Pepe Aguilar to Rock Genre-Bending MTV Unplugged Set (Exclusive)

TR3s (formerly known as MTV TR3s), usually turns to Latin rock or alternative acts for its MTV Unplugged series.

But after a successful foray into regional Mexican territory with Los Tigres del Norte in 2011, the network is once again thinking outside the box with its next Unplugged, which will feature pop/ranchero star Pepe Aguilar.

Although Aguilar, known for his velvety voice and refined arrangements has long alternated between pop and ranchero, he is best known as the latter, and when his image comes to mind, it almost automatically includes a charro outfit. But Aguilar also has rocker roots, and has long talked about delving in that genre. This could be the perfect opportunity.

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“I normally fuse Mexican music with other rhythms and concepts,” Aguilar told Billboard in an exclusive interview. “Here it’s going to be the other way round. I’m going to have a traditional musical foundation—drums, bass, guitars, piano, organ—and we will incorporate mariachi to that.”

But it won’t only be mariachi. Although Aguilar and TR3s are still finessing production details, Aguilar’s MTV Unplugged will be a fusion of sounds, produced by Emmanuel “Meme” del Real, one of the founding members of Mexican alt band Café Tacuba (and co-producer of Juanes’ latest album). This will mark the first time Aguilar is produced by someone other than himself, much less a rocker.

“Meme comes from a completely different background than mine, so joining these two experiences will be very interesting,” says Aguilar, who plans on covering several of his big hits.

The notion of an Aguilar MTV Unplugged came about after Aguilar signed a new management with Ocesa/Sei Track, the Mexican management and entertainment company headed by Alex Mizrahi.

Mizrahi, who signed with Aguilar last year, also manages Mexican alt band Kinky, who were planning to film an MTV Unplugged.

Why not do two MTV Unpluggeds, he asked executives, and proposed Aguilar.

“When he mentioned Pepe I thought of the Los Tigres format,” says Marc Zimet, VP of Music and Talent for VIMN The Americas. The fabled norteño band recorded an acclaimed MTV Unplugged in 2011 that featured multiple rock and alternative acts.

“We thought this could be a similar sort of blank canvas coming from the regional Mexican world in a way that showcases Pepe’s rocker roots,” adds Zimet. “He performs a lot of his music acoustically now. The idea is to reinvent him and give him the platform to show his rock roots and put him in arena with guest artists, with visuals. You start to see the earmarks to another side of Pepe Aguilar."

Zimet, who a few years ago also taped back-to-back Unpluggeds with Mexican bands Zoé and Panda will tape Kinky June 3 and Aguilar June 5, both in Mexico City.

While Aguilar and Zimet said guest artists are still in the process of being confirmed, Zimet says there will be about half a dozen of them. He also said Aguilar would cover well-known rock acts and will also have a moment to pay homage to his famous father, mariachi singer Antonio Aguilar.

The challenge, says Aguilar, will be to “stay honest. It’s an opportunity. I don’t think I have to invent things. I am who I am because of the music I’ve done. I’m going to take this opportunity to do something less regional Mexican, but I won’t stop being myself.”

Aguilar’s MTV Unplugged album is slated for release later this year, probably on his label with distribution from Sony. In addition to signing with Ocesa Sei Track, Aguilar also signed last year with William Morris for his U.S. touring.

TR3s’ last MTV Unplugged was Juanes’ 2012 MTV Unplugged.