Ana Popovic By Lori Smerilson Carson February 2, 2023 Ana Popovic By: Lori Smerilson Carson Out of dark situations, comes bright rays of light for hope, positivity and empowerment. Guitarist, Singer, Songwriter Ana Popovic has grown her music career advocating for women to be empowered, and now this extraordinarily talented, world renown musician has taken this task to another level. Two years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but with the help of her Bassist/Musical Director Buthel Burns, she battled her way back to health while writing and recording new music to create her latest album, Power. Since the release of her debut solo album Hush! in 2001, she has been nominated for eight Blues Music Awards, has several albums that have charted on the Billboard Blues Charts Top Five. She was the only female guitarist in the 2014-2018 all-star Experience Hendrix tribute and she and her band have shared stages with world-renown artists B.B. King, Jeff Beck, Joe Bonamassa, Gary Clark Jr. and several others. They are still going strong and South Florida fans have the opportunity to catch this amazing show on April 13th at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, FL and on April 14th at the Tampa Bay Blues Fest in St. Petersburg, FL. Catching up with Popovic just prior to her tour, she revealed some details about her new album, some of the new songs, the new show, and what fans can look forward to. SFL Music: The last time we spoke in 2020, we discussed your LIKE IT ON TOP album (released in 2018) and now you have Power that is due to be released on May 5th. I love the album cover. What inspired that? Ana Popovic: Well, definitely unity. Unity is what this world needs. Unity is what will save this world and that’s across the globe. It not just reserved for one continent or one country. It’s just really where we all mentally you know, we need to go that direction in every way. More acceptance and really try to kind of put yourself in other people’s shoes. All across the globe. I think that in music, in art, in life, just in everyday life, unity is what this world needs. That was of course, the original idea for this cover and I had that for a very long time and really, it was also a nod to our music style, to our sound which is black and white. I come from Serbia and I was loving and playing American music and African American sound ever since I started playing guitar. So, that was my sound always. This particular record we went little more that direction, I would think. There’s a strong Detroit sound. There’s a strong Texas sound to it and obviously, my friend Buthel, who I don’t know if you read the story, is crucial for this cover of course, ‘cause well yeah, that’s the lowest moment, really of my life. I would say this was the most difficult two years. That’s where he stepped in and really kind of pulled me through using music. Music is what I fell back on, and our sound and the new sound of course. I’ve been in this business for twenty years. I made many records, and I’m proud to say that every record had a different sound and this sound, I haven’t had yet. He’s probably the motor behind this and of course my willingness to, with all my sorrows and you know, my fight and my insecurity, behind music. I was just like, just trust in our project. Trusting my intuition about this album. Trusting the songs. Trusting our story and together we’re stronger, and this is the sound that we want to present. SFL Music: I want to ask you about some of the songs on the album, but first, I’m sorry you had to go through cancer treatments. I’m glad that you’re doing well. Popovic: Yeah, that’s definitely in the past and hopefully it’s going to stay in the past. In the meantime, I played one hundred and fifty shows and I put this record out and finished the recordings. SFL Music: What inspired the song “Doin’ This”? You stated in your bio it was the joy of creating something to make people happy. Was that what inspired the song or how did it come about? Popovic: Buthel and I started writing songs a while ago and “Doin’ This” particularly is really an awe to music itself and what it brings to people and what it brings to us and again, I’ve been doing this for a long time, but the joy of making music has not diminished whatsoever. I think to the contrary, it increased because in the meantime, I could surround myself with people that I need to create what I need to create and the right musicians from both sides of the ocean. I am producing my records. I am making my music videos. I’m directing my music videos. I’m even starting to play drums. I’m just taking music on a new level and “Doin’ This” really is saying that. No matter how long you’re in this business, this is what you really basically want to do and the bottom line is, I’m not doing it for the press. I’m not doing it for what people gonna say about it on social medias. I’m just doing it for me and for people that this is going to bring joy to, and this is what the song talks about. This is so good and we need to make more of this and send it to people so they can enjoy it and obviously, it doesn’t have to be limited to this particular record, but it’s just joy or whatever your passion is. It can be painting. It can be making art. It can be making whatever it is that you do. Really embracing your gift and what your passion is in life and just enlighten people’s day with what you do. Not just music, anything. SFL Music: That’s very inspirational. What about the ballad “Luv’n Touch”? What inspired that one? Popovic: Well, “Luv’n Touch”, I think it’s the most, maybe most touch of gospel on the whole record, and I wanted to write a love song. It can be a love song. It can be whatever that feeling is that you want. You want a touch of that person or whatever it is that gets you through the day. Bottom line is to me when I was writing it, it was more like a relationship where you know, it’s not always easy and you have to make it work, but somedays, you don’t want to fight. You don’t want to argue, don’t want to go, who’s right. Just be quiet and be here with me, and take this day or this evening with me and just hold my hand and everything will be better. It’s like that moment. Every song has a specific moment in time that you want to capture, right? So, for me, that was it. For Buthel, who’s very religious, maybe for something else, but the fun part about writing together is that everybody can pull out whatever memory they have and whatever really is very close to your heart and write about it, and you know, you or somebody else will experience the song differently, but that was definitely my background for the song. Which by the way is one of my favorites, if not favorite on the record. SFL Music: You were doing this while you were receiving your treatment. I found it very interesting that you were traveling back and forth from Amsterdam to L.A. during your treatment. Is the medical treatment better? Popovic: Oh well, that was just the way we set it up. I live in both Amsterdam and Los Angeles. I’ve got two residences and that was just how it was. However, it was set up and last minute of course. We didn’t have time to lose, so that’s just how it was set up. I did travel a lot back and forth. It was also time of pandemic and my band, one of the bands that wanted to play, and we had no other way of surviving the pandemic than playing. So, we would take all the concerts that would come in and me, I decided to fight a quiet fight. I didn’t want to alert people. I didn’t want nobody’s opinion. I don’t want to scare the band, we playing, we’re not playing, agents. There’re so many people involved in our work. It was easier for me to say this to a few people and I mean, really few people. Then the next problem was like ok, I need to make that treatment. I need to make it back in time for the studio. I need to make it back in time for the concert. I need to go to the shops, find some wigs ‘cause my look wasn’t anymore what it used to be, and you need to deal with these things. If you take time for treatment, you can do it any way you want it. I chose to not change anything about my life and keep going with concerts. Keep going with recordings. I mean, band didn’t know anything about it. It was interesting times for sure. I wanted to make it work and I wanted to make it work in the ways that nobody would notice and of course, you notice because they know how I look and if I show up with a wig, somethings up, but then again you know, lets embrace wigs. Wigs were in the lives of African-American women forever and in these times, it might help some people like me to get through it and you can still work, if you can. You don’t have to do much explanations. That was the point behind this whole thing. I want to empower women to you know, your life. You don’t have to explain anything if you don’t want to and I think if you feel strong, you should go on with what you do and when the time comes, you can do explaining or whatever. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. This was just my way to do it and it helped me not cancel any concerts. It helped me not answer any difficult questions. I needed all the strength that I had to play one hundred and fifty shows and record this record. It gave me exactly what the title said. It gave me so much power. Music, and the fact that I didn’t stop what I love to do, gave me all this power. SFL Music: That is amazing, and a lot of the writing you did over Zoom because of the pandemic, right? Popovic: On yeah. I would squeeze in a weekend to go to Texas. That’s where my band is. They live there, so I would go to Dallas, do some demos. We would meet up in Detroit. We’d meet down in Florida. When the songwriting started it was pandemic, but we still would play some shows. Social distance shows. Even European tour, social distance. We would get together and write and perform. SFL Music: The song “Queen of The Pack”, how did that song come about? I read there’s a little story behind that. Popovic: How I like to think of this song is if my daughter who’s ten, and she’s literally the boss here in the house and I can leave my house hold to her, no problem. She gets the boys in line. If she would ask me one day, how did you do all that and what should I do? And I think she will be the boss or something. Some kind. This is the answer. That song, I wanted to take it as if somebody would teach a younger generation how to do it, but really how it came about and I think we started that way before the whole thing. That’s one of the songs that we did some demoing and re-demoing and everything, but I had some problems with previous band members in the band and I didn’t like their attitude towards me and I didn’t like what they were playing. You see, I am fronting a highly trained band. I mean, we are just so good live. This is a total show off with every musician onstage and I want to keep it that way, and you see they call me the boss lady and I laugh to death, but somewhere, you have to find a thin line between ok, you’re their friend, but at the same time you need them to be on their hundred percent, every night, and I need to demand that from them. So, we had some troubles and those people are no longer in my band, but it was a rough night and we had some fights and I didn’t like what they were playing, and the next morning, I usually have a walk with Buthel, go to Starbucks, and we’re sitting at Starbucks in the morning and he said, “well, you got to crack that whip. You’re the queen of the pack.” I was like, what did you just say? Really a lot about our songwriting is that he just says super cool things and I write them down and then we develop them in songs. The fun part is, he really never almost wrote a song in his life until we started writing, and then we turned it to a full-on record with two of us and it’s been very exciting ‘cause I co-wrote with many songwriters, very successful songwriters in the past, and there’s something about stuff that he says that I find very unusual, and I love unusual. I don’t want to repeat stuff that I hear in other people’s songs, you know what I mean? There’s a lot of national songwriters, they just are like cookie cutters and I just love to say stuff that I haven’t heard before. So, a lot of the sentences that you will find like “strong taste for the get down” and “queen of the pack” and “live the ride until our wheels fall off.” That’s all him saying crazy stuff (she laughed) and I just write it down and then we talk about it and we write a song about it. Yeah, so that’s really the basic, and there’s so many women in music now and I want them to feel as they’re the queen of the pack. You need to take that title serious I think, and you need to do it justice. I want them to be fearless and I want them to take that on like a man should, and better (she laughed). SFL Music: Yes, and I know we discussed that the last time we spoke. You were such an inspiration for empowering women and that was important in your music. Is that also what went into “Rise Up!”? Popovic: Well, “Rise Up!” is the only song we haven’t written. Somebody else wrote that, but when I heard those lyrics, when I heard the song and it sounded so different. So different than what we did musically. We took it to a whole other level that really was so perfect for this record and also for the situation I was in, but also for the fact that this is what we need in the world today. The unity, the Black Lives Matter. While I was doing this record, of course there was a lot of problems in the Black Lives Matter movement. Women in the Middle East. All of this. Homeless people on the streets of Los Angeles wherever you look. There’s just so much we have to fix about this world and “Rise Up!” really spoke to me and I wanted to put very strong and fearless music behind those lyrics. Again, we took it somewhere totally different musically, and I think it’s one of my favorite baselines on the whole record is what Buthel put on “Rise Up!”, and that groove is just very hip, I think. At the same time, kind of retro and definitely Black sound to it. I think it fits lyrics perfectly. SFL Music: What would you recommend to a young up-and-coming musician? Popovic: There’s so much freedom nowadays for a new upcoming musician and I think that’s a wonderful thing about this time. I always like to be in the present. I like to be in how the future gonna look. Like I’m very much into that and nowadays, there’re certain things that can help you with your career that we didn’t have back in the day, and I think that at the same time, the business is very demanding ‘cause nowadays you got to be everything. You got to be a great songwriter and you got to be a great singer, and you got to do the social medias right and you got to manage yourself the right way. So, in a lot of ways its more difficult than it was back then, but if you know how to maneuver it, I guess you can really take everything in your own hands if your talented for business and music. And I think it’s an inspirational time. People ask me, “if you can be born again, when would you like to?” Then people go back to “oh yeah, I would like to be in the seventies or I would like to be in the eighties.” I’m like, this is the good times! Music is great! It’s very open. You can take it anywhere you want. The most beautiful part is, you can record it on your iPhone at home. I mean, there’s rappers that do that with two iPhones and how wonderful is that? And they make it sound amazing! Of course, the most important thing, be yourself. Bring something new to the table. Don’t be afraid to be exactly yourself, no matter what people say. SFL Music: That’s great advice. What can fans look forward to with the new show? Popovic: Well, we can’t wait for a new show. We had a single show for quite a few years now and it was so much fun to play, and we got those horn parts and guitar parts, they were so tight. Everything was kind of flowing. It was a full proof show wherever we would go. No matter which continent. People would react the same. It was just a strong show and we just want to make it with these songs as well. I think as far as the songs go, they’re much easier to put in a show in a matter of its going to be so much fun to play them. They already got such good hook lines and great parts and a lot of vocal parts. Like “Doin’ This” is a great live song. We can go crazy on that. “Queen of The Pack” has got a great pocket and there’s soul songs like “Deep Down”, the gambler song, “Turn My Luck”. Those are all just, I think fun songs to play. So, tomorrow I’m leaving for Texas. We got a few days of rehearsals and really our idea is to change the show completely. I don’t know when ‘cause I’m very particular. It needs to be very good before we really change the whole set, and then we can always fall back on a few songs from the previous, but yeah, we’re all looking forward to new songs. SFL Music: You said you were learning to play drums. Are you going to play drums? Popovic: Yeah, I don’t think so (she laughed). It’s really been great for de-stressing. I mean, I have to say if I started it sooner, maybe I would’ve been a drummer, but I’m very particular about drums and I want great drummers onstage and I’m not one of those. So, it’s been awesome. I can jam on drums for hours at home which I do sometimes. It does help me with my guitar pocket and phrasing and chords. I think every guitar player that wants to play in the pocket, it wouldn’t hurt to sit behind the drums and just kind of figure out some stuff. It’s been helping me a lot. Of course, it’s very good when you want to explain to your drummer or with a new song, where you want what kind of groove. Where you want the snare, where you want to high hat. I think it’s gonna be very helpful in the future for me. SFL Music: The last time we spoke you talked about how you and your dad would jam on guitar and you brought your son into it. Is he still playing? Popovic: Yeah, he plays drums now. He’s the one that actually gets drum lessons (she laughed), and I steal some of his new stuff. He is very musical, so I really am hoping, I’m feeding it to him and I always tell him, you know, young generation is so busy. They got water polo, they got tennis, they got bands, they got everything and I’m thinking, just leave a little space for music in your time, in your heart. You’re gonna benefit from it one day. You know nowadays, it’s all sports, sport, but man, you got to find time for some music. SFL Music: One of your hobbies is interior design? Popovic: Mm-hmm. SFL Music: How did that come about? Popovic: Oh well, I always loved interior. I’m crazy about it. I always looked at those interior magazines when I’m on the road and got nothing to do. I follow what’s going on and I designed my whole home because at that same time we’re talking while this whole thing was going on, our Manhattan Beach super-duper modern design home was being done, and it was being done by me ‘cause my husband and I, we did the whole interior for that, and it’s some sort of a show case for European modern here in Los Angeles. Then a few times, I would help people with their design and it’s just something I like. You know, going through cancer and everything, that kind of also opened my eyes that life is in a way too short to just be interested in one thing. Just give yourself possibility to be interested in five or whatever. I mean, as long as it doesn’t interfere with my music. We still were able to do one hundred fifty shows, but on the side, I was doing interior. I was thinking interior. I started playing drums. There’s so much you can do. A lot of times, I read about it also, in these kinds of situations, it does make you rethink things in your life and yeah, I’m more cautious I guess with my time and I just want to use it correctly. I want to be there for the kids of course ‘cause when I’m home, I’m full-on mom. I mean, you will never see me at a jam session or anything. This is what I do when I’m home and at the same time while they’re at school, I’ve got time to do what my passion is. Of course, music in the first place and then there’s a few other things that I like. SFL Music: You mentioned directing your videos. Are they any new videos for fans to look forward to? Popovic: Yes, of course. Yeah, we got a gamblers video coming up for “Turn My Luck” that I directed. It’s a super fun music video where Buthel and I, we rob a bank and we’re gambling and we’re trying to find means to keep gambling which is really not what we do at all, but it was just so fun, and we were always laughing. He’s like, one day I’m gonna rob a bank and become a millionaire. I was like well, there’s your chance now, so let’s do it. So, we did it. I worked with a team of camera people, so I direct the music video and I tell them exactly what I want. They were like man, a lot of people want to do it, but when the time comes, they’re like, it’s too scary or maybe the police will come ‘cause we were in front of the bank here in Los Angeles with our masks on and stuff like that. The music video was too much fun to direct, and another one’s coming out just before February 14th. Just before Valentine’s Day. It’s actually gonna be premiered on February 10th and it’s a video for the song “Recipe Is Romance” and that one I pulled out all my good Alexander McQueen and Givenchy dresses and I just wanted to go full on, good looking, self-assured, sexy ‘cause I want to make a point out of like ok, if you come across such difficult times in your life as a women, you can look down and say ok, a year from now I can be doing this. I can feel self-assured. I can look sexy. I can look attractive. There’s no reason why not. You got to embrace your new self. Maybe it’s not what you imagined at this time in your life, but it is your new self and you got to embrace it, and you got to run with it and make the best out of it. I wanted this particular music video before Valentine’s Day. It’s like, she’s preparing this romantic dinner and she’s looking her best and yeah, it’s a fun video, so I encourage you to take a look at it. In these kind of situations, first of all, women get this kind of news all over the globe every day. I mean, a lot of them in different countries get left by their partners which is very sad, and left to fight this fight alone, and my message with this music video “Recipe Is Romance” is you can really embrace your new beginning and you can embrace yourself no matter how your hair looks like and how your wigs, no wigs. If you’re strong enough, you should embrace that. So yeah, we’ll see. Hopefully people will like it. Share It!