- Associated Press - Saturday, June 14, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Maybe you’ve passed him on a downtown sidewalk. Maybe thrown a couple bucks his way.

Doug Seegers, 62, is a street singer. He’s been in town for 17 years. He’s been homeless and addicted. He’s been singing on Second Avenue, outside The Old Spaghetti Factory, and on Charlotte Avenue, outside the Goodwill store.

Gray hair. Guitar case open for thrown change. Sign that says, “Out of work. Anything helps.”

He sits on the ground when he plays. Talks in a voice still colored by his New York upbringing. Sings with a drawl colored by the Hank Williams records he heard as a child. His parents liked country music.

Maybe you’ve seen him.

Maybe you’ve heard him.

Anyway, he’s country music’s newest international superstar.

He’s in Sweden right now, breathing crisp air instead of Nashville’s summer sauna. He’s playing festivals, sharing stages with Neil Young and Dwight Yoakam and signing his name on the cover of his just-released debut album, an album that finds him duetting with Country Music Hall of Famer Emmylou Harris.

She called him about a month ago, Emmylou did. She said a few nice things about his singing. Country music’s newest international superstar choked out a few words of thanks, then he hung up the phone and wept.

‘Who is Doug Seegers?’

On Dec. 17, 2012, musician Aaron Espe posted a cellphone video to YouTube and titled it “Who is Doug Seegers?”

“He’s an out-of-work carpenter in Nashville,” Espe wrote. “He sometimes eats at the mission on Charlotte. Busks a lot on 2nd Avenue. That’s all I know, really.”

In the video, Seegers strummed a cheap black guitar. He wore a toboggan hat and glasses. There was a one-dollar bill visible in his soft-shell guitar case. He strummed hard, guitar strings vibrating as he sang, “I’m going down to the river, gonna wash my soul again/ I’m going out to the country, gonna bury my head in the creek.”

“Nobody was listening,” Espe wrote. “People don’t understand that you cannot teach what he’s doing. … That vibe. His haunting voice. The way he makes you feel something. … I hope people watch this video. I hope a million more dollar bills go into that guitar case of his.”

Espe’s 2012 video received no Facebook likes. It wasn’t widely viewed until March 2014, when people from far away with names like Torstensson, Ostberg and Hultkvist made comments like “This man is amazing,” ” ‘Down to the River’ is one of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard. It stings my heart,” and “The people in Sweden just love You and Your song.”

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