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The American

Street Music The American caught up with Doug Seegers to talk about his debut album and a whole lot more

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raveling the rails, living on the streets, singing for his supper, Doug Seegers’ songs sound like typical, traditional country music fare. But unlike most songwriters he has lived the life as well as written the words. He tells The American about how it all led to the release – at the age of 62 – of his debut album, Going Down To The River. It’s a modern, old-time classic. Doug Seegers was in Stockholm, Sweden, when we spoke to him, for reasons that will become clear. Born in 1952 in Long Island, New York, music was his passion. Singing, playing and writing country music songs took him to Austin, Texas, and marriage and raising two children pulled him to upstate New York, but music kept calling and when his kids were grown he eventually made his way alone to Nashville, which he now calls home: “Nashville is the motherlode.” he says, passionately. “I went to Austin because I connected with a gentleman called Buddy Miller [now famous for his work with Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Linda Ronstadt and Robert Plant and Alison Krauss among countless other luminaries]. He had a band called St Elmo’s Fire back

40 January - February 2015

in the day and I met him at a little club called Chester’s in Long Island. I would go to see him on Friday nights with this girl I was singing with, and eventually he found out we were performers too and got us on stage to sing a song or two. He moved to Austin, Texas, because it was really goin’ on down there in the ‘70s with people like Willy Nelson. He called me after a month and asked me to front the band. He’d gone to Austin first, with this girl I was singing with, and fell in love with her and they got married – I always joke with him about the time he stole my girlfriend! We had a band called the Back Burners... and we did very poorly!” he laughs. “We played all through Texas, up to Arkansas, down to Corpus Christi just before you get to the Mexican border. After maybe a year I got fed up, not with Buddy or the band, but I didn’t like the road life at all. It was hot! I did a very childish thing and just went back home without telling anybody. I’m sure the guys didn’t like that too much. But I’m still friends with Buddy, amazingly so!” Lately Doug has become a surprise internet and documentary film sensation. Arriving in Nashville he found himself homeless. “I was

living under a bridge.” he says in his matter-of-fact way. “About two blocks from the bridge there was a little place in the basement of a church, The Little Pantry That Could. Stacy Downey, the young lady that runs it, bless her heart, helps about a hundred people every Saturday, giving them free food and clothing. One day she asked me if I’d like to meet some people that had called her on the phone. Evidently they were some folks from Sweden making a documentary movie about street musicians in Nashville.” One of the movie makers was Jill Johnson, a huge country music star in her homeland. “I played ‘Down To The River’ for them and when she found out it was an original song of mine she wanted to record it. I said I’d be honored. She paid for the recording [engagingly, Doug omits to mention it was in Johnny Cash’s old studio] and the musicians, and put it on Jills Veranda, her TV show in Sweden – she’s like the Swedish Dolly Parton – and the song went to Number 1 on iTunes. I had no idea how big country music is in Sweden. They loved this hardcore Country stuff.” Despite recent success, Doug still plays on the street in Nash-

The American January-February 2015  

The American has been published for Americans in Britain since 1976. It's also for Brits who like American culture.

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