It's hard to fault Ana Popovic's ambition. Fresh off the Experience Hendrix tour, where the Belgrade-born blues guitar luminary played alongside Buddy Guy, Eric Johnson and Zakk Wylde, she now releases Trilogy - a monster triple-disc set encompassing blues, jazz and funk.
As well as showcasing Ana's trademark combination of technical and tasteful chops, a host of esteemed guests lend their talents to the album, too, including Joe Bonamassa, Robert Randolph and Bernard Purdie.
Before Ana set off on an exhaustive tour run in support of the new full-length, she let MusicRadar in on her finest advice for guitarists, spanning solos to songwriting.
Trilogy is out now - see Ana Popovic for tour dates.
1. Play a solo out of the groove
“All my solos come out of watching or imagining I’m watching people dance. And the trick is not to have them stop or not to have them miss a beat. That will get you really focused on what the rhythm section is doing.
“If I close my eyes and let go, that means I’m transferring my focus from the guitar and licks to my inner groove that’s really leaning on what the rhythm section is playing. Before you do this, make sure you have a great rhythm section and don’t try this on a Monday evening jam!”
2. Lose the pick
“Practise flipping the pick back and forth from between your thumb and finger to your palm. That way, you get a different tone and touch, especially to your blues playing.
“It gives a relaxed feel, and gives you options for some other scales and ideas to kick in, and solos sound different.”
3. Always be ahead of the change
“Come up with unique scales and phrasing that’s not expected - don’t repeat yourself - and come with it just before the chord change. That way, you’re leading, you’re in charge and the band follows you.
“The intro lick of the solo and outro lick should always be spot-on! That’s the opening sentence and the closing sentence that’s gonna make a mark and draw attention.”
4. In songwriting, never underestimate your first scratch vocal
“Most ideas I get while I walk - in the park or to the grocery store. Take your phone with you and record that melody scatter - whatever you’re mumbling into the mic. Then once you start to work on a song, write what you hear.
“The words might not make much sense at first, but trust me, if you go deeper, you’ll realised that your subconscious is more important than you think when you’re writing a song.
“On Heaven’s Crying, AKA: Song For The Next Generation, the last two verses - which are very important statements for this environmental song - all came out of the scatter that was recorded a year ago into my iPhone.”
5. Never give up on a song
“Trust your instincts when choosing a song to record. If the song you wrote isn’t working, it doesn’t necessary means it’s bad. Try it with other musicians or songwriters - they might give you other options on the groove or chords.
“Never give up on a song. Some of my songs were patiently waiting for more than a few recording sessions to be done right. Just like you and me, other musicians aren’t capable of covering all the musical styles equally well. Sometimes you need a different input. Sometimes you need to kill your darlings or dig a little deeper.”