By Isadora Rangel
Ana Popovic was born in former communist Yugoslavia and yet she thinks she learned about blues music before most Americans. Ask her about her earliest childhood memories and you hear how she used to pretend she ran a record store and memorized the names of legends such as Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert King. Or maybe about the time she tracked down Buddy Guy and asked for his autograph after a show in Belgrade when she was 13. Popovic, who was influenced by her father's love of blues, left her native country long ago to tour the world as a blues guitar player and singer. She even encountered Guy again, this time to play with him on stage.
On Sunday, the 36-year-old will bring her act to The Lyric Theatre. Popovic mixes the soulfulness of the blues with rock 'n' roll's sex appeal. She gets lost in guitar riffs on stage while sporting short dresses or leather pants and untamed blond hair. The cover of her eighth and latest album, "Unconditional," shows her undressed behind her guitar.
The singer calls "Unconditional" the best album in her 14-year career. I think blues is a very bold genre that stands the test of time," Popovic said. "It's a genre that requires someone well aware of what they know. It means less is more." Popovic left her native country, now Serbia, when she was a teenager to study music in Amsterdam. She lives in Memphis when she's not touring the U.S. and the rest of the globe, stopping in places most people would not picture as blues hubs. She recently played in India and Indonesia, where her concert was delayed by hours because the stage had to be blessed by Indonesian gods before any shows took place. "It's amazing to go to these places and see how much people know about blues," she said.
Offstage, Popovic is a mother of two who plans her tours around her family. She comes to Stuart with her 4-year-old son and 3-month-old daughter, as she does on every tour. She said she has visited virtually every children's museum and park in towns she has performed. "I think a mother musician probably spends more time with her kids if arranged the way I did than a mom working in the office," she said.
To write "Unconditional" as blues singers did "back in the day," Popovic rented a house near the French Quarter in New Orleans and took time to perfect lyrics and music. It's classic blues music, but it's not about her "blues." "You need to write like they did back in the day. But you really cannot write about 'I woke up this morning feeling bad' because you didn't," Popovic said. "I love the way I live, and my life is not hard at all."