Guitarist/vocalist Ana Popovic will bring her band to Sellersville Theater in support of her latest album “Trilogy” (Artist Exclusive, 2016), her most ambitious recording to date. The three-disc package features three distinct styles of music — funk/soul, jazz and rock/blues.
Popovic found American blues music in of all places Serbia (formerly Yugoslavia), where she was born and raised. She got hooked on the music at a young age and started playing guitar at age 15.
“My dad had records… and he’s a big blues fan, so we grew up just listening to that,” explained Popovic in a telephone interview from her home in Los Angeles.
“I started listening to Albert King, Albert Collins, Elmore James, Stevie Ray Vaughan, B.B. King. Buddy Guy, Ronnie Earl. Those are the people that really influenced my playing. Basically, I really liked everything from Delta blues, Chicago blues (and) Texas blues and I listened to it on a daily basis. Ever since I was three or four years old I remember listening to those musicians.”
Popovic explained that her father “would make sure whoever was traveling abroad would (bring) some of the records back home, so we always had the newest stuff.”
Popovic left Serbia to study jazz guitar in Amsterdam and that is when her musical career began to take off. She got a record deal with Germany’s Ruf Records and she was touring in Europe and in the U.S. It wasn’t long before she was making a name for herself. Finally, five years ago, she moved to the U.S. — first to Memphis, where she lived for four years, and then to Los Angeles.
If you haven’t seen Popovic with her band yet, you may have seen her on the Experience Hendrix tour, which she has done every year since 2014. She said she feels honored to be able to play alongside renowned guitarists including Buddy Guy, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Eric Johnson, Dweezil Zappa and others.
“It’s amazing to see how all of them are really down to earth and… not competitive. Everyone’s real humble and everyone’s real helpful.”
She added: “I’m hoping I’m going to open the doors to more women in the future and not only on the Hendrix tour… there is always such a majority of male players, so I’m hoping that’s going to change.
“Trilogy,” Popovic’s eighth release, was a long time in the making. She explained the process of seeing this ambitious project through to its completion.
“(I thought) I could potentially do a record that showcases just one side of me and then wait a little bit and do a record that showcases something totally different. Then, I came to the idea that maybe I should bring it out all at the same time and have people listen to different sounds and different moods. I thought, ‘You know what? The way the music business is going, in the future I don’t even know if we’re going to be really seeing records, let alone a trilogy and three CDs in one,’ so I thought this was my last chance and I better get on it.’”
Popovic said it took a long time just to refine the concept and determine what styles of music would work well together and which songs to include in the collection.
Popovic first recorded the funk and soul volume in Memphis and New Orleans.
“I thought that went so smooth I was ready for more and I didn’t want to wait, so I booked the jazz session right after that and I recorded that in New Orleans and New York City.”
Finally the blues and rock volume was recorded in Nashville and Memphis.
“The idea behind ‘Trilogy’ (was to) handpick musicians, which I did. I handpicked the producers… to give me exactly what I was looking for. The jazzy sound for the jazz sessions. I write a lot of jazz songs, but I never had them recorded by the real jazz pros, so that was such an eye opener for me (having) such incredible musicians.”
The producer of the jazz set is Delfeayo Marsalis. The other producers are Warren Riker (Lauryn Hill, Carlos Santana) for the funk/soul disc and Grammy Award winner Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy) for the blues disc. Among the personnel are renowned artists Joe Bonamassa, Robert Randolph, Cody Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars) and others.
Though Popovic used different personnel on the three discs, she explained that her touring band will be able to perform all three styles of music live.
“In my band the musicians play all of the styles, and that is a nice thing,” said Popovic. “I have a European band and an American band, and both of these bands have a long history in the jazz world. We play most of the things from ‘Trilogy’ and from the previous album, ‘Can You Stand the Heat’ (In-Akustik, 2013).” Opening for Popovic will be Philadelphia’s Greg Sover Band.