Welcome To The Stage – William Topley
BY AMY COTSWORTH
If you happen to have been around the Colorado music scene for the past 22 years, you may be among those fortunate enough to already be familiar with a uniquely talented musician out of the UK who loyally and enthusiastically considers our great state among his home stages.
He has graced the stage of Red Rocks, played the Winter Park American Music Festival, and made appearances in Steamboat Springs, Vail, and Aspen, at The Fillmore Auditorium, Colorado Music Hall, as well as The Paramount Theatre. He returns regularly to the Bluebird and Fox Theatres, which he refers to as “the best audiences for (him) ever.” Over the course of more than two decades, William Topley has found that his Colorado fan base has remained avid, devoted, strong, and consistent in their support of his live appearances over the many illustrious years of his touring career.
(William Topley expresses a great deal of gratitude for this longstanding local popularity to Denver/Boulder-based radio station 97.3 FM KBCO, who, through their wide and innovative promotion of cutting edge “World Class Rock” performers, has given William and multitudinous other artists what he calls “proper exposure to the community.” This exposure helped develop his dedicated Colorado contingent of passionate fans and listeners in the early 1990s.
Topley particularly credits and personally thanks KBCO’s DJ Deeya, who had heard releases from his early band, The Blessing, including the song “Delta Rain” from their album Prince of the Deep Water, which was already getting airtime. (DJ Deeya had the pleasure of hosting his KBCO Studio C Session and introducing him at the Cherry Creek Art Festival in the summer of 1997.) “William’s charming demeanor hooked me,” says DJ Deeya, “so I made it a point to talk him up on the air.” She helped introduce his talent to Colorado audiences, who began ravenously seeking and acquiring import copies of the album, sometimes for as much as $100 (USD).
Listeners wanted more, and Deeya started playing music from his first solo album Black River, particularly his song “Drink Called Love” on her Sunday morning acoustic show. She says she “wasn’t shy” about explaining what a big fan she was, encouraging listeners to attend his concerts and record store appearances. To this day, Deeya states, “KBCO is one of a kind and William Topley is a perfect fit. I feel lucky to have been a part of the station in the late ’90s and the opportunity it gave me to get to know William Topley. Almost 20 years later, I hope (this) article will create even more awareness.”
William also extends his deep and heartfelt appreciation to Don Strasburg, co-president and senior talent buyer of AEG Presents, for putting him on stage and making it possible for him to appear at venues across Colorado, fulfilling the enthusiastic response of his devoted fans for live engagements.
Topley’s fans are fiercely loyal, though it remains surprising that there are still those who have not yet come to know his bluesy, soulful stylings. The magic and artfulness of his music—with its transcendental imagery, lyrics, and vocals—is better experienced than can be explained. (For anyone who has not yet had the pleasure, a search for William Topley’s recordings and some devoted speaker time with his music is emphatically recommended post haste.)
Of his nine solo albums—in addition to two albums released during his time with The Blessing, plus a wide selection of live recordings and videos—you are bound to find favorites and see why his fans remain captivated over the years.
For those who have not been properly introduced to the unique sound of such a phenomenally versatile artist, William recommends checking out his album Water Taxi by way of introduction.
With songs such as “Trouble Comes At Night” (with its Colorado reference, “by a mile marker sign back in Denver there’s a woman who calls on my phone, saying “Old Boulder Inn, peaks cast shadows like sins and I need you home”) and the title track, “Water Taxi” (in which Topley sings, “I’ve got ‘Three Island’ in my sights now, I’ve got the East Eleuthera Shore, take me on to Colorado, (‘cause) I’m not coming back no more”), Topley’s obvious love for Colorado shines through in his lyrics.
William has enjoyed a long history and deep love of travel since his childhood trips to Jamaica with his mother. Much of his writing is strongly influenced by his travels and places he has visited. He also openly states that touring the US with his own band on a bus “was the best bit.” While his lyrics are widely described by fans and reviewers alike as deeply romantic and evocative, he is particularly reverent in referencing the inspiration artists often gain from life on the road.
Having worked during his performing history with other greats such as The Who, to closing for Sting at a party, and—going way back—with Level 42, Simply Red, and the Wailers, William has some colorful and fascinating stories form his experiences. As he puts it, “learning how to behave from Jimmy Miller” (producer for the Rolling Stones), being on tour, and recording the album Sea Fever with Mark Knopfler, William has lived the true rockstar life, experiencing pub crawls in Amsterdam and a party at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo.
With his Rock and Roll party band, which he has always maintained throughout his career, playing originals as well as covers, he has performed on a jumbo jet and “in some insane palaces.”
Another reference you will find in the aforementioned song “Water Taxi” is a unique and fun element Topley has introduced as a means of showing his appreciation for travel and for his devoted fan base worldwide: William hosts a regular Fan Weekend music event on Harbour Island in the Bahamas along with his longtime bandmates, guitarist Luke Brighty and vocalist Dorie Jackson.
This experience is replete with plenty of live music and boating, often served as a combination, with a bent to the Sea Shanty style and a dash of the Goombay Smash for local flair. Snorkeling and an onshore concert at the ballroom of the hotel that he books for the event is on deck for attendees as well.
A by-request party on the pink sand beach is also on the itinerary, and a themed, farewell Q&A with the band rounds out this momentous and exclusive travel adventure. This all takes place under a full moon, thanks to William’s attention to all the magical details of this tropical getaway.
Whether you have already been captivated by the energy of Topley’s skillful songwriting and deeply expressive vocals, or if this is perhaps your first introduction to this talented man who is loved by his Colorado fan family and those worldwide, now is a wonderful time to give one of his songs, a whole album, or his entire discography a listen. Let it take you away on a wave of unparalleled artistry and bliss.
William Topley looks forward to returning to Colorado in the foreseeable future and revisiting his usual venues, the Bluebird and the Fox theaters. He would also like to return to Aspen and Steamboat Springs, and hopes to someday play in Telluride.
Be sure to keep a lookout for upcoming tour dates and appearances, and if given the chance to go see William Topley perform live, do yourself a huge favor and do not hesitate to secure tickets!
For more information, music, and upcoming events, follow William Topley on Facebook, on Twitter at @williamtopley, and at musicglue.com/williamtopley.