For someone who never set out to be a musician, Ana Popovic has quite the resume.The Serbian born blues guitarist has played professionally since she was 18, regularly tours around the world and recently released a three-albums-in-one project that showcases her mastery of blues, jazz and funk.
Popovic, who plays at Rendezvous in the Park in Moscow on Saturday, exudes an innate energy that might account for how she ended up as a top female blues musician. Her lightly accented words poured out like a flood — fast and adept, but also warm and soulful — as she spoke of her start in music during a recent phone interview.
“I was brought up with a lot of blues in the home, so it’s something I remember from a very early age,” Popovic said.
Her father had a guitar and would regularly have other musicians over to play blues together. Popovic would watch, wanting to join in and eventually picked up the guitar and learned to play. By age 15 she was playing slide guitar and started playing solos when she was 18.
“It was never intentional to be a musician,” Popovic explained. “It was just something enjoyable to do in the evening.”
That hobby led to her playing blues in the Netherlands professionally and eventually all over Europe. During that time she recorded a number of solo albums, largely in Memphis, where she eventually moved in 2012. She and her family have since relocated to California. She’s received numerous awards over the years, including a nomination for Female Artist of the Year by the Blues Music Awards.
When she settled in Memphis, Popovic began work on “Trilogy,” a three-in-one album released earlier this year. It is her eighth solo project. The 23-song album contains three different albums in three different styles, using three different studio bands and three different producers. The project took — of course — three years of preparation before a full year of recording.
If that sounds like a big endeavor, it shows how committed Popovic was to getting the exact sound she wanted in each of her songs.
“I had a freedom to do exactly what I imagined, what I heard in my head,” Popovic said.
Each album explores a slightly different style of music: jazz, funk and blues. Popovic hand-picked musicians for each studio band, selecting top musicians for each style, a task well-served by her geographic proximity to a variety of musical meccas. It was all part of creating the best sound possible.
“If you want funk, you bring it to the masters; if you want a good jazz sound, you bring it to the masters of jazz,” Popovic explained.
Then each record was produced by a top producer in their genre.
“I told them, you do your thing and let me know what I need to do,” Popovic said. “I wanted them to sound as different as possible and I didn’t let them hear what the others were doing — they were each just doing their own thing.”
The resulting collection is just the way she wanted it. Popovic described the funk album as a “dance record, a morning record,” with big band and big horns. The guitar is the focus for the second album, which has a raw, deep blues sound. The third album captures a “jazzy kind of blues or bluesy kind of jazz,” she said.
Despite the diversity, she said, they all sound like they were part of the same project. And it’s a project that’s been well-received by its listeners. The album hit the Billboard Top 10 for blues albums in June and is currently in the top 10 new releases for blues albums on Amazon.
“It’s true that if you have a good idea, it can work,” Popovic said.
If you go:
WHAT: Rendezvous in the Park
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday; gates open at 4:30 p.m.
WHERE: East City Park, 900 E. Third St., Moscow
COST: $25/adults, $12.50/ ages 13-18, free/ages 12 and younger with paying adult, $50/three-day festival pass; tickets are available at the gate and at www.rendezvousinthepark.com/tickets/.
ADDITIONAL INFO: Food, beer and wine are available for purchase.
Concert Series Lineup:
Thursday: Taproot Bluegrass, Mise, Bigger Boat, Milonga
Milonga’s music brings together a wide variety of Latino rhythms in what is compared to a Latino potluck buffet where the best dishes from the Spanish-speaking world are offered. This Inland Northwest band was formed in 2001 and plays original songs in various styles that include mariachi, flamenco, mambo and more.
Friday: Mother Yeti, Left Hand Smoke, Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas
Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas is a Detroit-based band whose energetic soul/pop music includes elements of jazz, reggae, Latin, punk and rock. They appeared on “The Late Show with David Letterman” in 2014 and released a single in 2015 of a song titled “Don’t Take My Man to Idaho.”
Saturday: Naked in the Philippines, Stepbrothers with special guest Jen Kempler, Ana Popovic
Rendezvous for Kids
This two-day children’s arts festival is held in conjunction with the Rendezvous in the Park concert series and provides a variety of artistic experiences, including multimedia projects, textiles, tie-dye, drama and music. Registration includes art activities, T-shirt, snack, lunch and lunchtime entertainment.
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (ages 5-12) or 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. (ages 3-4) today and Friday
WHERE: East City Park, 900 E. Third St., Moscow
COST: $20/children ages 5-12 for one day, $35/children ages 5-12 for two days, $15/child per day for preschool program (ages 3-4); registration is available at www.rendezvousinthepark.com until program is full.