A singer-guitarist from Belgrade, Serbia, Ana Popovic grew up hearing her father’s collection of American blues and soul records.
“I was 2 or 3 years old, listening to Howlin’ Wolf and Bukka White,” Popovic said. “Later on, (it was) Sonny Landreth, Jimi Hendrix, Elmore James, Robert Johnson and the three Kings — Albert, B.B. and Freddie King. That was on a daily basis.”
Popovic picked up the guitar as a teen, but didn’t get serious about the instrument until a few years later. Living in the war-torn former Yugoslavia, however, she harbored no dreams of being a professional musician.
“There was no way I would think, ‘I’m going to play blues for a living,’ ” she said. “America was very far from me.”
Although Popovic earned a degree in graphic design in Serbia, the blues band she joined in her teens found steady work despite the war.
“From the moment we started, we got shows,” she recalled. “Before we knew it, we played four times a week. Of course, it was a difficult situation, a hard living...