Belgrade-born guitarist Ana Popovic is about to unveil her most ambitious project yet.
With Trilogy, which is set to be released May 20, Popovic delivers three albums' worth of guitar-driven music in one monster package. In all, the album offers 23 blues, jazz and funk tunes produced by Grammy winners Warren Riker (Carlos Santana), Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy) and Delfeayo Marsalis, one of the top producers in jazz today.
Guest appearances on Trilogy include Joe Bonamassa, Robert Randolph, Bernard Purdie, Cody Dickinson (and many more.
Today, we present a new interview with Popovic, plus the exclusive premiere of a Trilogy track— the blues-fueled “She Was a Doorman.”
You can check them both out below.
What made you decide to take on a project like Trilogy?
It’s a project that’s been on my to-do list for the past few years. I initially wasn’t sure what direction the music was going to take, but I started out recording a funk/soul record in New Orleans with a crew that included George Porter Jr. on bass an Ivan Neville on keys. We got the right producer and studio and it went so smoothly that I had a finished record in no time. It sounded like nothing I’ve ever done before.
Since I still had some time, I decided to go in and record a jazz record with a whole new crew and studio. The ideas were flowing, and everyone played so well. They gave me so many cool takes that it was hard to choose just one. By that point, I had come so far that I decided to go ahead and record a blues one as well. I worked with Tom Hambridge, who’s produced Buddy Guy and so many other blues acts. He’s a master with guitar tone and vocals.
So it’s been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time—recording three different sounds and making myself sound as different as possible. But when you put them all together, they sound like they all belong on the same project. I’m really happy with it.
Were there any challenges involved in working out guitar solos for this project?
The jazz ones were the biggest task. I had studied jazz years ago and had to refresh my memory, but it was wonderful to go back and do that again. I picked up a Gibson ES-175, which was a whole new guitar for me. It’s uses a different setup and clean tone with nothing to cover it up. This also was the first time I’ve experienced playing with a jazz band, and it was absolutely fantastic. The phrasing is completely different but the groove is still there. It all made sense.
Tell me about Joe Bonamassa’s involvement on “Train."
"Train" is a sultry, R&B take on a one-night stand. It’s a fun story about two people meeting on a train, and the rest is history. I originally played the solo but thought Joe would just kill it. So I sent him a text about it and a minute later I got one back and we booked a studio.
What can you tell me about “Hook Me Up”—and working with Robert Randolph?
I had thought about doing that song for a long time. “Hook Me Up” is one of those songs where from the moment I first put those tracks down, I knew the melody and chord progression would be perfect for Robert.
Let’s discuss a few other tracks from the album, starting with “You Got the Love.”
I’ve always wanted to do a rock take on that song, but I didn’t want any background singers or any horns to help me out. It’s just guitar playing the melody underneath the singing along with bass and drums. That’s it.
"Who’s Yo’ Mama."
That track is a real guitar show-off. It’s three and a half minutes of pure shredding in a lot of different guitar styles. It’s going back to regular and was done in one take.
Tell me about your plans to support Trilogy on the road.
The musicians that have been with me in Europe have a strong jazz background, and this will be a fantastic way for them to show it. I always try to encourage and get the best out of the people I’m out with. Our rehearsals are spent having fun with the songs—exploring and coming up with new arrangements and connecting them together. It’s going to be fun to choose out of 32 songs. Plus, we also have fans that want to hear the old stuff as well. So we’ll take all of that into consideration.
Has your guitar setup changed much?
I used a Gibson for this record but I’m still a Strat person on stage for my rock and blues stuff. My setup is the same as always: I still use a Super Reverb, Bassman and Mesa and line them all up, along with a few vintage Tube Screamers.
Was there anything you learned from the process of making Trilogy?
I don’t think I can ever go back to the way I was recording before [with one band and one producer] for a whole record. I’m going to keep exploring more with guitars and bringing the variety. I already have ideas for the next record, which I know will be very different from this one. There’s also a live record that’s waiting for us as well. It’s an exciting time!
For more about Popovic, visit anapopovic.com.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.