Interview by Scott Preston
Experience Hendrix Tour
Taft Theatre, 317 E 5th St, Cincinnati, OH
6:30pm doors, 7:30pm show, Buy Tickets
Belgrade-born guitarist Ana Popovic is about to WOW her fans with her most ambitious project yet. With ‘TRILOGY’ (out May 2016) Ana releases three full length albums in one! Twenty-five blues, jazz & funk tunes produced by Grammy Award winner Warren Riker (Lauryn Hill, Carlos Santana), Grammy Award winner Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy, Susan Tedeschi) and Delfeayo Marsalis, one of the top trombonists, composers and producers in jazz today. Guest appearances include Joe Bonamassa, Robert Randolph, Bernard Purdie (The Purdie Shuffle), Cody Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars), rapper Al Capone and many others.
The only female guitarist part of the ‘all-star’ Experience Hendrix ’14 and ’16 line-up about her upcoming record: “In an Era where most are skeptic about the current state and future of the music industry, I wanted TRILOGY to tell a different story. The record biz might be broken and Spotify might rip us off, but that can’t keep an artist down. Creativity is very much alive, and music is the celebration of life.’
TRILOGY highlights in musicianship. Ana’s agile shredding and soulful voice, showing you don’t need Southern roots to create fiery blues, jazz or funk.
Cincy Groove: Tell me about your latest release, which you decided to release as a triple album.
Ana Popovic: All my records in the past are a mix of different styles. More than a few fans have come to me and said they would make a compilation of my songs, but would make an all blues list or an all jazz list. This didn’t just happen once, it happened numerous times. so I started thinking I should release a record thats all funk, one thats all blues, one thats all jazz. This was the first time that I hired an all jazz crew to work on the jazz record. Its been a long time since I studied jazz, the whole approach is different to playing and
song writing. I had to get back my jazz chops from years ago. There was a question whether to release each record one at a time and make people wait or to release them all at once. Our audience is very mixed , they want to hear a mix of different styles. I specifically worked on each song with the right musicians and recorded them in the right studio. The jazz record is the most surprising to me in regards to how well it turned out. I’m really proud of it and I think it will surprise a lot of my fans. There are 3 completely different sounds, 3 different producers worked on them, but when you listen to all three you can hear a connections between them.
cincy Groove: At what point in the process are the records?
Ana Popovic: They are being mastered as we speak and will be released in May. Theres definitely a lot of music for people to listen to.
Cincy Groove: How long did it take you to complete all three records?
Ana Popovic: I started recording in March of last year (2015). I had this idea for a long time. Some songs date from years ago, some songs were written just for this project. I started recording in March in Memphis, recorded in New York and in New Orleans for the jazz record. In New York I got to record with Bernard Purdie, who is the most recorded drummer in the history of music. It was a huge honor to record with him, I also recorded with Herlin Riley, a jazz legend. Branford Marsalis was also on board to help me to put the jazz crew together. I also did the funk songs in New Orleans with a whole different crew, Ivan Neville, George Porter Jr. Joe Bonnamassa and Robert Randolph are each featured on a song. The blues songs I did half between Nashville and Memphis. I had Cody Dickinson working with me on the blues record and even Al Capone, a famous Memphis rap artist came in.
Cincy Groove: Where do you get most of your songwriting done? at home? on the road?
Ana Popovic: Everywhere. Where ever the inspiration hits me. A lot of my scratch songs start from what I recorded on my iPhone while I’m walking around or jogging. It can happen anywhere. My iPhone is a very important tool because you don’t want to miss that original idea or that first melody. Songwriting was a lot of fun with this project because I had a lot of notes on paper that said stuff like from 2 years ago, “jazz ? Producer? drummer? Bernard Purdie?” It was a lot of fun to see all the different ideas fall into place. The subject matter for the songs come from all over the place. I’m inspired by life.
Cincy Groove: I know this isn’t your first time on the “Experience Hendrix” tour, but what is it like to on stage with so many great guitar players?
Ana Popovic: Its an incredible thing and a huge honor. I think every living guitar player has to feel something about that tour. Hendrix really is the only person whose music could unite all these different guitar players and their audiences. I was born to be on that tour, I am a huge Hendrix fan and have played his songs throughout my career. To be called by his family to be on this tour was a honor. There’s something special when you are up on stage and you see Zakk Wylde go out into the crowd while he is playing. He just burns the place down. Its a challenge when I then have to come up after him. But I love a challenge like that, its an adrenaline rush that gets me going.
Cincy Groove: Was there a moment early in your career that made you think that music was probably going to work out for you?
Ana Popovic: I have never said that to myself out loud. Music is a very scary thing, it can swing from one extreme to the other without warning. Its always been my passion and I can’t believe I have been able to do this for as long as I have. Graphic design was my backup plan that I luckily never used. It would be a disaster if I had to do it now since everything is on computers. I studied designed way before computers, where everything was done by hand. I’m very thankful to music for giving me a chance to do what I do.
Cincy Groove: what about the next record?
Ana Popovic: I already have ideas for the next record and I’m not really sure in what direction it will take. I think its really important as an artist to find that new idea or trigger that will let you create something new for your fans.
Cincy Groove: Do you have any pre show rituals to get yourself ready to go on stage?
Ana Popovic: I don’t really do anything, I try to not be stressed about the show. I’m one of the artists who seems to always be low on picks. I’m never really ready (laughing). I just take it easy like its an everyday thing. Its funny to see Eric Johnson just shredding back stage before the show, Dweezil is practicing and I’m just walking around. I take it seriously but I don’t like to put all that pressure on myself before I go on stage and hope someone left some picks on stage.