Music

Big-hearted British musician

Blues artist William Topley makes Taos the opener for U.S. tour

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British musician William Topley is back in the U.S. through April for a string of concerts at his usual spots: Denver, Austin, Portland, Oregon, Nashville, Boston and the sunny state of Florida. Lucky for us, he is starting out in Taos.

See William Topley Friday (Feb. 23) from 8-11 p.m. at the KTAOS Solar Center, 9 State Road 150, north of El Prado. Local legend multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Stadler opens the evening with a mix of classic hits and original tunes.

Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler has called Topley “big-hearted, emotional and strictly legit.” Producer Neil Dorfsman (Sting, Dire Straits) has said Topley is “the most original songwriter I’ve heard for years.”

In an interview with Tempo, Topley said his songwriting these days is inspired by “phrases that spark association.” For example, he said the title for his latest EP, “The Sea Is My Religion,” comes from Ernest Hemingway’s, “Islands in the Stream.” He has also been influenced by odd signs such as one for a cotton gin in Taylor, Texas labeled “Waterloo Gin” and an office sign for “Loveless Hunter” spotted in the United Kingdom.

This past year, Topley was invited for a solo residency at Austin’s Continental Club. Topley, who has been a professional musician for decades, said it was his first time playing solo without a backing band.

“I’d never played solo ever before,” said Topley. “It was terrifying at first. The upside is once you’ve gone through it, it’s good for your confidence.”

In 2017, Topley also spent time in Taylor, Texas reconnecting with his southern musical roots. Topley reflected that these included musicians, such as The Staples Singers, Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf and Otis Redding.

“Otis Redding was a big influence on me in terms of actual singing style,” said Topley. “He’s one of those people like Jimi Hendrix who was received as a bigger star in Britain then in the U.S. initially.”

Topley is also influenced by the rhythms of the Caribbean and Jamaican reggae. Six times over the past eight years, Topley has hosted a fan trip for music lovers: once in Spain, once in Jamaica and four times in the Bahamas.

Topley says the Bahama event includes, “Three nights of music, including a private beach party, a local rake and scrape night collaboration with Bahamian musicians, and a request night. Plus, snorkeling and golf cart tours to the world-renowned pink sands beach in Harbour Island.”

“It’s a very small island, and you just drive around in golf carts,” explained Topley. “It’s a wonderful little island. It’s quite difficult to get to because you have to take a little propeller plane and then a boat, but once you’re there, the island does a lot of my work for me. It’s mostly repeat customers.”

This year, Topley is finishing up a new album with his band and also working on a solo project of cover songs redone in a bluegrass style. He said most of the artists he is covering are American women musicians, such as Stevie Nicks, Shelby Lynne and Sheryl Crow.

For his Taos show, Topley will be joined onstage by a U.S.- based bassist and drummer. They will be playing songs from Topley’s “Black River,” “Spanish Wells” and “Water Taxi” CDs.

Topley said it is “always a privilege to come to Taos and to experience the unique atmosphere.”

For more information, go to williamtopley.com or visit William Topley on Facebook. Call the venue at (575) 758-5826.

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