I loved putting a record on a stereo and having it sound great.

PM: Right. And it was vinyl, and it was tubes.

RM: Yeah.

PM: Yeah, all kinds of crazy shit that today--

RM: Absolutely, absolutely.

PM: --you're lucky to get an mp3 today.

RM: I know. know.


RM: You got it.

PM: And what's the percentage of the population anymore that could tell the difference between an mp3 and a bigger file? So small!

RM: Yeah, there's no comparison. There's no comparison. I mean, my gosh, man. I have quite a nice vinyl collection, and we'll sit around and listen to records every once in a while and just kind of go, "All right. We're going to old-school it today. Let's listen to all the vinyl stuff today." And man, you know what, it's a blast to do.

PM: Absolutely. I went over to a friend's basement in Nashville before I left and he had an old Bell & Howell system and a crazy little turntable. And he played Sly and the Family Stone. I thought I was going to lose my mind.

RM: Hell yeah. How did that sound?

PM: It scared the hell out of me! [laughs]

RM: Yeah.


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