Ana Popovic: ‘This album was more about that than the #MeToo campaign’

Ana Popovic
Ana Popovic
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In the run up to her first ever gig in Leeds, Terry Caster chatted with Serbian-born blues star Ana Popovic.

The guitarist, singer and songwriter is touring the UK in May 2019 and will play the Leeds Brudenell Social Club on Thursday May 9. Her most recent album, Like It On Top, focuses on empowered, successful, inspiring female role models.

Recorded in Nashville and produced by four-time Grammy winner Keb’ Mo’, the blues influenced album features guest appearances from Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Robben Ford and Keb’ Mo’.

I think this will be your biggest tour in the UK and first visit to Leeds?

“Yes, it will. I’m really excited for it. Normally we come for just one or two shows, but this gives us a stretch of time to enjoy your beautiful country!”

You’re in the middle of a long tour to promote the new album – how’s it going?

“It’s going really well, thank you, we’re really happy with the interest in the album and it’s a good moment to release an album like that, with such themes and it is the right time and lot of people love it, and not just females, men too. We’ve been touring back and forward and it has been a bit different because I haven’t stopped writing, which I usually do after releasing a record. I normally give myself a year so I can chill out a bit and not have to worry about writing. But this time I’ve kept writing and that’s a good thing get the next record ready and we’re also wanting to do a live album at some point this year, so that’s good.”

Would you say the new album is your #MeToo album?

“Oh no, not only, it’s basically just about the opportunities and about the equal pay that was going on. Really it was influenced by the thought of I’m doing what used to be considered a male job and I got a band and promoters and people that work for me and then on top of all that trying to have enough shows every year – and I have been playing a steady amount of 120 shows per year for twenty years or so now – which now I have the family is kind of hard to juggle, but at the same time people depend on you. So I was inspired by thinking how it must be for these women who are leading these huge companies, being one of these businesswomen who are really on top with hundreds and hundreds of employees, and they have to juggle their families. Also there’s a growing number of families where a man decides to stay at home and help with the kids and the woman is the one who helps with the career and brings the money in. There’s lots of examples in Holland and California [two places where Ana has lived]. I’m thinking it should be a fair choice, if a man and a woman do the same job, then they should be paid the same. So it was more about that than the #MeToo campaign, but the album does have songs about domestic violence and a variety of issues that women particularly have to deal with.

You’ve played with some pretty incredible people – is there anyone you would want to play with in a fantasy band?

“Well, Hendrix of course would be wonderful, and Jaco [Pastorius] would be wonderful. Of course Eric Clapton is still around and that would be a lovely surprise. You know I have played with so many of my heroes, so for instance when I was 13 I had a backstage pass signed by Buddy Guy in Belgrade, Serbia. I was just starting to play guitar and wow, just the thought that you could share a stage with someone who is such an amazing blues artist and a legend from the States, and I’m from Serbia!

“It’s been a long road and I’m just enjoying it, playing with Sonny Landreth who is one of my favourite slide players and has played on my record. Then Joe Bonamassa and Robben Ford just now on the latest album. It is just so nice to have the chance to play with these people, probably one of the best parts of doing what I am, making records.”

You mainly play Stratocasters, from what I can see?

“Yes, that’s right. I have an original ’64 Stratocaster I bought from Gruhn’s, which is a fantastic music store in Nashville. I do have a few other guitars and I’m working on my signature model, which I’m working on with Fender, which is very exciting because I’m not really a collector, so I play Fenders, but I don’t really order a lot of things because I don’t want them to just sit around, so I am happy with my ’64 as my main guitar and an inspiration for me which takes me places. You know, when I pick up a different one, say a custom shop, it just doesn’t give me that same inspiration so I go straight back to the ’64! But it is going to be fun to build one just for me! You know John Cruz is a Master Builder in their custom ship and working one on one with him on a custom guitar is fantastic. Also it isn’t too far from where I am, so I can drive back and forth to the factory and get involved in it, which is great. I have a few acoustics and I like vintage amps too. Oh and an interesting guitar – a Hamilton – which is a bit obscure and I like it.”

You’ve just come back from a seafood, jazz and blues festival – sounds great.

“It was. The weather stayed good, and we’re just back from a French tour which was really good. It keeps the bank manager happy.”

Tickets for Ana Popovic’s May 2019 UK tour, with special guest Ben Poole, are available via: www.thegigcartel.com, 0844 478 0898