BY MATT ALPERT
Very few artists have overnight success story like Doug Seegers past year and a half.
The 63-year-old singer-songwriter moved to Nashville 17 years ago to pursue his dreams of being a career singer-songwriter. But his battle with alcohol and drug addiction took him off that course, and he ended up living out on the streets for years. Throughout his years on the streets, Seegers wrote songs about his experiences. His talent was obvious to those around him, and last year, he finally gained the recognition they deserved.
Enter Swedish country star Jill Johnson, who visited Nashville last spring to film a documentary about songwriters struggling with hard times. She found Seegers busking on the streets of Nashville and filmed their encounter for the documentary. Seegers played her “Going Down to the River,” a piercing country song he wrote about his battle with addiction. The streetside performance would go on to change his life forever. You can watch that encounter in the video below.
According to Rolling Stone, Johnson was so moved by Seegers’ music that she took him to a Nashville studio to cut a record, which would become Going Down to the River. Johnson brought the album back to Sweden, and it became a number one bestseller on iTunes, launching Seegers musical career both overseas and in the U.S. And last December, after years of busking outside of the doors of the Ryman Auditorium, the sacred Mother Church of Country Music, he was invited inside to make his debut at the Grand Ole Opry.
Seegers’ music has a rare authenticity that’s seldom found in country music today. Countless country artists sing about hard living, but few have actually lived it. Favorites on Going Down to the River include the soul-inspired single “Angie’s Song”, “She” — a cover of Gram Parsons’ classic duet with Emmylou Harris (who’s also on Seegers recording), and the heart-piercing title track “Going Down to the River”.
So what did Seegers transformation look like? Here’s him performing “Going Down To The River” with his band in the same city where he was a homeless busker just last spring.