DOUG SEEGERS – Biography
A HOMELESS MUSICIAN,
AN UNFORGETTABLE SONG,
AND A LIFE-CHANGING ENCOUNTER:
the improbable story of 66-year-old singer-songwriter-guitarist Doug Seegers reads like song lyrics
and is a powerful, soul-stirring tale of redemption and recovery – reminding us all with a message of hope that it is never too late to change your life or follow your dreams
After years of struggling with drug and alcohol abuse, the then 62-year-old homeless Nashville street musician Doug Seegers’ life changed overnight. A hit song catapulted him to superstar status in Sweden and since then he’s played hundreds of sold out shows. Doug’s two bestselling albums of original songs have received Gold and Platinum music awards. And in the spring of 2018, Doug Seegers recorded his first international album in Los Angeles with master producer Joe Henry — the result is the much-anticipated emotional eleven-song album ”A Story I Got to Tell” which will be released in September 2018.
Though Doug Seegers dreamed of a career in the music industry and grew up on the hard-country sounds of Hank Williams, the heart-first-country-rock of Gram Parsons, the soul-stirring love longs of Emmylou Harris, and the classically American sounds of Johnny Cash, he never imagined his road to stardom would take him from a life of drug-addiction on the streets of New York City to a food pantry in Nashville where everything would change on one extraordinary afternoon.
Growing up in Queens, New York, Doug Seegers listened to soul, blues, and jazz and dreamed of making it as musician. When Seegers’ Dad left him and his family when he was about 8 years old, Doug, alone and lonely in his Long Island home, only found comfort in the guitar and the Hank Williams records his father left behind
For years Seegers chased his musical dreams playing in New York City, Austin and other locales, eventually recording a few songs, while also working odd jobs including a stint as a cabinet-maker, then starting his own family before eventually moving from New York to Nashville with only his guitar and a collection of spiral notebooks filled with over two decades of his song writing. Seegers struggled all along the way with ongoing drug and alcohol abuse which continued until his addiction became so severe that he eventually hit rock bottom and was living on the streets of Nashville alone, homeless, and with nothing but his guitar.
One morning in 2013 in a profound moment of faith and desperation, Doug committed to recovery from his addictions and re-committed to his lifelong dream of making music. Finally finished with drugs and alcohol, Doug discovered God and a deep faith and it was during this time of self-redemption that he was “discovered” as musician outside of Stacy Downey’s “The Little Pantry That Could,” a food bank serving the hungry of West Nashville. Doug was a regular at the pantry where he received nourishment for his body and soul – food, encouragement, even guitar strings. It’s there that Doug met Swedish country star Jill Johnson who had traveled to Nashville to produce a documentary about the down-and-out musicians who played at Downey’s pantry’s singer-songwriter nights of which Doug Seegers was a regular.
Downey knew deep down that among the many fellow musicians with worn guitars, busted strings and frayed hopes, the one person she was sure Jill Johnson needed to hear was Doug Seegers. At first Doug wasn’t sold on the idea but reluctantly sat on the grass next to Johnson and sang “I’m going down to the river, to wash my soul again/I been running with the devil, and I know he is not my friend.”
In early 2014, when Doug performed the song “Going Down To The River” on a popular Swedish TV show it became an instant sensation topping the iTunes charts overnight.
After that a three-day marathon of recording followed at Nashville’s legendary Sound Emporium – an iconic studio founded by the late Cowboy Jack Clement, a Country Music Hall of Fame member and pal of Johnny Cash, who had also recorded there as had Emmylou Harris, Taylor Swift, Elvis Costello and so many greats.
The formerly homeless street singer was now making music in hallowed space and the rest, as they say, is history.
In May 2014, Doug Seegers’ first album “Going Down To The River” (produced by Will Kimbrough and backed by the best Nashville musicians) reached the Number #1 spot on the Swedish sales charts in mere weeks.
An unheard of — and unheard — battered and beaten homeless man discovered by a Swedish country singer on the seedy streets of Nashville had become an overnight sensation in Scandinavia and an example of the enduring strength of the human spirit. Doug’s transformation can be called a Cinderella story, a fairy tale, a miracle.
Today Seegers’ remarkable debut album “Going Down To The River,” his well-received second album ”Walking On the Edge of the World” (also produced by Kimbrough and recorded in Nashville), a duet album with Jill Johnson, plus a cherished Christmas album and most recently a respected Hank Williams tribute prove Seegers (who was known as Duke The Drifter early in his career, a nod to Williams) isn’t going anywhere. Doug Seegers is here to stay. His albums and singles demonstrate a natural musicianship and song writing talent as well as an ability to evoke deep emotions from loneliness and despair to joy and salvation through songs as diverse as Texas swing dances to heart-wrenching love songs to stomping honky-tonks to rollicking rock.
Fast forward to 2018: life has changed for Doug Seegers since magic first struck in the early spring of 2014. His rise to fame, his overnight success, chart topping songs, and transformation from homeless Nashville street singer to a major star in Sweden with multiple records, over 300 sold-out shows, mile-long lines for autographs and features in major media is the stuff of fairy tales — one that continues to unfold.
This past spring in Los Angeles, Doug Seegers recorded ”A Story I Got To Tell,” a new album with renown master producer Joe Henry, who was mentored by legendary producer T-Bone Burnett in the ’90s, and has worked with Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, Glen Hansard, Aimee Mann, Solomon Burke, Bettye LaVette, Meshell Ndegeocello and many more award-winning artists.
“Working with Joe Henry has been one of the most revolutionary and evolutionary experiences,” says Seegers. “This album is probably my most personal songwriting experience ever and reminds me why every day I choose my recovery, my redemption, and my faith. Through my music I know my authentic message of hope and rehabilitation can help people. It’s what I’m meant to do. It’s the story I’ve got to tell.”
As producer on the new album, Henry instantly connected with Doug’s charismatic presence, his soulful songs, and his artistic sensibility. The result of their collaboration takes Doug beyond his signature country sound to a rich soundscape where soul, blues, rock and gospel intersect — redefining Doug Seegers as a classic American Music artist in the same legendary category as Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Roy Orbison.
The new album ”A Story I Got To Tell” includes two “cover” songs: the first is “White Line” (the other cover is ”Poor Side of Town”) written by Canadian songwriter Willie P. Bennett and it draws on Doug’s experience as a street musician where he organically absorbed songs from different writers and then transformed them into his own unique sound…this authentic tune feels like it was written for/by Doug.
The inspirational “Give It Away” is the heart of the album evoking Doug’s raw, spiritual journey from rock bottom addiction to rebirth to recovery and ultimately redemption. The song poignantly tells Doug’s tale of paying it forward, divine intervention and discovering his life’s mission via an AA meeting.
In “Six Feet Under” Doug takes listeners back to the dark time after a successful Christmas 2016 tour in Sweden and he ventured back to Nashville. In his old rented room, ready to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s, Doug faces the stark truth that he’s truly alone, friendless except for his faithful (former) drug dealer.
“Rockabilly Bug” moves the album beyond the soulful confessional songs reminding listeners that Doug is as much gifted storyteller as he is colorful entertainer with a rockabilly that is already a showstopper at concerts.
“Life Is a Mystery” beautifully closes the album, a sad but hopeful love song.
In addition to the September release of the Joe Henry produced album ”A Story I Got To Tell” Doug Seegers’ much anticipated memoir GOING DOWN TO THE RIVER (written with Steve Eubanks) will be published in September by HarperCollins/Thomas Nelson Books.
Doug Seegers continues to inspire fans with his story of recovery, redemption, faith, and the firm belief in the miraculous power of God. “My life story allows me to tell others that no matter how low you’ve gone, no matter what you’ve done, it’s not too late. And if you open your eyes and your heart, maybe you’ll witness a miracle, too.”
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updated July 19, 2018
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