When Grammy-winning group the Mavericks release their new album Mono on February 17th, they’ll do so without founding member Robert Reynolds. Despite the fact that his name appeared in the liner notes for 2013 reunion album In Time, that was pretty much the case then, as well. According to his now former bandmates, singer Raul Malo, drummer Paul Deakin and guitarist Eddie Perez, who gathered last week in a conference room at the Mavericks’ record label offices in Nashville to speak to Rolling Stone Country and set the record straight, Reynolds is in the grip of an opiate addiction and has been unable to record or tour.
After much discussion and a number of lines drawn in the sand, the Mavericks fired the bassist-vocalist in October. Phone calls and text messages attempting to reach Reynolds for comment for this story were unsuccessful.
From the looks on the men’s faces, the termination of their longtime creative partner and friend was not a decision arrived at lightly or quickly. In fact, Deakin says the issues with Reynolds and his substance-abuse problem date back to just prior to the In Time sessions.
“I knew about it from before the band got back together. There were many signs when he first came back into the studio. I confronted him about it, and he denied,” Deakin tells Rolling Stone Country. “When he finally admitted it, I said, ‘I’m not going to sign these [record] contracts until you go into rehab.’ On three separate occasions we put him in different forms of rehab over the past three years.”
Deakin says he, Malo and Perez — who along with Jerry Dale McFadden make up the four core members of the Mavericks — are choosing to make the intra-band turmoil public for the sake of Reynolds, Reynolds’ wife and the eclectic group’s fans. In October, the band posted a message on its Facebook page that read, “At this moment Robert has chosen to take time to attend to personal matters. We wish him nothing but the best. And we offer our full support to him and his family in this difficult time.” Shortly after, they released a second statement detailing the creation of a fund for Reynolds’ wife Angie, who is battling cancer. Given the timing, many linked the two together.
“We set up, inadvertently, some assumptions,” Deakin admits. “Everybody assumed it was about his wife’s struggle with cancer, when in fact it wasn’t. We let that go, but then the situation got worse and we had to make something more final.”
What transpired is still incomprehensible to Malo.
“We found out he was hitting fans up for money,” says the vocalist, worried about the group’s more ardent and well-heeled followers being bilked out of their savings. “It’s like, man, what if he hits somebody up for five grand, and then they go, ‘Why didn’t you guys tell us anything?’ And now we put this fan in harm’s way and they’re out five grand because we didn’t have the balls to say anything about it.”
“He was using our fan base to reach out and acquire these things,” adds Perez.
“It’s like a starving person will steal,” says Deakin. “They’ll do anything.”
Malo grimaces. “This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen as far as addiction,” he says. “He’s far gone.”
Malo, Deakin and Reynolds founded the Mavericks in 1989 in Miami. With Malo’s enormous voice and the group’s eclectic musicianship, they developed a truly unique sound that mixed rock, country and the ethnic Latin rhythms of South Florida into a vibrant musical gumbo.
Acclaimed albums like 1994’s What a Crying Shame and the next year’s Music for All Occasions, which featured the Top 15 Tejano-influenced hit “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down,” followed, and in 1996 they won a Grammy for the song “Here Comes the Rain.” Eventually, heavy touring and personality conflicts wore them down and they disbanded in 1999, with Malo pursuing a solo career. In 2012, they regrouped for a performance at the Stagecoach Festival in California and, bolstered by the opportunity to release new music, made it a permanent reunion. In Time, the band’s seventh studio project, was released in February 2013 via the Valory Music Co., a member of Scott Borchetta‘s Big Machine Label Group, and peaked at Number Eight on the Billboard Country Albums chart.
The band’s relationship with Reynolds, however, couldn’t quite get back off the ground. Malo says it was often difficult for the bass player — who was now strumming a low-in-the-mix acoustic guitar onstage — to make shows.
“Fans were going, ‘Why is Robert not on bass, and [playing] a barely audible acoustic guitar?’ It’s like, I don’t know that you’d want to hear what he’s playing,” says Malo.
“In the past three years we’ve been at this again, I can count on just one hand the times where I really felt like, ‘OK, he’s going to turn this around,'” says Perez. “But they were brief little moments.”
“This is not something that happened overnight,” adds Deakin, who says the members broached Reynolds’ addiction with him on numerous occasions. “We would have countless meetings on it. I remember one of the first times when we talked, shortly after the band [reunited], Raul and I went out with him in London, Ontario, Canada, and sat him down and said, ‘You need to do something.’ That’s when he went to outpatient rehab.”
Reynolds was prescribed Suboxone. “It’s a step up from methadone, and an apparently more accepted one,” says Deakin, who was cautiously optimistic by the results he saw in his friend. “He had two months when he was on Suboxone when I could see the light in his eye.”
Unfortunately, it didn’t last. “He turned the Suboxone into a party favor,” says Malo.
The low point came during a run of shows in Australia this past September. Reynolds was visibly sick — pale and vomiting — and the band urged him to return home and re-enter rehab. “He was a mess in Australia,” says Deakin. “We said, ‘You need to leave and go home now and go straight into rehab. He said, ‘No, no, I have my Suboxone, and I’m going to take that.’ But he didn’t.”
The band muddled through, arriving back in Nashville for an October photo shoot for the new album and tour. Reynolds showed up still in poor condition. “That’s when we realized that Addict Robert does not give a fuck about what’s going on here,” says Deakin.
Lawyers became involved and Reynolds was served papers, showing him the door. As far as the band is aware, he is no longer living in Tennessee. “At some point, you start to look at it as we’re not making it any better, so we’re part of the problem,” Deakin says.
The ouster lifted a burden off the remaining Mavericks’ chests, but also left them drowning in a sea of emotions.
“It’s devastating — it’s our good friend this is happening to,” says Deakin. “There are so many emotions that are mixed up in it. You’re sad, you’re pissed, you’re confused. You’re like, ‘Fuck, this sucks!'”
“You want to pummel him and you want to hug him,” sighs Malo. “It’s been a real eye-opener. This is a real dilemma, a real shitty situation.”
With Mono in the pipeline, the band alerted Borchetta and the team at Valory to the drama within the Mavericks. Malo says the label head assured them Big Machine was behind them. “Scott said, ‘Whatever he needs, whatever you guys need from us. And this doesn’t change anything from our perspective, from the business side of it,'” says Malo.
Aside from sharing the truth about the band’s internal conflict with their fans, the members are hopeful that their coming forward will resonate on a deeper level, especially with those who may be dealing with addiction in their own family.
“The word has gotten out a little bit and so many people will come up to me and say, ‘Oh my God, we dealt with that with our daughter, with our son,'” recounts Malo. “It’s one thing for a musician to get hooked on opiates, but these are middle of the road people.”
“It’s a huge suburban epidemic,” says Perez.
Despite the torture of the last three years, the Mavericks promise the door is open for Reynolds to return — should he get clean and devote himself to a rehab program. The group has even promoted Reynolds’ brother Michael, formerly their merchandise manager, to tour manager and conveyed to Robert that the offer stands to fly him to in-patient rehab and cover any insurance costs.
“But the reality is even if he goes to rehab tomorrow, it’s going to be a long time,” says Malo. “He’s got to work the program and make sure it sticks.”
“We’ve gotten word to him, but I don’t think he will take our calls right now. I think he feels betrayed as addicts do,” says Deakin. “That’s the sad part of addiction.”
To Perez, however, the most regrettable fallout is that Reynolds is absent from the Mavericks’ triumphant second act. After Mono‘s February release, the group will launch a world tour.
“I feel a little angry and upset because, man, he should be here enjoying this with us,” he says. “We are having such a ball and are excited about this next chapter we’re doing, but Robert and his addiction are keeping him away.”