By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Héctor Anchondo has accomplished plenty throughout his musical career, which spans almost a quarter of a century, his most recent accolade being the top prize winner in the solo/duo category as well as the Memphis Cigar Box Guitar Award Winner for “Best Acoustic Solo/Duo Guitarist” at the 2020 International Blues Challenge as a representative of the Blues Society of Omaha, his third year in doing so.
The highs certainly did not come without lows, as he once dealt with nights asleep on floors with no pay, credit card debt, years asleep in his van, overnight drives and other struggles over the years.
Although Anchondo got his fame in a popular namesake rock band, it was the blues that summoned him to make the change to what his heart truly wanted. It inspired him to move to Chicago for a year and soak up old-school blues tradition and seek a unique, authentic sound. Currently, although the recent COVID-19 outbreak has hindered his tour plans, Anchondo has kept his commitments to The Héctor Anchondo Band and his own solo career, with a possible solo album in the future.
The Music Bugle recently had the chance to talk with Anchondo about his career and other topics.
Music Bugle – Which of the awards/prizes that you’ve won in the past resonate with you the most?
Héctor Anchondo – I would have to say that the highest honor I’ve ever received was winning first place in the 2020 International Blues Challenge and also the Cigar Box Guitar award for best guitarist. Next would be the “Best Blues” award by the Omaha Entertainment & Arts Award.
Music Bugle – With a career that has spanned almost 25 years, which moment would you call the proudest one?
Héctor Anchondo – This would have to go right along with the 2020 International Blues Challenge first-place win and the win for best guitarist. That is hands down the biggest break of my entire career. The next would be in 2015, I was on Mary4Music compilation Blues CD and that was the first time I had international radio play. Another big moment for me was when my last album made it onto some of the music charts. That took me 20 years to get that honor and I was very proud, mostly that I stuck with it. Everything that has happened in the past five years is why I stuck with it for all these years.
Music Bugle – Was there ever a time you wanted to give up on music entirely?
Héctor Anchondo – There have been quite a few moments. It was tough when I was in my late 20’s and all my friends were buying houses and starting families. See, that weighed heavy on me. I kept asking myself, “Am I doing the right thing? Am I making the right move?” My late 20’s was the biggest crossroads of my career because that is also when the 2008 recession hit and I had an album coming out that year. I had a lot of money riding on it that I had borrowed and was banking on the album release shows to earn it back to hopefully break even. Then, the recession hit right before the release shows and probably around a quarter of the folks came out. That hit hard. My band disbursed at the time and I was left to try and take care of the debt and pick the pieces back up. That’s when I made the decision that if I was going to go forward, it was going to be totally my band and I was going to take charge of my future and decided to keep going.
Music Bugle – What is your most meaningful song or set of lyrics?
Héctor Anchondo – This is a tough one because each song is a part of my life. I’ll go with a song that’s going to be on my next record. “Vested Angels” is a song I wrote for Bikers Against Child Abuse – the B.A.C.A.. They’re a group that help children that are victims of child abuse by going to their court dates and helping them not be afraid of their abusers. Powerful. My friend in Pierre, S.D., Mato, would always tell me “You should write a song about BACA.” I thought about it for a couple years and every once in a while, he’d tell me again. It’s hard for me to write a song that wasn’t first based off of an emotion of my own, in some way or another, so I had to dig deep and find something I connected with emotionally. It finally hit me. There were events in my life when I was a little one and I relived that and imagined how nice it would have been for me to some folks like that when I was little. Then, the song “Vested Angels” was born.
Music Bugle – How has the COVID-19 outbreak affected you?
Héctor Anchondo – The outbreak has almost completely stopped my career, financially speaking. I must say that going through the 2008 crash, which is no match for what’s happening currently, has helped me be better prepared for this. I went right in to “hustle mode” and started searching for new students and switched all my current students over to online lessons. I didn’t waste any time and began doing live-streams. Coincidentally, I had recently bought some new video recording gear, audio recording gear and a new MacBook Pro back in January and thankfully, I did because I’ve been using all that gear for the online lessons and music streaming.
Music Bugle – Which of your musical influences do you feel shine the most in your music?
Héctor Anchondo – I’d have to say probably Stevie Ray Vaughn. He was by far my favorite growing up. Next would be Eric Clapton’s ‘MTV Unplugged’ album that came out in the 90s. That helped shape my acoustic playing and songwriting.
Music Bugle – What was the moment that made you want to become a musician?
Héctor Anchondo – Growing up, we didn’t have cable TV and rarely did we get to watch TV unless it was VHS. Mix that with growing up in the country where options are limited anyway. It was like we were detached from the rest of the world. We did have a satellite dish that rarely ever worked, due to the fact that we had lots of iron in the ground and there was lots of lightning in the area, so on occasion when my mom would have it fixed, it was literally only months before it would get struck down and back into the dark we’d go. However, one of the times the satellite was working I was able to get VH1 and I caught Guns N’ Roses’ “November Rain” and thought the guitar solo played by Slash was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever heard. From that point on, I decided I was going to play guitar and I haven’t looked back. I was 15 at the time.
Music Bugle – What do you hope to accomplish that you felt you haven’t yet?
Héctor Anchondo – Well, besides hoping one day I can make enough to build my family a farmhouse out in the country, I’d love to be able to tour Europe one day. I really feel like it’s not too far off. I was offered a festival in Denmark this year after the IBCs. It didn’t work out, but that’s the closest I’ve come yet and I feel that the offers are soon coming.
Music Bugle – What’s something people should know about you, generally speaking?
Héctor Anchondo – One of the big reasons I play is because I love to make others happy and my goal is to help folks forget where they are during my shows and take them away from all of their troubles while we’re together. I also just love music with all my soul. Another thing, you’d never guess, but I’m an introvert and music gets me out of my shell.
Music Bugle – Any advice to young, aspiring musicians?
Héctor Anchondo – If you want it, then go for it. Don’t ever let anyone tell you what you should be doing or make you feel guilty for doing what you love. Life is about doing what we love first and the financial stuff comes second with time. It’s better to make less money your entire life while being happy then it is to make lots of money but be miserable. That being said, you may have to work extra hard early on for what will feel like pennies, but just hold out because it is so worth it. Nothing great ever came easy.