Bruce Springsteen called her “One hulluva guitar player.” She was the only female guitar player invited to play in the All-Star Hendrix Experience, a national tour celebrating the music and legacy of another helluva guitar player, Jimi Hendrix. She is Ana Popovic, Lyric favorite and fiery performer who didn’t come to the blues in an ordinary way.
Popovic grew up in Belgrade, Serbia, in the former Yugoslavia. Music was an important part of her life as her father was a musician and often invited friends to jam. Although she grew up in the oppressive Milosevic regime, she was able to study guitar privately and before she was 20, had started her own band, Hush. They performed all over Yugoslavia, and with the fall of Communism, she was able to travel throughout Europe. She studied at the Conservatory in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and eventually signed a record deal with a German company.
In 1999, Popovic formed the Anna Popovic Band and began gaining international attention with her blend of electric funk and slide guitar, jazzy instrumental and soulful blues. By 2009, two of her albums reached the Billboard Blues Chart.
Popovic is very aware of her role as an international artist and a representative of women. “I grew up in Serbia, but my childhood was nice,” she said. “Later on, by the time I left, it was a difficult time for the family I left behind. I left at the right moment. I moved to Holland and studied jazz and world music. I was traveling to both sides of the ocean and was the first international, central European artist to be nominated for an American Blues Award. That’s when my career really started. I’m very fortunate and thankful to the audience. It’s wonderful to be acknowledged for this work, and it’s a huge honor to represent women and Europeans who come here to play.”
The Hendrix tour has been another outlet for her representation of women. “I’m representing women and it’s a great thing,” she said. “I’m hoping they’ll include more women. I’m here to open doors. There were women before me and it got easier with time. I wanted to play and have my own sound, not male or female. Younger women come to my shows and want to do what I do. That’s wonderful. The guitar is becoming a female instrument and women are taking the lead. I think they can be as successful as men, being business ladies and taking their careers into their own hands.”
Popovic practices what she preaches. She released her album Trilogy on her own label and it was in the Top 10 alongside Eric Clapton and Bonnie Raitt.
The musician stressed that no two shows of hers are the same. “Trilogy has 23 songs to choose from,” she said. “There’s everything from funk to soul to rock and blues and jazz. There’s lots of guitar, melodies, jazzy standards, funk and soul. There’s a little bit for everyone. If you’ve seen other shows before, it’s not the same show. That’s not how we roll. It’s fun for the band and me.”
That makes it fun for the audience, too, and a great night of music.