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Raul Malo of The Mavericks on the band's new album, 'Moon & Stars'

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

We are in the thick of summer, and it is hot. But there's nothing like kicking back with a good album and your favorite drink to get you through these long summer days.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A GUITAR AND A BOTTLE OF WINE")

THE MAVERICKS: (Singing) I got a guitar and a bottle of wine, a song to sing to ease my mind.

RASCOE: The Americana band known as The Mavericks has been making music since 1989, and just like a bottle of wine, they've gotten better with time. They are on the road this summer touring to support their latest album "Moon & Stars." But the road has a bit of a bump this time around. Joining me now is Raul Malo, guitarist and lead singer of The Mavericks. Welcome to the program.

RAUL MALO: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

RASCOE: I want to start with some news, Raul. You recently announced that you have cancer, and I'm so sorry to hear that. How are you feeling?

MALO: Thank you very much for that. Here's the ironic part. I feel great, better than I have felt in years. And so this was a - it's an unfortunate thing, but we caught it early enough. And the main thing is we want to get the message out there to have people get themselves checked.

RASCOE: Do you feel comfortable saying what cancer you have or what type of screening you're recommending for people?

MALO: Sure. And how it started is, I went in for a physical. That doctor recommended I go to a gastrointestinal specialist. And then he recommended a colonoscopy, and then that led to a CAT scan and so on, and then they found a couple of spots. It's basically - colon cancer is what they're officially calling it. It's a very treatable cancer, and we've caught it early enough that they feel confident that the chemo will do its thing.

RASCOE: Well, getting, you know, to the album, to the music, one of the new songs from The Mavericks is one that kind of strangely may, you know, take on a different meaning now with everything that's happening, and that's "The Years Will Not Be Kind."

MALO: (Laughter) Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE YEARS WILL NOT BE KIND")

THE MAVERICKS: (Singing) Have I wasted my time here. Am I just running from my life? Just today in front of the devil with no angel on my side.

RASCOE: Tell us about the man in this song. What's going on with him?

MALO: It's a very honest song, I think. I wrote this song with Bernie Taupin years ago. And what's funny is that I didn't sound believable (laughter), you know? I was too young. I had way too much hair. I was, you know, feeling very invincible, as you do. You know, 15 years later or so that song really resonates. But that's the thing about a song like that. It paints a very stark, realistic picture.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE YEARS WILL NOT BE KIND")

THE MAVERICKS: (Singing) But I'm learning to accept it, that the years will not be kind.

RASCOE: You've spent your career blending country with Latin and Caribbean influences, which really comes through in the title track of the new album "Moon & Stars.".

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOON & STARS")

THE MAVERICKS: (Singing) Heaven's got the moon and stars. Funny how they always are shining down from high above, never giving up on love.

RASCOE: What calls out to you from all these different genres that makes you want to kind of pool them into one song?

MALO: Well, you know, when I was a little kid, I grew up in a Cuban household. And my parents - they were young enough to turn me on to some really great music. My dad, for example, was a huge country fan. My mom was a rock 'n' roll, big band, swing opera fan. We had all this music in the house, and, you know, when - I remember when I first heard Elvis's "It's Now Or Never.".

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IT'S NOW OR NEVER")

ELVIS PRESLEY: (Singing) It's now or never, come hold me tight.

MALO: I thought that was the greatest rock 'n' roll record in my life, and I loved the way that he blended Italian aria into this rock 'n' roll song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IT'S NOW OR NEVER")

PRESLEY: (Singing) Tomorrow will be too late.

MALO: My mom was instrumental in this because I remember playing her "It's Now Or Never," and then she played me the Italian aria, which is "O Sole Mio." And that, to me, just blew my mind, and it opened up my world, and it put it in front of me that music is related, all of it, no matter what genre it is. We think we're so clever, and we think we're so original. And the fact is, there's eight notes in an octave. There's only so many chords you can play. And so that connectivity that Elvis showed - that became my reason to do this, my raison d'etre, you know, as they say.

RASCOE: Yeah. Alright, well, you know, let's go out on a feel-good song, "Look Around You" with Maggie Rose.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOOK AROUND YOU")

THE MAVERICKS: (Singing) Innocence, more precious than a pot of gold and far more rare than the cruelty we let unfold.

RASCOE: What do you want listeners to take from this song? I mean, it really puts me in, like, an island resort dancing around - I don't know, linen - you know, beautiful sundress.

MALO: Well, you know, I mean, I think that the sundress on an island is a perfectly perfectly great image and a goal to aspire to, for sure.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOOK AROUND YOU")

THE MAVERICKS: (Singing) And we may never understand that the brotherhood of man is for all to know. And it's alright to lend a helping hand to the ones who need it so.

MALO: I wrote that during the pandemic. And then, you know, I remember the Uvalde shooting. There was Black Lives Matter. There was all this turmoil and all this strife and all this inequality, George Floyd. I mean, this song is really a call to my friends, my acquaintances, my - like, hey, you know, just take a look around you. The people that you're wanting to kick out or get rid of or punish - they're human beings, just like us. All they want is a fair shake. And that's really what the song is about, giving people a fair shake. And how do we do that? I don't know that I have the answer to that, but we can certainly be kinder to each other. We can be nicer.

RASCOE: It is hard to argue with the idea that we could all try to be a little bit kinder. Raul Malo is with The Mavericks. Their album is out now. Thank you so much for talking with us, and best wishes to you as you start your treatment. We're all rooting for you for a solid recovery. Thank you so much.

MALO: Thank you, dear. I appreciate that so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOOK AROUND YOU")

THE MAVERICKS: (Singing) Never mind, the differences are all so clear. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.