Billy Norris got his start in the music industry playing the kind of killer blues guitar
that musicians and fans in the Tampa Bay area took notice of. His move to New
York City to study jazz bass at the Manhattan School of Music in 2006 reflects the
tremendous breadth and depth of his musical interests and aptitude. There, he met
Platinum-selling pop singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw, who hired him to play lead
guitar on tour. It didn’t take long for DeGraw to realize that Norris had the right
kind of head to excel as the live show’s musical director. Norris moved back to
home base (St. Petersburg Florida) where he continues to serve as DeGraw’s
musical director and lead guitarist from a comfortably-appointed home studio. The
time and security of his position have allowed Norris to branch out, writing and
producing for other musicians, television, and movies.

“I’m a musician first, a writer second, and a producer/engineer only third,’ Norris
said. “I haven’t been traditionally educated in the right ways or wrong ways to do
audio engineering; instead, I’ve watched what other people are doing. I try to
assimilate the most successful strategies. We were working with the producer and
writer Martin Johnson [Taylor Swift, Avril Lavigne, Boys Like Girls] in 2014 on
Gavin’s “You Got Me’ single, and the session had something like 150 tracks. Martin
was using Metric Halo ChannelStrip on almost every single track! I liked the sound
he was getting, and that kind of processor efficiency certainly caught my attention.’

One of the challenges that Norris faces in his role as musical director for DeGraw is
transparently combining the fullness of the recorded versions of his songs with the
energy of the five-piece band he tours with. Norris pulls stems from the recorded
versions of the songs that he combines with a click track and a cue track for live

The live playback rig that Norris manages for DeGraw consists of two redundant
Mac Minis “loaded to the gills.’ Digital Performer’s set list function makes it easy to
move songs around from night-to-night, and it plays back three stereo stems, along
with a click and a cue. Through a switcher, they share a screen, a keyboard, and a
mouse. A MOTU 828x converter produces the output, with a Radial switcher to
switch between the two computers in the extremely rare event that the main
computer goes down. Although he prints his ChannelStrip processing to the three
stereo stems, he also runs a live instance of ChannelStrip on their outputs to add
some brick wall limiting that buys him a few extra decibels.

Spurred by his success with Metric Halo ChannelStrip, Norris is now exploring
Metric Halo’s full Production Bundle, which includes HaloVerb, Dirty Delay,
Character (signal modeling), TransientControl, and various multiband dynamics