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Red Lick Records



Early Blues Interview
Ana Popović, singer/songwriter/guitarist

© Copyright 2009 Ana Popović. All Rights Reserved.

Ana Popović is an incredible guitarist/vocalist who was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia and now resides in The Netherlands. Her career has been meteoric, and shows no signs of slowing down. Ana is the first European ever nominated for ĎBest New Blues Artistí at the W.C. Handy Award Show in Memphis, Tennessee (2003). She was also nominated for 'Best Blues Album' at the Jammie Awards in New York City, a three way nominee for 'Best Vocalist', 'Best Guitarist' and 'Best Album' at the French Blues Awards (2002), and she and her band won the prestigious jazz award 'Jazz A Juan revelation In Juan Le Pins' (France 2004). Ana has recently been touring Europe and I was lucky enough to catch up with her, back at base in The Netherlands.

Alan    What are your first musical memories growing up in Belgrade?

Ana     I grew up listening to blues and the roots of American music, with Elmore James, Booker White, Albert Collins, Albert King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy.   There were lots more but we had a lot of good and loud music at home.  The first music I sang at home was all English, long before I could understand what they were saying.

Alan    Did you always want to become a musician?

Ana     I really loved it ever since I was a kid.  My Dad had jam sessions at home and I was always very jealous of them being able to play and really wanted to learn to play the guitar so that I could play just one song in a jam session.  The song I learned turned out to be an Elmore James song and it turned out that they didnít have a slide player so I got the job!  I started playing late when I was about 13 or 14 and I started by learning one of the solos by Albert King.  Of course when you start the jam sessions you naturally want to move on and you want to gig.  Then when you have one gig, you want more and somehow it just happens that you become a musician.  I didnít really plan it but it happened naturally out of my passion and it being the thing I always wanted to do the most.

Alan    You have such a diversity of techniques and styles Ė what is your favourite?

Ana     I donít think I can say one in particular?  I grew up with the blues of course and I love to hear the blues players the most but I just love music in general.  When I hear somebody do something good I donít like to classify it.  If I hear passion in it and somebody playing with his heart, whether itís jazz, blues, fusion, or anything, I just love it.  I probably have the most understanding for blues and know the most about it because I listened to it for such a long time but I studied jazz and world music at the Conservatory [in the Netherlands] and that really broadened my views, especially about the sound.  Blues is limited in rhythm, sound and scales but studying other types of music have opened my views about possibilities and Iím happy to put that into my view of blues and that has possibly modern music needs.

Alan    Who are your favourite artists?

Ana     I donít have a favourite artist although I like several from different music backgrounds but I purposely never wanted to pick one and just sit with the headphones on trying to sound like him.  I didnít want to sound like anybody or copy anybody.  The top 5 or 6 that I love include Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King (my big influence), Ronnie Earl, Albert Collins and Howliní Wolf.   Iím really into modern guitarists as well and really love people like Kevin Eubanks and George Benson.

© Copyright 2009 Ana Popović. All Rights Reserved.Alan    Who influenced you most in your singing and song-writing?

Ana     When I was younger I used to sing along to Howliní Wolf records but then I decided to try to find my own sound.  I never studied singing, it just came naturally and in the last couple of years  Iíve been really trying to see what Ana Popovićís voice sounds like.  Itís dangerous simply trying to imitate the old blues players because they are older, probably black and they just have different backgrounds and sounds.  Iím not really going after that sound but Iím going after what is really me.   So, I would say that nobody really influenced me that much and what you hear is Ana Popović.

As for song-writing, itís probably the same story.  I really like good song-writing such as Sting or a lot of the pop artists probably because they are more story tellers than the blues writers.  Blues is more of a feel with a lot of lines repeating and is basically the art of saying a lot with a few sentences.  Iím not really that kind of a writer Ė Iím a broad story telling writer and Iím definitely picking up modern subjects from the things I see around me.  Certainly in the last couple of years Iíve been really busy saying a message and really trying to find out what I want to say to the people who are listening.  If itís going to be on  record and heard year after year after year, it has to be something that I feel strongly about and has to be a modern subject that I think about frequently and it shouldn't be "woke up this morning feeling bad or have the blues or because this is just the style that I live", my song-writing is more about modern subjects.

Alan    Are there any particular songs that have special meaning for you?

Ana     Oh yes, many of them, especially on the last couple of records.  When I first started recording in the States I was more after an American style and I wanted to sing the songs that reminded me of blues standards and of Americana.  But the last two records were where I could sing about what I really wanted to say to people so there a lot of political songs about my time in Serbia, there are songs about people from third world countries struggling to do what they really want to do in life, struggling to survive and putting their primal wish on what they want to do.  That really touches me.  Between Our Worlds and Still Making History talk about that and with Shadow after Dark I always get goose-bumps when I play that because it touches me a lot talking about student demonstrations in Belgrade when I was a student and how we were using our valuable time being young to try to change politics at the time, but I now believe that is a waste of time and waste of years.  I moved to Amsterdam soon after that but a lot of people stayed there and I feel that they wasted their years trying to change the government. 

Then of course there are a lot of other types of song that have special meaning, such as those about time and getting older, your parents getting older, about the real values in life. For example on Blind for Love I have a couple of songs that ask about the most important thing in life.  For me, I really wanted to be famous and successful but rich or poor it doesnít really matter and in the end if you are not loved and you donít feel love around you then you cannot be truly happy, no matter how successful or rich or poor you are.  I also dealt with the birth of my son so there are a couple of songs about that including a lullaby for him on the new record.  Then there are songs about my view on celebrity lives such as Lives that Donít Exist.  All the records are different and this is what I like.

Alan    You were the first European to perform at the WC Handy Awards Ė tell me about it.

Ana     It was really a dream come true and it was my first record in the States.  It was the first year I had a couple of festivals lined up in America and of course the whole auditorium was fabulous with all the truly great names in blues and there was me playing!  Not all the nominees played then, although they do now, so at that time it was really special for the nominees to play.  I had a couple of songs to play, it was a big stage, a big production and full of the people I really admire in the audience.  Iíd been living the blues and reading the magazines since I was a kid so to meet all these people was just amazing. 

Alan    Tell me about your own gigs with the blues legends such as Junior Wells and Buddy Guy.

Ana     I played with Buddy Guy a couple of times and that was wonderful.  I opened up for Junior Wells back home in Serbia just before he died.  That was my first opening show for a legend and I had been very influenced by his music so that was another dream come true.  Since then Iíve had a lot of jam sessions with Buddy Guy, Solomon Burke and I opened up for  BB King a month ago which was a wonderful experience.  I particularly remember playing in Legends and when Buddy Guy came on stage that was very special.  Ronnie Earle came to one of my shows and jammed with me, one of my biggest influences on guitar.

© Copyright 2009 Ana Popović. All Rights Reserved.Alan    How healthy do you think the blues scene is in Europe compared with the US?

Ana     I just think that the two markers are completely different and we shouldnít compare.  Europe has wonderful festivals and big shows and they do keep the tradition but I feel really free when Iím in the US and I feel that they really understand what Iím talking about.  Thereís also a language barrier in that I feel people completely understand the lyrics in England and the States but in the rest of Europe I see them enjoying music and we have some fabulous shows, but the full understanding is missing.  Thatís why I keep going back to the States and this is where I feel it is my place and where they are very open minded to new influences.  But the change is so important to me and I love playing in all countries.  I could never play in the same country all the time.

Alan    On May 5th last year Luke arrived (the day before my birthday!).  How do you manage with being a mother and touring?

Ana     Iím very happy about how it has all gone because I was hearing so many different stories and everybody around me was saying that itís not possible to do both.  But Luke  was a very easy-going baby and he went on tour when he was 5 weeks old.  I had a 4 month break but that was just so long for me without being on stage and the moment I felt good again (3 weeks after his birth) I went back to playing.  Being on tour with him was really very easy because as a mother and musician I got to enjoy him far more than a mother who works in an office.  I get to enjoy him all day long and when he sleeps I go and play so he doesnít even notice Iíve gone.  I had very good people around me who set everything up on stage and I had a lot of help from my family and partner at the hotel so it all went perfectly.  But nowadays I donít really want to do that so I limit the tours and itís a good excuse to just do the clubs I like to do and obviously I do all the festivals in the summer.  I always combine it with a vacation for Luke so now we are going to two festivals then weíll have a vacation in Canada then weíll do another week of touring.  But in the wintertime I only do the weekends and the rest of the week Iím with him.  Last winter I was with him and I was writing and practising and thatís when Blind for Love happened, the whole record was written in a couple of months with the baby.  It's possible and it's really very nice.

Alan    How do you see the future of blues music?

Ana     I think there will always be people who will want to play and respect the roots and there will always be people who try something new and come back to the roots.  The roots of blues are luckily recorded and available all over the world, and I think there will be more and more people who are influenced by it and fall in love with this style.  It will go both ways in that a lot of new things will come out of the roots and there will be people who will carry on researching it.  My way is always trying something new but making sure there are a couple of roots blues songs on every show which are played exactly like they should be played Ė simple and right to the point.  I keep my touch on the roots by playing some acoustic stuff, Elmore Jones, Howliní Wolf, T-Bone Walker on every show. Then I give myself freedom to go and explore different styles but  I make sure I don't forget the roots.

Alan    What about future plans?  Any plans for the UK tour?

Ana     We do have a tour planned for April and May 2010 and Iím really looking forward to that.  I love English audiences because they are critical and a challenge - and I love a challenge!  I guess theyíve seen so much great stuff and itís great to try to win that audience.  Itís a much tougher audience than America.   There is a still a great line up of artists still coming out of England who I have great respect for.

Alan    Ana, thank you very much for your time and I really look forward to seeing you in the UK next year.

Alan White  -  earlyblues.com

© Copyright 2009 Ana Popović. All Rights Reserved.





Blind For Love  / Ana Popovic / Eclecto Groove Records
© Copyright 2009 Ana Popović. All Rights Reserved.

Ana Popovic: vocals & guitars
Ronald Jonker:
Andrew Thomas:
Mike Finnigan:
Tony Braunagel:
drums, percussion, background vocals
Lenny Castro:
Darrell Leonard:
Joe Sublett:
Julie Delgado, Kenna Ramsey, Billy Valentine:
background vocals

01. Nothing Personal (3:35)
02. Wrong Woman (3:43)
03. Steal Me Away (3:30)
04. Blind For Love (3:13)
05. More Real (3:35)
06. Putting Out The APB (3:47)
07. Get Back Home To You (3:32)
08. The Only Reason (3:52)
09. Part of Me (Lullaby For Luuk) (3:14)
10. Lives That Don't Exist (3:53)
11. Need Your Love (3:20)
12. Blues For M (5:23)



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© Copyright 2009 Ana Popović. All Rights Reserved.

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