IN PROFILE: Norwich songwriter Bill Downs hopes to impress Tom Jones and Jessie J on tonight’s BBC One show The Voice

Tonight he will perform in front of Tom Jones, Jessie J, and millions of television viewers, but a few years ago songwriter Bill Downs was nervous about singing for his Sprowston classmates.

The 23-year-old is starring on BBC1 talent show, The Voice, in front of Welsh singing legend Tom Jones, pop star Jessie J, Black Eyed Peas supremo Will.I.Am and the singer of Irish band, The Script, Danny O'Donoghue.

The former Sprowston High School pupil told the Evening News: 'I have known from quite a young age that I was able to sing but I was quite nervous. I don't like being the centre of attention but now I have learned to cope with it.

'When other musicians started saying, you have something really good there, I thought, maybe I should do something with this otherwise it will be a waste.'

Bill, who plays with local band, The Tracks, took up guitar aged 11 when his neighbour started playing, but kept his talent to himself, before playing in a band at Sprowston High's leavers' assembly when he was 16.


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The singer was compared to Ed Sheeran by the landlord of the Dog House, on St Georges Street, where he plays open-mic nights. But it was not until a friend dropped out of a performance that Bill stepped up to share his talent.

He said: 'A mate of mine had a gig booked at the Dog House on Christmas Eve 2009. He said, 'can you do it?' He knew I had some songs under my belt, but initially I said no because the thought made me feel sick.

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'But then I thought, if I don't do it now I will never do it, and it was one of the best gigs I have done.

'Straight afterwards I couldn't remember anything. I sat there playing and singing. I just thought, what do I do in-between songs?'

He kept his music going after school as a hobby, while working for Aviva, various banks and day centres for adults with learning difficulties.

Tonight the four coaches will hear Bill sing with their backs turned, so they will judge him just on his voice.

If they like the performer, they then press a button and their chair turns round.

Last weekend Gorleston's Toni Warne appeared on The Voice and got three of the coaches to turn around, before choosing to join Jessie J's team.

And Bill joins a growing list of singers from our city finding success on the national stage.

As reported in the Evening News, Spixworth teenager, Sam Kelly, who also went to Sprowston High, found fame on Britain's Got Talent, while Norwich band Lost? supported McFly at the University of East Anglia's LCR on Tuesday night.

But the triumphs of Norwich's music scene do not surprise Bill.

'It is long overdue,' he said. 'It was just a matter of time until something happened and now it has all happened at the same time.'

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