The first time Ana Bárbara was nominated for a Grammy was in 2006, for No Es Brujería in the Best Mexican/Mexico-American Album category. Although she did not win (the award went to Pepe Aguilar), Ana Bárbara, signed at that time to Fonovisa, represented one of the few successful women in grupera and ranchera music — an artist who, beyond having a powerful voice and bringing sex appeal to the stage, also wrote her own songs.
Now, almost 20 years later, Ana Bárbara (real name: Altagracia Ugalde Motta) has earned her second nod. Her exquisite Bordado a mano (Embroidered by hand) — which includes duets with Vicente Fernández, Christian Nodal, Paquita la del Barrio, Bronco and Christian Castro — is nominated for Best Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano) at the Grammys, competing at the ceremony on Sunday (Feb. 4) against Peso Pluma and three female artists: Lila Downs, Lupita Infante and Flor de Toloache.
In the group of nominees, Ana Bárbara is the pioneer, but she is still at the forefront. Bordado a mano is a work of art, but also of love and tenacity, recorded, produced and released by Ana Bárbara herself on her own label (Solos Music) with distribution by ONErpm. It took years to record, in part because it was logistically challenging to lock artists like Vicente Fernández (in his final collaboration before his death), and because Ana Bárbara paid for everything out of her own pocket.
The Mexican singer-songwriter — who this year celebrates the 30th anniversary of her first album, and who will be honored at Premio lo Nuestro on February 22 — spoke with Billboard about the meaning of the nomination at this stage of her life.
Your last Grammy nomination was 18 years ago. What are you most excited about this time?
Unlike the previous album, this one is completely independent. The last one included my songs but this one is also my production. And I am very proud of the work that was done, both with the songs and the teamwork, because it finally got to where it had to go, with a small, indie label. Solos Music is my label, and we are only five people. We’re small but we come through! [laughs]
ONErpm supports you with distribution and marketing, but this has been an independent job, and that’s difficult. Was it scary?
I can’t deny I was a little scared, because I didn’t know. I have to be honest. When Rose [manager Rosela Zavala] told me let’s go independent … she had a clear idea. But she was very honest and she told me, it’s a very difficult road, and it is. It is very expensive. I can tell you that it has cost me my life. If you ask me, was this a good deal, I’d say, “It’s a job that has given us something to eat.” We all have a family to support. But ultimately, as women, it was really about pride and strength and let’s go for it.
I’m not going to deny that it scared me at first, and it still scares me. Because although our goal was not to make the great business of our lives, we did say, “At what point are we going to start making money?” I tell you with great pride, I had to sell some of my assets at the beginning. I thought, if we’re going to do it, I’m putting everything into it.
It’s an album that took a long time…
Yes, and then came the pandemic. No no no. I was pulling my hair out. We were going crazy. But I believed. We already had the duet with Nodal, the duet with Paquita. It was already a reality. But all the promotion, the work, the album, the videos… doing all that as an independent [artist] is uphill, and for a woman, ten times more. Or twenty, to be honest.
Exactly how long ago was this album in the making?
I started working on it 11 years ago. The last album I released was Yo Soy La Mujer [in 2013]. The songs were written 11 years, 12 years ago. For example, the duet with Don Vicente, I dreamed it, I saw it, 11 years ago. He recorded it five years ago and the video was recorded before the pandemic. It’s been a long road.
Did you lose faith?
Actually, no. There were friends who told me, just record covers. But I wanted to leave my own legacy of my own songs. Yes, there were moments when I wanted to throw in the towel. For example, the duet with Christian Castro, he said yes, then six months went by. It was all very complex, because there is art in each of [the guest artists], but they also lead complicated lives.
All your guests have long careers and legacy, except Christian Nodal. Why him?
Nodal is a great artist. I call him an old soul. But all the others are classics: Bronco is classic. Christian Castro is the romantic balladeer, and he is one of my favorite balladeers. So I knew it was complex. When they’re established it takes a little more work to convince them.
You’re celebrating your anniversary this year, and you’re being honored at Premio Lo Nuestro. What else is coming?
I am celebrating 30 years of [my] recording career, which is easy to say, but the road has certainly been very difficult. We are preparing a symphonic album, basically the hits, with arrangements by maestro Eduardo Magallanes, who is one of my inspirations and did so much work for Juan Gabriel and Don Vicente. I also have duet and solo projects. It was hard enough to reach this milestone, so I’m going to celebrate with something special!
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