A homeless musician, an unforgettable song, a life-changing encounter…. the improbable story of a 67 year old singer-songwriter-guitarist.

After years of struggling with drug and alcohol abuse, homeless Nashville street musician Doug Seegers had his life changed overnight. A hit song catapulted him to superstar status in Sweden and his two bestselling albums of original songs achieved Gold and Platinum status there.

On May 31st he releases his first album for BMG, ‘A Story I Got To Tell’. Music News got together with Doug to find out more…

Did you grow up in a musical family
Yes, both my mother and father were country musicians, not very successful, but still…And my grandmother listened to the radio all the time and whenever the Beatles came on, she called me and had me to listen to the harmony vocals

When did you decide to be a musician and what were your influences
I’ve been playing in bands and as a street musician more or less my whole life, but didn’t get serious about music until I moved to Nashville. My main influences are Hank Williams, Gram Parsons and the Beatles

You left home as a teenager…why and where did you go
I couldn’t wait to leave but I stayed in the New York area, sometimes at Manhattan, sometimes Long Island, wherever I could find a place to stay.

Were you making music fulltime or did you have another job
I went to Austin in the Seventies for a while and for six months I played full time in Buddy Miller’s band. But it wasn’t for me, I quit and went back to New York. I’ve been a wood worker, a cabinet maker, all my life. One of the first things I made was a grandfather clock for my mother. Even when I was heavily into drugs and alcohol I tried to keep on working.

I know you had a big alcohol and drugs problem, when did all that start
I think I became an alcoholic the day I had my first sip of beer when I was a teenager. I never really enjoyed the taste of it but I loved the buzz. No matter if it came from alcohol or drugs. I guess I just have a reckless nature.

How did you manage to kick that
About six years ago, I just felt that I had enough and that I was going to die if I kept on going with drugs and alcohol. I threw away my half empty bottle of vodka and with the help of God I’ve stayed sober ever since.

You had long spells of homelessness, did you ever feel you wouldn’t survive that, and how did you survive
Being homeless never scared me that much, It was actually not a bad life. I slept under a bridge, in a tent and when it got cold at a shelter. And I could always find food to eat somewhere. Of course, the older you get the harder it gets. But it was not the homelessness that would have killed me, it was the drugs and the drinking. They led me into a whole heap of trouble.

You were discovered by a Swedish film crew, how did that happen

My friend and guardian angel Stacey at the food pantry where I used to go for food and additional clothes, got in touch with me and said there was a Swedish film crew looking for street musicians for a TV documentary they were doing. I hesitated but finally I decided to go by the pantry and check it out. I met the guys and they asked me to play them a song. I sang “Going Down To The River” for them, one I’d written.
A couple of days later they took me to John Carter Cash’s studio to record it. After that the film crew went back to Sweden to do editing or whatever they do and I kind of forgot about the whole thing.

A couple of months later I walked into the Nashville library and a friend of mine yelled out to me “Hey Doug, you got a #1 hit in Sweden”. I thought he was kiddin’ me but I borrowed a computer and checked it out. There it was, #1 on the Itunes chart in a country I barely knew existed!

You’re very big in Sweden now, how is that for you and do you ever go busking still
Right after the TV show was broadcast, a couple of guys from Sweden got in touch and they arranged for me to record an album in Nashville. It was produced by the great Will Kimbrough and I got to play and sing with heroes of mine like Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller and Al Perkins. The album was released in May 2014 and went straight to #1 in Sweden.

Then I flew to Sweden, my first time in an airplane, and did a 60 dates tour, all sold out , plus several interviews and TV appearances. People were standing in lines for hours after the shows to get me to sign a CD or get a photo taken. And I had a film crew following every step I took. It was completely unreal for me, but fortunately the guys who arranged the tour and the recording, they were very understanding and did everything the could to protect and help me.
And yes, I still go busking whenever I can. I will never stop doing that!

What are your songs about
I write about what I see, about life, where I’ve been. When I was homeless often I used to get my notebooks out of dumpsters. Once you’ve been in a cell knowing nobody’s coming to see you, nobody to call – once you’ve fought with a wharf rat for sleeping space under a bridge – you don’t have trouble writing after that.

I hear you have a connection to Uganda, what is that
Since a few years back I’ve been doing Christmas tours in Sweden, playing churches and community halls all over the country. These tours are co-arranged by my management and a Swedish charity organization called Eriks. They have projects all over the world, but we’ve been focusing on helping children in Uganda, to make sure they get food, clothes, shelter, health care, education and, ultimately, hope. Two years ago, we went down there to visit some of the project we’ve been supporting. It was a life changing experience. Before that, I thought I knew all about poverty, but what I’ve seen in Nashville is nothing compared to the misery we saw in Uganda.

What would you say to anyone starting out in music
I don’t think I’m the right guy to give anyone any advice. Work hard and stay sober, maybe!

Looking back what would you have done differently
I’ve hurt a lot of people throughout the years, friends and family, and I feel bad about it. But there’s no point regretting the things I’ve done. I try to look forward and do my very best to help people in their need. And to be a good, loving human being.