In Part One of this profile, we introduced you to guitar star/businesswoman TERESA TOPAZ, a California native who’s much more than meets the eye. In Part Two, we delve into who/what inspires her and the impact she’s had on numerous cities…in her own words.
Rock music continues to be thought of as a “Boy’s Club” of sorts, despite the contribution of such artists as Pat Benatar, Tina Turner, Stevie Nicks, and Janis Joplin. Have you encountered any obstacles because of your gender, or has it perhaps been a way for you to stand out?
“On my first tour, I would walk into a venue with my crew and the staff thought I was just ‘the girlfriend’. It was fun to shock them when I would walk on stage in my leather pants, grab Rose (my Les Paul), and sing my heart out.”
“I never took it personally but as a chance to change their minds. Female performers are faced with a challenge of people comparing them to males instead of just enjoying the music. It should not matter if you’re young or old, purple or blue. It’s about the power you possess on stage and your ability to steal attention away from the worries of daily life. Our job as musicians is to make you feel the music.”
“Some people thought the Les Paul (guitar) on the cover of my first record was a prop. It was not the norm to meet a girl who sang and played lead guitar. I’ve dealt with a lot of pushback and had to ignore it. Every artist will experience the ups and downs of this musical life. The hard situations make you stronger, more prepared, and able to handle success.”
You grew up in a household very rich in music. Did your parents encourage you to pursue entertainment, or was it just a natural path?
“LA was the best place to cultivate a rich musical environment. I grew up around the Sunset Strip, hanging out in a motorcycle jacket, eating pizza at the Rainbow and seeing bands loading in and out on the Strip. I was hooked…it was a drug that I could not get enough of. I knew at ten that this was the life for me.”
“Moving from a city of 25 million to a town of 40,000 really made me realize that I was a city girl. Music needed to be present morning, noon, and night. Living in the Bay Area helped me grow as an artist. Dealing with A-list professionals let me gain business knowledge and really shaped me as an artist.”
You’ve developed a kinship of sorts with Portland Oregon. What’s the story there, and how did you earn the Portland Tribune title of “Guitar Goddess”?
“I lived in Portland for two years shortly after the release of my first record “Reset Me“. I became well-known there very quickly. There I really stood out, being a tall blonde lead guitarist and performing with some of the most talented in the PacNorth West.”
“I was named in the top 5 Best Rock/Blues artists by Willamette Week, as well as “Guitar Goddess” by the Tribune. This was after my release concert at Music Millennium, a hot spot and landmark that is the heartbeat of Portland’s music.”
Did you do your part to “Keep Portland Weird”?
“Portland does live up to that name 100%! So in order to do my part, I threw themed concerts, ComicCon-themed shows, and supported Pride Week as a headliner on the main stage. They had me on a parade float with a disco ball, and did my best to stay weird the entire time.”
Some of the best entertainers I’ve seen in Las Vegas are the waiters and bartenders who hop out from behind their posts, grab a mic, and shock customers with a surprise performance. It’s like a scene from a movie. You’ve been a nightclub manager and restaurant worker. Have you ever lived out that fantasy, too?
“I think this topic was the reason why I headed into the bar scene at an early age. I could break away, grab a mic and do what I do best…entertain, and then go back to working the venue. I started running nightclubs at twenty-four and would use the venue during the day to practice new material for upcoming gigs.
“In restaurants, I was always the “Hey, she can sing you Happy Birthday!” girl. I took advantage of any chance to sing, shock guests, and put a smile on their faces.”
Eight years ago you took a leap of faith, leaving behind the daily grind to pursue your musical career full time. How has that journey gone, and are you glad you took it?
“It’s funny that you used that term. My new single is called Leap of Faith. I remember the day I looked up to the sky and asked for a way out of the normality of life. I wanted to plunge into producing the first record spinning around my head. I took a leap of faith and never looked back. Where there’s a will, there’s a way to make anything manifest and I am grateful I took it.”
Your quote is “I Live To Inspire”. Who do you want to inspire the most, and what are your tools of inspiration?
“To me, inspiration is the essence of life. I can find it listening to a favorite song, walking through a museum, or laying in a park with my guitar. I’ll be staring up at the sky waiting for that moment to hit me with a flood of new lyrics or melodies.”
“Everyone has a few songs that have touched them deeply. They’re the words they love to remember and sing along to, whether they are having a good or bad day.”
“In regards to who I want to inspire the most, it’s young girls picking up their instruments for the first time. When I was just starting out, I went to my local guitar shop holding my blood-red Strat with broken strings and asked for help. One of the guys who worked there stopped what he was doing, sat on the floor, and showed me step by step how to restring it correctly.”
“That act imprinted itself on me as what we’re supposed to do in this life. A complete stranger can take a moment to help, teach or inspire you. We are here to inspire each other, and support goes a long way.”
Author’s Note – some responses have been edited for length and clarity.