Five Questions With Billy Norris, Musical Director For Gavin DeGraw

Billy Norris, Lessonface Online Guitar Teacher and Gavin DeGraw's Musical Director

Billy Norris is a 25-year-old professional musician who tours the world as the guitarist and musical director for superstar Gavin DeGraw, and we are extremely excited that Billy also offers live online guitar lessons through Lessonface. Since 2008, Billy has toured and recorded both in the U.S. and abroad as the guitarist and musical director for DeGraw, as well as S-Curve artist Andy Grammer, and Universal Republic artist Colbie Caillat.

After cutting his teeth playing blues guitar in the Tampa, Florida-area from his early pre-teen years, Billy moved to New York City after high school to study jazz bass at the Manhattan School of Music. Today, Billy’s time off the road in between tours is spent teaching, writing, and recording between NYC, Los Angeles, Nashville, and his current home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Lessonface: How were you first introduced to the guitar, and what kind of music did you listen to at the time/growing up?

Billy Norris: My dad gave me his '67 Gibson SG special when I was eight years old. He taught me the three chords to "Act Naturally" by Buck Owens (embedded below), and I was off and running. I just never stopped playing ... still haven't! My folks were huge blues and jazz fans, so I started absorbing that music when I was in the crib. I can remember dancing around on my mom's toes to Eric Clapton records. Early, I was really drawn to Stevie Ray Vaughan – I'd never heard anything like it, and it really lit a fire for me.

LF: Did you take lessons or have particularly influential mentors early on, or later as you progressed?

BN: I started taking lessons around age 10. I lucked out with a fantastic teacher named Dave Arazmo in Tampa, Florida (where I grew up). He was able to see that I had a fairly natural ability, and instead of trying to correct all the little technical mistakes I had developed from a couple of years of teaching myself (holding the pick incorrectly, using my thumb on the fingerboard, etc.), he worked hard to nurture and grow that ability. He constantly challenged me and kept pushing me further and further, like a distance runner training for a marathon. If he had tried to rework my entire concept of playing the guitar from the ground up, I very well may have just given up, so I have him to thank for really guiding me. That really sticks with me to this day, especially when teaching students of my own.

LF: What got you interested in teaching through Lessonface?

BN: I've always enjoyed sharing my knowledge and experiences with fellow musicians of all skill levels, but with my constantly evolving touring schedule, I don't often have the luxury of taking on steady students for long periods of time in one location. When I heard about Lessonface, I was really excited to have a way to engage in meaningful musical interactions from wherever in the world I may be at the time. Not only that, but I feel like the standard of face-to-face lessons can sometimes be very intimidating, especially for younger students. Lessonface fosters a relaxed, controlled, comfortable environment for everyone. And we all save money on gas!

LF: If you had to recommend one video or song for new fans or prospective students to check out in order to understand you and your style, what would it be?

BN: Well, one of the coolest things about the information age we live in is that YouTube is kind of a video-scrapbook of your entire career. There are a million-and-one videos of me on there with Gavin DeGraw and a few other artists, but my favorite vids are from a random NYC bar gig from four years ago at the National Underground. There's an old Allman Brothers song called "Whipping Post" that we covered that night that people still ask me about...One of my prouder guitar moments!

LF: Can you tell us about your current musical projects, and any latest news about them?

BN: We're currently gearing up for the release of Gavin's fourth major record. As his musical director, this is the craziest time for me; I'm pretty actively involved in designing our whole production, in addition to writing and laying out our show. We'll be touring this summer with Train and The Script, which I'm thrilled about! And, as always, I'm writing music as often as possible and trying to stay creative and productive. Life is good!

Comments or questions for Lessonface or Billy? Tweet us @Lessonface and Billy @Billy_Norris or sign in to your profile to comment below.

Click here to book an online guitar lesson with Billy or here to learn more about how Lessonface works. You can also check out our blog here to read more about Lessonface and our teachers.

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