IF YOU GO
• What: Riverfront Nights featuring Ana Popovic with Rick Rushing and the Blues Strangers
• When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31
• Where: Ross’s Landing, 201 Riverfront Parkway
• Admission: Free
• Extra: The UT-Austin Peay game, which starts at 6 p.m., will be shown live in the Comcast Chattanooga tent.
Ana Popovic was introduced to the blues by her father when she was 2. It might have been earlier, but the formal training began then, she says.
The music of Elmore James, Booker White, Muddy Waters, Albert King, Buddy Guy and B.B. King filled their Belgrade, Yugoslavia, home, and Popovic soaked it up.
"I grew up listening to African-American blues but also the Stax sound and people like Isaac Hayes," she says. "My father was into soul blues and later Stevie Ray Vaughan. I like all shades of blues, and on every record I make I try to touch all of them and allow myself to do different things."
Popovic, 35, is the headliner Saturday, Aug. 31, at Ross's Landing for the free Riverfront Nights concert. Opening will be Rick Rushing and the Blues Strangers.
She says her background allows her some freedoms that American blues artists don't have.
"If you are from Chicago, people say, 'Why aren't you playing Chicago blues.' If you're from Texas, you have to do Texas blues. Since I'm from Europe, I can't do anything wrong.
"I love that freedom. They can't put me in a box. That is hard for some musicians. People like Taj Mahal spent their whole life trying to do different things."
A traveler and student of the world, Popovic currently lives in Memphis. She often chooses where she lives by where she wants to record, she says. She likes to soak up the vibe and utilize the musicians in the area. Memphis offered a great selection of the latter, though she says the city itself leaves something to be desired.
"Memphis was actually very central, and I found really good musicians here," she says. "Memphis has a very specific sound versus elsewhere. It's not particularly a pretty place, and it has the worst shopping ever."
Popovic says when she records she likes to take her time, often recording six or eight tracks and then leaving the project alone for a week or two. When she returns, she has fresh ears and a new attitude. Sometimes the songs get completely reworked.
"With the latest record, I did eight songs, and when I came back, I kept six and completely redid two.
"When I first started, people told me I needed a really strong start and a strong finish. Everything in the middle was just the meat. I would say that doesn't make sense. It should all be great. But I was too young. Every record should be different and show a different side of you to your fans."
Each of her records has a theme, whether it's politics, love or relationships. Her latest, "Can You Stand the Heat?," is her homage to old-school soul, funk and blues.
Popovic has been featured in just about every blues magazine out there and is a frequent guest on other people's tours. She recently played with Warren Haynes and Gov't Mule and called the experience "amazing."
"Everyone, even his management, is so sweet and so grounded. They are a jam band, but I thought there would be a set list or a plan, but it just moves mysteriously, and it is amazing."
Contact staff writer Barry Courter at email@example.com or 423-757-6354.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...