Ana Popovic Experiences Hendrix
JPG: I heard a studio version of you doing “Can You See Me.” Was that recorded for your next album or another Hendrix tribute album?
AP: It’s going to be probably a part of the next record and since I’m doing this Hendrix tour, I thought it would be nice to record something officially and to put it out. We’ve also done a music video. I always wanted to do a Hendrix song on one of my records. I never did it except for that one a long time ago, “Belly Button Window,” for the compilation.
I thought “Can You See Me,” is as great track. I tried to keep the energy that Hendrix had alive and going but I still wanted to change something. I did a slide version. It’s a very powerful song, rocking out. So, it’s still different. I didn’t want to copy Hendrix or copy anything. However, I wanted to do him justice by keeping that energy going that he had. So, it’s a different little twist on that song.
JPG: “Can You See Me,” is that part of another album that you’ve recorded on one that you’re working on for release later this year or next?
AP: Yes. Yeah we are looking at doing a DVD before the summer. There is a big possibility it’s gonna be recorded in Brazil because we are doing a show in Brazil for the first time. And then, we’re looking at a new studio recording. I’m already working on it. There’s almost half recorded. I’m hoping to finish that before summer. That would be wonderful. Bring out a new record.
JPG: Are there plans to record Mo’ Better Love or just do live dates whenever you can?
AP: I think the DVD will be with Mo’ Better Love band. Then the European tour is also pretty much booked for the Mo’ Better Love band in the summertime. We just came back from the [Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise], which was also a nine-piece band. So, we got a few off and on shows with the big band and then the next DVD is gonna be the live thing with the big band.
JPG: Back to “Belly Button Window,” it sounded like he was playing it on electric guitar and you did it on acoustic.
AP: I did a few passes on electric slide and acoustic slide but I did it as kind of a jazzy version. I had the double bass going. It was a jazzy approach to it. That was a long time ago. I was a student of a jazz conservatory at that time when I was doing that song.
JPG: Do you now look at that song and view it as, “Oh, that’s just young Ana. Now, I know so much more.”
AP: No, actually, I don’t listen to a whole lot of my stuff but I think that version is particularly very interesting. I think the vocals sound great. I think the slide guitar’s still really good when I hear it. And I think the production of it is nice. And I wanted to do that kind of jazzy twist to it. I like that song.
JPG: As far as Hendrix, when did you first hear him and did he have an immediate impact on you or did you need years of experience playing guitar and hearing other things before you fully understood what he did?
AP: I really started listening to blues and American music when I was two or three years old. Literally, that was all in my home. We grew up listening to Cream and Hendrix and roots blues guys like Robert Johnson and Bukka White and Elmore James, Albert Collins and Albert King. It was just a regular thing in my home. I was a little kid. The only thing we could hear was American blues and soul and rock music. So Hendrix was something that I got very early. I don’t remember the moment. I just know that we were watching those live concerts, those footages when the first time we could get a video player at that time. In Serbia, that was the first thing we got, I think it was Hendrix Live at Monterey and Cream, as I remember. Those are the things that are so natural to me that I didn’t even think about it.
My father was into that then and he still is. He would get us around the guitar. He’s a guitar player, too. Actually, my grandfather was a guitar player, too. So I’m the third generation guitar player in my home. My grandfather was kind of a Django Reinhardt style, and that was back in…I’m talking 1930s, 1940s. My dad, he’s also into blues and he still plays blues. I grew up listening to his jam sessions.
I remember watching Hendrix [videos] and being in awe and thinking this is the most beautiful way of making a living that I could possibly imagine. At that time in Serbia it was way before I could even think about me becoming a musician. But it was very natural. I didn’t really think about it. Music was always in our home and we would just listen to those things.
JPG: What is about Hendrix and his creative approach and his playing etc. that inspires you?
AP: He was such a master not only in playing but in arrangements and lyrics and being onstage. In all this process, he’s been a huge inspiration. I don’t even want to say influence. I mean, I just think it’s an inspiration, what’s happening there, because there was really only one Hendrix, then a whole lot of space and then all the other guitar players are counted.
When you think about the lyrics, it’s only Dylan and Hendrix as far as I’m concerned that could make art just by writing a few sentences and singing those sentences. And then he was actually following what Dylan was playing at the time, what Dylan was writing at the time. He was almost on a daily basis checking out Dylan’s books and his lyrics and stuff. You can see how deep they go.
This is one side, his lyrics, and the lyrics are very important for me. My music is very important. When I choose songs, lyrics are equally important if not more to me than the musical part. If you bring out a handful of records in the decade, you might as well leave a song message. Put out something to inspire people. Give some thought versus putting out a few lines that maybe people gonna buy and listen on the radio. It should be much deeper than that. And that’s the matter of course with “The Wind Cries Mary” and “Belly Button Window” and every one of his songs is very well thought of as far as the lyrical part.
Then, we’ve got the whole musical part, the guitar playing, obviously, was so ahead of its time that it’s still an inspiration to all the guitar players no matter what style – fusion, jazz, rock, heavy metal. They are all equally inspired by Hendrix, and that’s because his ideas, riffs and solos were amazing at that time and still are.
Now because I’m going on this tour, I went back and listened to some shows that I could, some recordings at that time when I was a kid, I couldn’t find. Now, that you have Internet, you can go back and listen to all the stuff he’s been playing. The shows we are talking about like 1970, somewhere in Scandinavia there’s a show and the audience is quiet, nobody’s responding and this guy’s like playing amazing stuff that, nowadays, if he would be playing that today, he would be considered a great guitar player even after all these years. But he was doing that back in 1970. It’s incredible!
And then you get the whole other prospect of him being onstage and being almost one with his instrument, and that specific energy that he had going with the trio is actually something that I’m searching for in my shows. If you asked me why I do what I do I search for that moment in the show where you are one with your instrument and your band and almost like lifted up from the stage. You don’t see the audience. Anything else doesn’t matter except for that tone and that drumbeat.
On a good night it’s something that I find from time-to-time, and it’s something that comes from watching Hendrix.