"I always thought it was funny—people holding on to a certain of part of their lives they didn't want to let go," Malo said. "And I always dismissed it: 'Oh, get on with your life. You'll be better off without us anyway.'"
At his solo shows, in restaurants, on the street, the question kept coming and coming from random places. Then he started to hear from people with the money to back a reunion tour.
"It just kept brewing and brewing," Malo said.
When finally the idea of an album was tossed out, the group that once turned country music on its ear with a galloping run of unexpected successes was back together again. And with the changing face of country music finally catching up with the band's all-over-the-map vibe, who knows where this might end up?
The Mavericks take the largest step in its return Sunday at LP Field during CMA Music Fest when the band will play in front of more than 60,000. The quartet (original members Malo, bassist Robert Reynolds and drummer Paul Deakin with guitarist Eddie Perez) have a new single, "Born To Be Blue," a five-song EP called "Suited Up and Ready" and the new untitled album on the way in September.
Some at LP Field will remember their run of hits like "What a Crying Shame," "There Goes My Heart" and "Here Comes the Rain" and their renowned live shows from their heyday in the 1990s.
"If we'd continued together we would've just been a band," Reynolds said. "Maybe we would've eventually bored everybody to death, right? But the break gives us a chance to be something relevant again—and irreverent at the same time."
Irreverent might be the perfect word to describe The Mavericks. Born of the very non-country music scene in Miami where they were more likely to play for fans of Marilyn Manson than Garth Brooks, the band never fit the cowboy hat mold popular in Nashville.
With music flavored by Latin rhythms and rock, punctuated by Malo's soaring, romantic tenor and accentuated with orange suits and a very South Florida flamboyance, The Mavericks nonetheless elbowed their way into Nashville.
Scott Borchetta was at MCA when the guys released its first major label album in 1992 and now hosts the band at his Big Machine Label Group.
"We were made aware of them at MCA because of these incredible live shows we were hearing about that would start at midnight and play till 6 in the morning," Borchetta said. "And it wasn't legend we found out. Not unlike the way Dwight Yoakam broke out of LA punk and new wave clubs, you had The Mavericks that had created their entirely own unique scene."
He described the group as "just left of core, if you will," and a hard sell at radio. But they had platinum records and sold-out tours and won a Grammy and multiple awards from the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.
"Man, you don't just like The Mavericks, you love The Mavericks—or you just don't get it and that's OK," Borchetta said. "But the people who love The Mavericks, get out of their way because they are going to have it."
The group officially fell apart in the early 2000s under an extreme case of burnout. Each went their own way. Malo started a solo career and considered moving away from Nashville. Reynolds hadn't performed in six or seven years and was developing music business projects, including the new television reality show "Rock N' Roll Recon," which will debut on CMT later this year.
The chance to do it all again has been spirit-lifting.
"I'd begun to wonder if I'd even bother performing again, so maybe what's happened for me is almost like a magical rediscovery of myself, to know that performing was really all I ever wanted to do," Reynolds said. "... Short of wearing a suit, I was out in meetings in conference rooms. So when you put the guitar on—wow, you're born again."