Robby Norris is one of a younger generation of bluegrass musicians in Watauga County, and he is also one of the most experienced, with hundreds of performances, three solo recording projects, and several group recordings to his credit.
He showed an early interest in music at age seven when his father showed him a few chords, and he quickly gravitated to the mandolin. Soon he was playing “Boil Them Cabbage Down” on a small mandolin his father gave him. By the time he was ten years old, he was also playing guitar, banjo, fiddle, and bass, in addition to working on his singing skills.
Robby’s father Bobby owns a music shop in Boone, which features a small workshop in the back of the store where he builds Norris mandolins. Robby started playing on the Norris #1, and today he continues to play that instrument as well as the Norris #6, which is his favorite mandolin.
Robby made his first recording, Just for Fun, when he was around ten years old, in a basement recording studio in his home. His second recording, Tornado, was released when Robby was just twelve years old, an album which includes the title track, his own composition. Robby’s third release, Takin’ a Break, was released in 2007, and Robby plays all of the instruments on the recording. He currently plays with a bluegrass group, Surefire, with fellow Watauga County musicians Tom Isaacs and John Bryan.
In addition to his father, Robby cites Bobby Osborne and Doyle Lawson as two major influences on his playing. One of his musical highlights to date came at a bluegrass festival in Boone, when Robby had the chance to share the stage with Osborne.
Robby is a founding member of Surefire, along with Isaacs and Bryan. Tim Norris is also a band member. Surefire has multiple CDs, and they play regionally at churches, festivals, and other venues. Robby plays mandolin with Surefire and sings harmony. He has made multiple a capella gospel recordings with area musicians.
Robby’s recording of “In the Pines” is used on the soundtrack for the motion picture The List, which premiered in 2007.
Robby Norris is available for performances with the bluegrass band Surefire.