Ana PopoviÄ may be back soon to perform in Milwaukee (Shank Hall, July 16), but lately she’s got Texas on her mind. Los Angeles-born and current Serbian singer-songwriter and guitarist and her Texas-based band mates decided to use their unexpected free time to work on song ideas.
Without the option of touring last year, which she has been doing for over 20 years, PopoviÄ started writing new songs. “I really enjoyed writing and was going to make Zoom and FaceTime calls with my band, my rhythm section lives in Texas, âPopoviÄ explains.
When the restrictions eased, she traveled to Texas so they could work in person. They improvised in their makeshift studio, using a laptop to record their ideas.
âIt was really about just enjoying making music and exchanging ideas,â she says. âIt was just a long pre-production. We had so much time for pre-production, which is really good because usually you don’t have a lot of time. So we would put some ideas on paper and then come back and save them.
âI’m all about good pre-production these days. You really need it. When it’s time to get into the studio, songs should be ninety-nine percent ready. That’s how I like to work, anyway. I have never had as much time as last year. But it was positive. You have to take the positive things.
New material, new sound
The hope is that the sessions eventually culminate in a new album, which would be his first since 2018. Like his past work, the new material is steeped in guitar-based blues rock, with forays into other styles such as the funk and soul. But she thinks it adds new wrinkles to her sound as well.
âIt’s going to be very different from anything I’ve done before,â she said. âWith each record I try to really touch a new sound and always be true to who I am, which is blues rock and funk, guitar-oriented music and this is the artist that I am. am. So there will be just a little twist to that. My audience knows it, and they expect it with every record. So this one will be no different.
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Likewise, the new songs are also heavily influenced by his time in Texas, in the same way that previous albums were influenced by time spent living or recording in Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, Chicago and Los Angeles. .
âEvery city that I discover musically, I kind of like to take a little memory with me, which is always a CD,â PopoviÄ explains. âI lived in Memphis for three years and did something that was really inspired by Memphis, not only the sound but also the way people live in the city. So I have a record that every time I put it on I remember my life in Memphis, then the same thing about Nashville and the same thing about New Orleans, Los Angeles, Chicago.
âSo now this one is really a mirror of life in Dallas and life in Texas because Texas has amazing musicians in Houston and Austin and Dallas have their own special vibe. And I think it’s going to be captured on this disc for sure.
Before his July 16 show in Milwaukee, the Berger Express caught up with PopoviÄ by phone to talk about his music and the return of live performances.
Throughout your career, you have jumped between blues rock and funk and soul. What do you like most about being able to jump between styles and sometimes merge them?
It’s wonderful to give yourself the freedom, to explore different styles of music. And I think that’s what I’ve been doing since the start of my career on every record. So, it’s just giving yourself the freedom to explore. And as long as that inspiration lasts, I think you’re good as an artist.
And while that inspiration with a new sound and the new search and hear that voice inside of you that you’ve never used before, it’s the biggest driver. It is the biggest motor that you can always find in yourself. I mean, not always, I guess I don’t know how long it lasts, but I’m always very happy when I find a new spark. Like, okay, I hear something and wow, I haven’t touched it before, let me focus on that. And that’s the biggest driver for me, bringing something new to the table.
Last year marked 20 years as a touring musician and you released a live album. What does this important step mean for you, given the distance traveled both professionally and geographically?
Well, it’s a wonderful time, I took 20 years of work, I never had a different job. And that’s really what I just mentioned before, is to continue to find inspiration in different musical styles to be able to renew yourself. I think it’s very easy to be new and new to the scene, and everyone is happy to come and see you, but I think it’s a real success to have people coming back after so many records. and buy records and always be able to bring something new to the table.
We were getting ready to celebrate our 20th birthday and it’s the craziest time because we’ve never had a slow year in 20 years. And we had a full schedule in 2020 when the pandemic hit, which also puts things in perspective of our fragility and how you shouldn’t take anything for granted.
Now, I have always had great respect for my work because it has allowed me to go through many crises in different countries. I left Serbia, I went to Holland, I arrived in the United States, I went through all kinds of political and financial crises and I always had a new agenda until the pandemic hit. So, I think I’ve always had enormous respect for my work. I think the musicians didn’t have it now because the audience is hungry and the musicians are so happy to be able to do what they love again, which is playing live.
What do you like most about the live experience?
I love everything about it. People just ask me, “How do you do that, traveling so many hours a day?” Â»I never had a problem with that because it is directly related to what we are going to do that evening, which is to say that we are going to make people happy and be able to have this exchange, this energy and that positivity. And it definitely pays off. And so, everything.
The moment I get in the van in the morning and stop at a cafe for my coffee, to sign the merchandise after the show, which I like to do every night, because it’s my only chance to be really personal with my audience and asking or just answering a few questions or just getting feedback what they think of the show. Did they like the show? Did they like the new songs? Did they like the new versions of the songs? How do they like the rhythm section? What did they think of the horn parts?
This is how you can talk to people because you ask them to come over and over and over and over and they pay tickets to see you and some of them literally know me. Many of them have known me for seven years. They were there on my first tour of the United States. So I’m very grateful for that and want to get their feedback and I really appreciate this post show reunion even though the show is over and sometimes you get a little tired but it gives me energy you know ? So, I love everything about it.
Speaking of your first tour, which you continued with Michael Hill, that experience and recording your first album 20 years ago made you commit to being a professional touring musician. How did these experiences give you the confidence to make the decision?
This is really my passion, this is where I want to go. I [had] studied art and fine arts and graphic design as well. But Michael Hill, it was the first American tour. A long, long tour. Before that, I performed in space twice with my own band, then I fell in love with the American audience. I just wanted to be on this side of the ocean as much as I could. Because it was the right place for blues and guitar, but I still like to play in Europe and I like to come and go and discover new continents and play new countries. But yeah, it’s the same spark that was there 20 years ago, I still feel like I have that touring feeling and I certainly haven’t changed my mind in the meantime. I still love what I do.
You’ve been living in Los Angeles since around 2015. Has your time in Los Angeles influenced you musically?
Yes of course. I mean, I made records here long before I lived here. Now we have chosen a very peaceful place in Los Angeles with no traffic hassle, namely Manhattan Beach. So if something calms me down where I live, but I have experience with Los Angeles way before, when I was recording here years ago. And it’s a very exciting place. It’s an exciting place in every way and I love the mix of things you can do here, the museums and the upscale lifestyle and shopping and also the down to earth places. I like the beach. I like the closeness to relax and just take a stroll by the beach every morning for coffee and every night for a family walk.
And it’s a bit as close as I got to the European lifestyle in the United States. Because I lived in New Orleans, I lived in Memphis, I lived in Calabasas, which is a place just north of Los Angeles. And Manhattan Beach is as close as it gets because these are days when I don’t use my car. And when I get to the airport, it’s 10 minutes from Lyft. I don’t have to disturb anyone to get me there and I haven’t seen traffic in years, you know?
So those are the very positive things about Los Angeles. Because these really are the biggest issues, the bad air and the bad traffic and we have none of that here, no fires, just a really down to earth way of life. And that’s what reminded me of Amsterdam, because I’ve lived in Amsterdam for many years and that’s what we had. We had a boat and would never use our car. We were by bike or by boat. And that was it. I think it’s a very good contrast to my life on the road. And that’s really what I need. I need to really detox myself from doing the rock star thing and coming back and just enjoying my everyday life.
What do you love most about playing Milwaukee?
Love to go there again. It’s always a good audience and people who have seen us before and know the music and they go out and I love to chat afterwards. I know and recognize a lot of this audience long before that. And it’s just a good rocking crowd. They love good guitar, and they’re open to different styles of music, and they love to hear blues, but they’re also okay with hearing everything else. So it’s going to be a great show again.