Artist Profile: Local singer talks influences, opening for legend B.B. King

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Local singer Stephen Norwood kicked off the holiday season performing live at the 67th lighting of Macy's Great Tree in Atlanta.

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Local singer Stephen Norwood kicked off the holiday season performing live at the 67th lighting of Macy's Great Tree in Atlanta.

After a summer in which he opened a performance for legendary music artist B.B. King, Stephen Norwood capped off the fall and kicked off the holiday season performing live at the 67th lighting of Macy's Great Tree in Atlanta as this year's Macy's Rising Star. The nationally televised event was attended by thousands, and Norwood's name was on the lineup with 2006 American Idol finalist Mandisa and country singer Josh Turner. In this artist profile, the 18-year-old Gwinnett resident talks to staff writer Deanna Allen about his big performances, as well as what's up next for him in his budding career.

DA: Describe your sound.

SN: R&B/pop with an old school twist. Think Beyonce and Christina Aguilera meet Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway.

DA: Who are some of your musical influences?

SN: I am influenced by all kinds of music and musicians. Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Amy Winehouse, Queen, Etta James, the list could go on forever.

DA: How long have you been performing?

SN: I've been singing for the better part of 10 years. Since I was little I was always a part of singing groups, local plays, church activities, things like that. But I really started doing it professionally this year. It all started because my mom was trying to figure out a summer camp to put me in when I was eight or nine and she found a music summer camp and I did really well in it and I really enjoyed it so it just kind of all built from there.

DA: What's your favorite aspect of performing?

SN: I think it's the connections I can get with the audience, when things are just right when the song is right or when then audience is in the right mood you can really feel a great connection with them and they can feel a connection with you. There's really nothing like it. It's a powerful moment. And just to be singing. I just love to sing.

DA: Tell me about opening for B.B. King.

SN: That was a really, really great experience. It was, I think, definitely one of my largest shows to date, if not the largest. About 2,500 people roughly at this amphitheater. And I got to meet B.B. and I got to speak with him for a few minutes, I got to take a picture on his tour bus and he just amazes me. At 83 years old he is still out and touring and working the crowd like no other. It was very inspiring to watch, definitely.

DA: How did the show with B.B. King come about?

SN: We were actually there about three weeks before at the concert for the B-52s at the Mable House Amphitheatre and we were sitting before the show, (my manager) Jayne (Madigan) and I and our friends, and we were looking through the pamphlet for the upcoming shows for the season and we saw B.B. King was coming in three weeks. And Jayne and I said to each other, "Oh, that'd be really cool to open for B.B. King wouldn't it?" Like half joking. I thought it would be cool but I thought, "Oh, I'm sure they've already booked someone." So that was on a Friday. Jayne called the amphitheater first thing Monday morning just to say, "Hey, who's opening for B.B. King?" Because it didn't say on the Web site and as it turned out, Friday evening, the night that we were there at the B-52s, the previous opener, who had been scheduled since April, e-mailed the amphitheater telling them he wouldn't be able to open anymore. He had to cancel. So it just worked out really well and within two days, we had the booking.

DA: What were you feeling just before you took the stage to perform at the Macy's tree lighting event?

SN: Cold, a little nervous, but mostly excited. I was really anxious to get on the stage and start singing.

DA: What, if anything, was going through your mind while you were on that stage singing "Let It Snow."

SN: How awesome it was to be performing on live TV for hundreds of thousands of people.

DA: What can people expect from a Stephen Norwood show?

SN: They can expect a great show with great singing, great band. The band is awesome. They can expect a fun performance, kind of interactive, with fun surprises. We always try to mix it up in some way or have some fun part of the performance that will have people leaving thinking, "Oh, that was so cool, the way he did that," or the way the band did this. It's about the whole package, the whole show.