Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ana Popovic at Buddy Guys Legend

I have seen Ana Popovic perform on two separate occasions. Both times the venues were intimate. The first venue held about eighty people and James Walker booked her through his organization called “Friends of The Blues”. He was fortunate to book her in Bradley, Illinois. The second venue is operated by Chuck Gomez. It is the Watseka Theater. The newly renovated art deco “Watseka Theater” holds about 400. Both places were an excellent venue for such an artist.
As soon as I found out that she was going to be playing at “Buddy Guys Legends” I started the Emails flying. I emailed her agency in Amsterdam about an interview. No response. Two days before the show I received an email from my editor that the interview would take place. In that email was Tony Basile, Ana’s USA tour manager's cell number. I called and asked how they would like to conduct the interview. He was on his way to the Detroit airport to pick up Ana. They had a show that night in Detroit, the next in Toledo, and the next night Chicago. Tony told me he would call me Friday when they were two hours out of Chicago. That would allow me a two hour window to get to where I had to be.

Friday morning rolled around and I took off for the Chicago Blues Fest. Five o’clock came and went with no phone call. I called Tony back and he apologized for not calling. He said they would be at Buddy Guy’s by six. No big deal. The Blues Fest was about two miles away. I arrived at Buddy Guy’s about five- forty- five. I found my seat at the bar, and ordered a coke. Low and behold, sitting at the end of the bar was my new friend Lordy. He runs and is a great supporter of the blues. We chatted about what was happening in town and about the recent incident at a famous Chicago blues bar. I will not name the place because I personally was not present at the incident. Off the record it involved a famous blues artist, his wife, his girlfriend and an alleged firearm.
Six- fifteen rolled around and I caught a glimpse of Ana going up the stairs on the side of the stage. I continued to sit calmly while flashing my American Blues Blog t-shirt. A guy came, almost running, through the place. He stood out because he was the only one moving that fast. He talked to the club manager, ran upstairs, ran back down, and then over to the manager again. Hanging from his belt were several backstage laminated passes. I knew instantly it was Tony. I got out of my chair and introduced myself. He started to apologize and I said no problem. He asked me to come upstairs.
There she was sitting in the green room putting on a pair of knee high boots. Ana is quite a beautiful person in many different ways. She is a blues artist, a mother, a wife, and astute business women. She displayed great ease and patience with me. Those of you, who know me, know that I can be very abrupt at times, but Ana took it all in stride.

I introduced myself and we agreed to use the outer room for the interview. She sat on another couch and I sat on a huge road case. Ana has a slight east European accent that is quite charming. Her laugh is very low and robust. I turned on my digital recorder and we started the interview.
GATORMAN: Ana while you are out touring, do you get a chance to see the US or is it more or less endless road?
ANA: Yeah, I know America a lot. I know all kinds of places. I love the chance to like go out and check it out and see some things and you know I love museums. I love art. I love to hear other bands and nature. Museums even Indianapolis has a great museum. The national parks all on the west coast, I’ve been there a couple of times and obviously the west coast, we tour a lot so I think. I love Chicago. It’s one of my favorite cities. I love LA and I love the west coast and New York obviously. I’m a big city girl i come from 2 million people city.

GATORMAN: You grew up in Serbia correct?

Ana: Yes.

GATORMAN: During the Milosevic regime? He wasn’t very nice?

Ana: No, he wasn’t. He did a lot of bad things for the country and they are still suffering from it.

GATORMAN: Ana, because of what you went through you have the right to sing the blues.
Ana: Hey you know we’ve been through many things we’ve been through isolation. I mean I live in Amsterdam, but I’m still traveling under the same passport and I get all these things over and over again. Every time I want to go to Canada or to the states or to any other place you name it we need the visas for everything.

GATORMAN: I read somewhere that your father used to have jam sessions.

Ana: Yes.

GATORMAN: What was that like?

Ana: Well I was a little kid and I would just stay up really late I mean my mom was already in bed and my sisters were already in bed there were all like ok. I was staying up. They (jammers) were really funny. They needed notes and that meant that I needed to pour some more beer into their glasses that’s notes. It was really funny and I enjoyed those evenings.

GATORMAN: What sort of jam sessions were they? Where they blues or jazz.

Ana: Blues

GATORMAN: Oh, strictly blues

ANA: Yeah they played ah, Albert king and BB King Elmore James and

GATORMAN: What did your father play?

ANA: He played guitar. I was the first one to play slide.

GATORMAN: You know Koko Taylor just passed away.

ANA: Oh, I know yeah her funeral was tonight. Oh, I know.

GATORMAN: Do you care if I take some pictures?

ANA: Oh, no, not at all. You know from all the female artists, I was most influenced my Koko and all the rest were men. I was influenced by Howlin Wolf, and many others.

GATORMAN: When you are on the road, in the car, driving along, do you listen to music, talk or just get sick of listening because you play it so much?

ANA: Well when I’m on the road I take a guitar and I practice, and practice and I make songs on. I don’t have time at home.

GATORMAN: How’s the baby.

ANA: Good.

GATORMAN: Do you pronounce his name Luke? (Luuk)

ANA: Luke. He is really great, very easy going and actually I’m in the best line of work, if you want to combine your work and be a mom.

GATORMAN: Have you visited much of the Chicago blues clubs or just the ones you play?

ANA: Yeah I’ve been the street with all the clubs are. What is the name? You know where all the blues clubs are ummmm. I forgot it. Apart from house of blues and this club I did not play any others, Kingston mines that’s the place.

GATORMAN : On Halsted?

ANA: I’ve been there. I love Chicago though.

GATORMAN: What is the craziest joint that you have played?

ANA: I have my black list in the states,,,,,,,


ANA: But I just hate naming those places, man.

GATORMAN: Not necessarily a bad one, but one you did not expect to be the way it was.

(I agreed not to mention the ones she spoke about, but generically one was a house of worship and the other had something to do with Barbecue sauce)

GATORMAN: What kind of food do you like? Do you like to Cook?

ANA: My man cooks more than I do. He’s also a vegetarian so there’s a lot of vegetarian at home. So I can’t impress him with my cooking, because Serbian cooking is all about meat so and he has great recipes to cook.

GATORMAN: So alligator is out of the question then.

ANA: (Laughs) I never tried that. (Laughing).

GATORMAN: Tastes just like chicken, just kidding. Let’s get to a question about your songwriting.

ANA: Un –huh.

GATORMAN: How do you approach writing songs?

ANA: You know we have a new record coming out.

GATORMAN: Yes I know.

ANA: It’s called “Blind For Love” and actually July 21st it is released.

GATORMAN: AN awarding winning portrait artist once told me that if you want to be an artist you must first learn how to see. That refers to perceiving ones surroundings.

ANA: Absolutely.

GATORMAN: Do you all of a sudden come up with a tune? How do you start? Do you listen to people? Do you catch phrases? Is it a mood or a feeling?

ANA: I always start with songwriting. I usually start with melody or with the lyrics and why I do not really know, but somehow when the lyrics are really cool and this is really what you want to say then it has some sort of, sort of rhythm in it. Already and that’s the rhythm I’m using for the melody, but it’s not a usual thing and I’m really serious about songwriting and about what I’m singing about. I just can’t sing about everything. It has to be serious, it’s got to have a point, have a meaning, something you want to tell to your children, and something you want to leave behind.
This is your opinion about something in the world. It’s a story or a statement about something that you can stand behind. About love about politics about anything

GATORMAN: While listening to your CD “Still Making History” I hear jazz, blues and rock. It is really cool what you do, you know.

ANA: Thank you.

GATORMAN: Do you consider yourself just an all around musician or place yourself in a particular genre?

ANA: I can’t even if I want to because I definitely grew up with the blues and going back listening to the standards does me good and because I’m so into all different styles, It’s good to go back and like this is home. But I just can’t help it, I just when, I have great rock song and I have great blues song or I have great jazz song and played with the way jazz has to be played and then ahh, the same for all the other styles including reggae and funk and fusion.

GATORMAN: Is it Blues that touches you the most?

ANA: Absolutely.

GATORMAN: How about jazz? Do you find it easier to play one genre or any other type?

ANA: Absol…….Oh I’m not a jazz player. I just like to mess around with it.

GATORMAN: You are using some jazz scales. I hear them in your music

ANA: Probably, but I never became a jazz player. It was not something for me actually. I never really wanted to go on. Yeah it’s not my music but I love to be a little jazzy for a blues musician, but I’m not a jazz guitar player. But I love to hear John Scofield and George Benson; I mean that’s all very bluesy they can be very bluesy.

GATORMAN: My 15 year old daughter told me to tell you that you are her favorite blues singer. My daughter has a beautiful voice, but is afraid to sing in front of people. Do you have any advice to help get her on stage?

ANA: How old is she again?

GATORMAN: Fifteen.

ANA: Oh my, it’s still early. She will have this urge by the time she is 18. It just needs to grow you know, to feel comfortable about it, and once you do it will come itself.

GATORMAN: Just a couple of more questions. You have a 1964 Fender Stratocaster.

ANA: Yes.

GATORMAN: Why do you like the “64?

ANA: Oh, I like all kinds, but I found that one in store and I tried many others and this was the guitar. I buy it in Nashville in Gruhn’s Music. Fabulous store. It hasn’t even been a year, but you try it and it’s your instrument,

GATORMAN: That’s Very cool.

ANA: But, I have only like three Strats and I’m not a collector. I don’t like to collect. Although I have a Fender endorsement which means I can get them very cheap. Not the old one, but like custom shop. Whatever I want but I’m just completely against guitars standing in the closet like if I don’t play them and I’m not a collector. I think they should be played. And if it’s not played it’s not your guitar!

GATORMAN: Are you making a living doing what you do? The only reason I ask you this is because we want you around for a long time.

ANA: Absolutely.

GATORMAN: So there’s no chance that you will stop. We will be seeing you in years to come.

ANA: (Laughs) that’s not for sure. I mean the nice thing about it is playing, but the music industry cannot predict and I wouldn’t do it for just anything and go back and play for like really little. You know I love to go on vacations and stop wherever I want. That’s really something that I like. The moment that I can’t have that, I’ll find another job, because I think I would be honest with myself that this is not something for me.

GATORMAN: You really enjoy it. You have a good following right now and we don’t want you to quit.

ANA: Well you never know. You never really know.

GATORMAN: Do you have any top secret things in the works?

ANA: In my music Business?

GATORMAN: Yes. The blog is very big and you could announce to the world something new. What makes up Ana?

ANA: Well I don’t know the thing is that like one of the journalists one time said something like. How do you think audience sees you? And then one time I heard somebody say we get a feeling after seeing you that we want to all go back home and be musicians. Give up your jobs and pick up guitar

GATORMAN: I’ll do one even Better. When you played in Bradley, Illinois I wrote it in the blog. She hit that stage like Queen Cleopatra and her guitar was her royal scepter.

ANA: (Laughs)

GATORMAN: And when you yielded the guitar a fog of love rolled off the stage into the audience. You project this massive fog of love.

ANA: Still laughing. That’s good, that’s good

Tony road Manager: Ana you’ve got to go they’re almost ready for you.

ANA: You are staying for the show. If you have some more questions later on in the break just come on up the stairs and we will talk some more.

GATORMAN: That would be great Ana and thank you very much.

I asked Ana to sign a copy of the first post that I had written about her. She did and addressed it to my daughter Cora.

I did visit Ana on the break. She was sitting on a couch in a dimly lit room. She was gazing out the window facing Wabash Avenue. One could almost imagine her thinking about home and family. I tapped lightly on the door and she invited me in. We exchanged greetings once again. Behind me was my friend Mike who owns a club called the “Cool River.” Mike talked to her about playing there. When the conversation was over, I told Ana that Buddy Guy was downstairs sitting at the bar. She asked me if I could introduce her to him. Sure, I said with a smile. She grabbed my hand as we walked down the stairs and into the crowd. Of course we had to stop at least half a dozen times to talk to fans. Finally we got to the bar and I said Mr. Buddy Guy this is Ana Popovic. They talked for a bit and when they finished I lead her back through the crowd and back up the stairs.

Tony once again said it was time and we said goodbye. Ana wanted to see me after the show so I hung around a bit and I thanked her for the interview. She then gave me a hug and a light kiss on the cheek. I said goodbye, then slowly I turned around and walked away.
Thank you Ana, Tony, Buddy, and D.A.
Blues Me or Lose Me
Terrance "Gatorman" Lape
For blues photos go to:
Thanks To Jim K.

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