In 2014, Ana Popovic was the only female performer on the Experience Hendrix Tour, a more-or-less annual all-star tribute to the ultimate guitar hero. She was also the tour’s second woman ever; Susan Tedeschi had been featured in 2010.
It went so well that Popovic — who sings and writes much of her own material and also takes long, fiery solos — has been featured on all the Experience Hendrix tours since then.
“While I was playing the Experience Hendrix tour, of course, I had a weight on my shoulder, to show that women can stand next to all the other male guitar players,” she said in a phone interview, this week. “I’m trying to really make a stand and inspire other promoters — not only blues festivals, but guitar festivals — to hire more women. I think that’s very important. ”
Popovic — a native of Belgrade, Serbia, who now lives in Los Angeles — will perform at the free, outdoor Morristown Jazz and Blues Festival, Aug. 19 at 6 p.m. Other performers will include The Walter Trout Band (featuring guest saxophonist Mark Rivera) at 8 p.m., Louis Prima Jr. & the Witnesses at 4 p.m., The Bucky Pizzarelli Quintet at 2 p.m., and Vince Giordano & the Nighthawks at noon.
The event, now in its seventh year, takes place on the Morristown Green in downtown Morristown. For information, visit morristownjazzandblues.com.
Now 41, Popovic has had a strong presence on the U.S. blues scene for the last 10 years or so. Her 2016 album, Trilogy, was her most ambitious effort yet: Three CDs done with different producers and musical collaborators, and having different musical flavors. One emphasized funk and soul, one blues-rock, and the third, jazz.
Her next album will be a concert CD, recorded in London, but she is already working on her next studio effort, which will “sound totally different, because I don’t like to make the same record,” she said.
She declined to offer any more details on the musical direction she is taking, though she did add: “I try to get deeper into blues with every album, not only as a player, but as a songwriter. Making a real deep blues song is, to me, the most time-consuming process in making a record. I can write funk songs or pop songs all day long, and some of them will be a success, but the blues songs I need to really concentrate on, because I want to go deeper.”
Over the course, of her career, Popovic said, “I’ve definitely seen the increase of women with guitars, which I’m very happy about. When I started, there were just a few women out there. Of course, Bonnie (Raitt) was amazing, and she was doing it for a long time. And a few other women. But I think it was a harder time for women, when I started.”
She added that she was not only a blueswoman, but an Eastern European blueswoman. “So in order for them to take me serious, you’ve got to try extra hard, which I did,” she said. “And whoever wanted to get on board was welcome, and if they didn’t … I would find somebody else.
“I don’t know if it’s easy for male guitar players to come across and put out his ideas. I don’t think it’s easy either way. But for women, it’s absolutely not easy. You have to find people who are willing to take female guitar players as someone who is equal to them in the band, and in the studio. I’ve been fighting for that all these years.”