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Meet Rocky Norris

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rocky Norris.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Rocky. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I am a singer/songwriter. Though that isn’t who I’ve always been. Born to my Cuban mother, and a first-generation American father. I was raised in humble beginnings with my father working three jobs while my mother stayed at home with us five kids; now eight children.

As sort of nomadic souls, I recall my parents moving us from city to city. All around Southern California, and then jumping over to Arizona seeking a place to settle. My parents tell me stories of the struggle, though to me, most of it was a blur. I remember many meals that consisted of beans and rice, or macaroni and cheese, sometimes just spaghetti with butter. A dining room table piled high with grocery coupons and ad’s for cheap items of the week. Things were simpler in those early stages of childhood, yet grounding. I remember the reassurance my parents would give us, I remember seeing my dad take steps to better all of our lives. What they must have sacrificed so my dad would be able to graduate the academy to step into his new role as an officer in law enforcement. Through his and my mother’s accomplishments they both showed us that with hard work and perseverance, you can achieve anything and better your circumstances.

In the earlier years, we didn’t have what most children had. We owned our first camcorder when I was about twelve, before that it was only disposable cameras bought by my mother or having our own memories captured through another family member’s lens. Us children shared most of what we had; like my dad’s nylon string acoustic guitar. That’s where it all started. When I was nine I picked up his guitar, it was then that my dad noticed my passion. He’d then hand me stacks of “How To” guitar books, or printed songs from the internet that he wanted me to learn. Songs beyond my years, like “Lying Eyes” by the Eagles, and another song about leaving your parent’s house to get hitched. Yet no matter the song I played, guitar was my first love. It wasn’t until I joined a church children’s choir in Arizona that I found my voice.

Years passed and I practiced both guitar and singing. My eldest sister, Oly, would write beautifully thought out lyrics and melodies. Naturally, I started writing too! The first song I ever wrote and the first song we ever collaborated on was one called “Flower’s and Chocolate” which we later submitted to the Oprah Winfrey show. That same video was shown on Oprah’s Search for the World’s Most Talented Kid’s episode which aired in 2009.

Little did I know this moment would begin to shape me as the artist I am today. This was the first instance that I knew music was the path I had to take. Whatever my career evolved into, it would have to do with music.

I loved music. My eldest sister Oly loved music. We had both been on the Oprah Show and began to share the same dreams. We then practiced and would spend hours working on music together. She’d write, I’d sing. We were becoming quite the sister duo. It was time for Nashville. After a few visits across the country, my crazy family and I embarked on a one thousand seven hundred mile, and twenty- five-hour drive to Nashville, TN. The hub for music and lessons. In the years we were there, both my sister and I grew. We learned what we didn’t want, and what we wanted even more than ever. After a series of showcases, empty promises, and closed doors, it was time for our family to head back to Arizona.

After leaving one of the most renowned cities for music, you’d think we’d quit. That was not the case. My sister and I moved back to Nashville another time! Alas, just to learn more lessons about the music industry and just how difficult it can be. Nashville was no longer for us, and due to a family tragedy, we found ourselves back home in Arizona. We then relocated to a little town in Southern California. I’ll admit, we experienced many lows. We were healing from the rejection in Nashville, but mostly were aching with pain from the loss of our Grandmother, Blanca. I began to question my choices as a musician. Our sister duo had fallen apart. As turning eighteen drew closer and closer, I’d wished a normal life for myself. My sister moved up to Los Angeles, and I stayed in the little town in SoCal. Our world was shook, and I needed to find my own voice; vocally and spiritually. I took a break. A hiatus. I tried to find a new normal.

For a time music had become a lull. The destination was unclear. The people closest to me held me up and told me to continue. I met my best friend(to whom I married in two thousand sixteen), who also reminded me that music was something I needed to pursue. I knew they were right. The absence of music was killing me and I needed to continue.

After the trials of the last couple of years, the destination became clear. I found my independence as an artist, my own voice. It took stepping back from it all to come into my own. It took my sister moving away for me to realize how heavily I relied upon her abilities. Musically I believed myself to be incapable. I wasn’t confident in guitar, in writing, even in singing. Being alone taught me to speak out if I wanted to be heard, to trust in my abilities. That what I possess is unique; something my sister had known all along. As I trusted myself, I stepped out. I began to reach out to venues and ask for gigs. The more I did that the more confident I became. Although rejection has been a major part of it, getting the gigs and playing strongly outweighs the losses, and fuels my dreams. I’ve learned what it means to truly have tenacity.

Today, I still work a day job as a barista, but music is once again a part of me. It’s something I am chasing after and will not give up on. With everything that has happened, music has always been calling me back. My dreams will not be forgotten, I will achieve what I have set out to do. I want the music I play to resonate with others. Maybe empower them. In some way, I’d like my music to help others or at least to make them smile.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I don’t think anyone chasing after anything experiences ease. Life in and of itself will take you through challenges; even when you don’t chase after something like becoming a singer/songwriter.

To date, I think the last ten years were the most transitional of my life. I lived in three places, lost my grandmother, dropped music, married my best friend, and rediscovered music all over again. It was in the lull that I experienced a lot of disconnect and emotion. Whether I knew it or not I was running from what I was made to do.

Back then, I was forcing myself to be who I wasn’t. I was half-heartedly putting effort into music. My soul didn’t truly conceive my dreams could materialize. I didn’t believe what that wide-eyed little girl believed in as she watched herself sing on the Oprah Show. I thought that what she had envisioned had passed. That she had moved on, and I had lost sight. I even asked God, “ If music isn’t what I supposed to do, please, take it from me.” That hurt.

Yet, I was writing. I was writing in my pain, I was writing about what I was experiencing in life. I found myself with a need to be connected to music. When I thought the chapter was closing, I was still writing! Deep down, I still wished to be that voice that was heard. To be that musician playing for audiences across the world. It was there that I realized, “Why am I still writing if music isn’t what I’m made to do?” Music was engrained in me, I could no longer ignore it, so I picked it up again and haven’t looked back.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
Currently, I am playing at local venues and wineries in the Los Angeles, and Riverside counties. I’ve had the honor of singing and strumming the guitar at venues like the Mission Inn, Hotel Cafe, as well as private events.

I’ve been blessed enough to even team up with amazing musicians like my guitarist Hunter Havokk, and have continued to co-write with my eldest sister Oly, and younger sister Nani Summer.

Alongside these creatives, I’ll be working on my debut E.P. Once everything is ready, I’ll be in the studio recording with producer and artist Stephen Rezza,

I think that I’m most proud of where I find myself today. I’m happy to know what I want out of life, and I’m so grateful to be chasing after it. I’m accomplishing things, and although it’s in small ways, I believe every little step is a part of a bigger picture. Every artist wants to think that him or herself has something very unique, and some of that is true, We hold our own individuality and a bit of a spark that is all our own. However, what sets people apart is the soul you put behind it. The hours spent the sacrifice, the hard work. Knowing in your heart how badly you want to succeed. For me, I work on these aspects diligently. I know that makes me different.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success is something we all define differently. In my case, it’s a lot more complex than some. I want to make it in music, though I don’t know how it will unfold. I can only put in the hard work so to create an income I can rely on for my life.

The bar is pretty high. My dreams are pretty big. I think I’ll have hit a milestone when I can sell tickets and go on tour. When I’m singing my own lyrics on stage and the audience resounds them back to me. When I’m playing my music for people I never thought would be standing there. Performing on stages I only wished were possible. When my efforts pay off, and I hit every goal I have set out for myself. I’ll know I’ve made it.

Though the biggest thing I’d like to do with all of this is to be a testament to let people know their dreams aren’t stupid. That those late nights spent planning are truly worth something. That the hours sacrificed mean something. That you will get somewhere. That you deserve to be happy, so go get your happiness. That the words my parents instilled in me are a reality in my own life, “that with hard work and perseverance, you can achieve anything and better your circumstances.”

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Photographers made possible Picture Party: Mike Spicer @mikespicerphoto, Jordan Yap @jorlynns

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