qvMagazine's September/October 2000
Artist of the Month: Pepe Aguilar

Pepe Aguilar!
A qvInterview with Pepe Aguilar--the real pop singing charro of today.
Photos and Interview by Luther Orrick-Guzman

In the world of Mexican Ranchero and Bolero singers, Pepe Aguilar is one of the most successful artists in his genre. His CDs have sold millions of copies, and he has even nominated for a Grammy award. At 6 feet, 5 inches tall, Pepe stands out...literally above the rest. He spoke to qvMagazine about his music career, his current album, "Por Una Mujer Bonita," his interest in Charro, and what it was like growing up in a famous household as the son of legendary Mexican screen and recording legends Antonio Aguilar and Flor Silvestre.

How has your life changed with your new-found popularity? It has changed a lot. There is less time to do things, but in this career, the busier you are, the better. I'm used to being in this lifestyle either with my own personal fame or with my parents' fame. The only difference now is that instead of an audience coming to see my family perform, they come to see me. Instead of them buying only records of my dad, they now buy records of mine, too. I have my own individual career.

How did the transition happen from being a part of your father's world-renowned fame to your own individual career? It was a logical step. I had to separate to show what I'm made of and to see how the public would react to me. It was a decision that I had to make sooner or later. All of this is rooted in the fact that I became more dedicated to my own art. I began working harder on my own without having to fulfill the contracts with my father.

Are you an early riser? No. Early but not too early. It varies. When I'm working or doing shows, I rest as much as possible. I won't drink or smoke, basically so I can take care of myself in the best way possible. And I do make a point of spending time at home with my family and playing with my kids. I'm very much a homebody.

How many kids do you have? I have a 7 year-old son who lives with his mother from a previous relationship. I also have a new baby boy who was born last August (1999) and a little girl.

So you've got another Leo in the family? Yeah! I'm a Leo and my mother is a Leo, too. My August baby was planned. I wanted my child to be a Leo. I'm not really that much of a believer in astrology, but back in the day, kings used to plan for their children to be born as Leos. I said, "What the heck, I'll try having a child with the same sign as myself just to see what it feels like." (Laughs)

Where were you born? I was born in San Antonio, Texas, as a consequence of destiny. My dad happened to be on tour when I was born, but I am a Zacatecan. I was raised there.

I understand you listened to a lot of rock bands like Pink Floyd when you were growing up. How did that happen, being that you were surrounded by so much Mexican tradition? Well, I listened to a lot of progressive '70s and '80s rock. I like a lot of that music, and believe it or not, they have had an influence on me. Their harmonies, among other things, have stayed with me, and I've applied them to Rancheras. With every new production, I use more distinctive sounds that aren't normally used with a Mariachi-things such as keyboards, different types of guitars, saxophones and so on. I've focused on new fusions, especially starting with my "Por Mujeres Como Tu" album. It's even more apparent on the new album, "Por Una Mujer Bonita." But now it's more than a fusion-it is a new style of Mexican music.

What type of music was being played in the Aguilar house while you were growing up? My dad listened to a lot of opera. (Laughs) I would complain and say, "Dad, get a life!" My mom would always listen to romantic pop singers, almost all whom I covered on my previous album, like Demis Roussos, Camilo Sesto, Napoleon, Jose Jose, Ricardo Cerratto.

How old were you when you first started to perform? I started to sing at the age of 3. My dad trained me on horseback at the age of 2 or 3, as well. I remember I used to love getting on a pony, but not on a horse. I was very scared of getting on a horse. Then, I got over it and got used to riding one. In fact, one time, my family and I were doing a show at Madison Square Garden and I said, "I'm too old for this-untie me!" I was about 5 years old, I fell and started crying right into the microphone. I was in the middle of Madison Square Garden.

Did you listen to a lot of your parent's music at that time? I listened to a lot of Vicente Fernandez and Javier Solis, who is my favorite. I listened to my dad and my mother, but I never had to buy their albums because I'd hear them everyday. I love all the old school of Mexican singers like Lola Beltran and Charro Avitia. I was very inclined towards artists who were romantic.

You are a true Charro in every sense of the word, not just the suit. How did you get into that? I got into the sport of Charreria around the age of 11. That's when I started competing. I remember the first time I competed, I did a "Suerte" (one of the many acts in the sport of Charreria) and it came out terribly. Later, I got more confident, and I made a point of doing better. My team actually won a national championship only a year after that in 1992-five championships statewide and three regional ones. I was a full-time Charro .

Do you still practice Charreria? When I can. It's been about a year and a half since I've done it, but I plan to go back. It is something I love, but it requires a lot of time and dedication.

When you perform live, you do it two different ways-in arenas, you sing on horseback and in theaters, you sing without a horse. Yes, the concert theater show and the arena shows are very different. I sing what the audience wants to hear in both venues, but in arenas, I show off the horses. I perform with Banda and Mariachi in the equestrian shows. The theater shows are primarily with a Mariachi.

You have performed with some incredible artists like Rocio Durcal and Vicky Carr. Are there any other artists you would like to work with in the future? I'd love to work with a lot of people. I would love to record with Rocio Durcal. We did something on TV once, and I performed live with her at a few shows. But I'd love to actually get in the studio and record with her. She is the female singer that I most admire. Her voice is precious, and she sings incredibly. She is a wonderful person.

Not only are you are a singer and a Charro, but also a record producer! Yes, I've worked with Jose Julian and I've produced three CDs for my brother, Antonio Jr. I also did six of dad's albums, and I produced one for Guadalupe Pineda.

Do you still write songs? Yes, but I have a lot of friends who write better than I do. Right now, I'm very married to the writers that I've been working with for the last two years. When I feel it is necessary to do more writing on my own, I will.

You always speak highly of a composer named Fato. Yes, Fato is incredible! He has six songs on my new CD (Por Una Mujer Bonita). I am working a lot with him because he is one of the lyricists whom I've identified myself with the most. I admire him so much. Fato feels completely interpreted by me, and I feel completely expressed by him.

Has your new fame taken you places you've never been to before? Yes, my songs never used to be played in Chile, Venezuela, the Caribbean, or Puerto Rico. Now, a lot of markets have opened up for me. I've got platinum records all over now. But the (Spanish Market in the) United States, next to Mexico, has been the most accepting market.

How would you feel about crossing over to the English market in the U.S.? I have toyed with the idea of a cross over, but at the moment, I want to focus on what I am doing now. I have to make myself more known before I can do something like that.

How has your family reacted to your escalated fame? They are as happy as can be. My wife, Anelisse, is the best because it's very difficult. I can't see myself in her shoes. If she were the famous one and I saw young guys throwing themselves at her, I would feel awful. But she is very special in that sense. She met me as I am. She is very young, only 21. She loves this lifestyle, and she accompanies me everywhere I go.

When your children grow older, will you support them if they want to be singers? If they want to, they can go ahead and do it as long as they are good at it. If they are bad at it-nope! This career is very rough, and it would be terrible if they weren't good at singing. I would rather be the first one to say no you are not good at it and that's the end of it. If they are good then I would give them all the support I could give them including moral and economic support. They would have to follow that dream on their own as my father did with me. My father never once called anyone or even lifted a finger for me to help contribute to my success as a singer. I am eternally grateful for that because now I can look back and say I did it without the help of my dad. It was all the result of my hard work.

When you were a teen, you started a rock band at one point. When did you decide you wanted to go back to Mexican music? I tried another kind of music to scratch the itch that I had for rock music. I like rock music, but I didn't like the setting I'd have to be in to do it. I love Mexico too much and I'm old fashioned. I was much more intrigued with horses and the sport of Charreria. I still like rock music, though.

So if we were to go through your CD player right now, what would we find? Everything. I like to see what's going on with music, who's doing it, and how it's being done. In my CD player, you can find everything from Jethro Tull to Jose Julian-to Lenny Kravitz.

Where do you see yourself in 20 or 30 years? First of all, alive I hope! I'd like to take my career as far as my audience will take me. If in 20 years my name is still alive, if my songs are still being heard, if my recordings are still selling, and if my shows are selling-that would be my biggest dream.

A lot of your fans not only love your music, but also love you. How does that make you feel? I appreciate everyone. Like my dad says, "No one is better than anyone else," and I'm very thankful. It's been a long road acquiring this level of success. It's been many years of hard work and I'm very grateful, but above all I thank God.

Visit Pepe Aguilar's Official Website at www.pepeaguilar.com
Thanks to Balboa Records.


Recent Albums Available From Pepe Aguilar

Lo Grande de los Grandes (2000)

Por Una Mujer Bonita

Por El Amor de Siempre (1999)

Por Mujeres Como Tu

Exitos Con Banda (1997)

Que Bueno (1995)

Chiquilla Bonita (1995)

Recuerdame Bonito (1992)

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