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"I'm back from the grave," Waylon Payne sings on his extraordinary new album The Prodigal. For most folks, that sort of sentiment is hyperbole, but in Payne's case, it's an understatement. Produced by Frank Liddell and Eric Masse (Lee Ann Womack, Miranda Lambert), the record marks Payne's first release in 15 years, and it offers an unflinching account of his journey to the brink and back, chronicling addiction, heartbreak, estrangement, and more hard times than any one man could reasonably be expected to survive.
While the last few years of Payne's life have been without a doubt the most productive -- recent credits include co-writes with Miranda Lambert, Lee Ann Womack, and Ashley Monroe to rattle off just a few -- you need to go all the way back to the beginning to understand just how unlikely a new Waylon Payne record is. Born in 1972 to Willie Nelson guitarist Jody Payne and GRAMMY-winning country singer Sammi Smith, Payne was raised primarily in the strict Baptist home of his aunt and uncle. His youth was a difficult one on a number of fronts, but it was his sexual orientation that proved to be the breaking point, and by the age of 18, he was expelled from college, disowned by his family, and homeless. After stints working day jobs in Dallas and San Antonio, he relocated to Nashville to pursue his musical ambitions, performing in the honkytonks on Broadway six or seven nights a week until he landed a gig playing guitar and singing on the road with Shelby Lynne. Lynne helped Payne develop as a writer, and in the early 2000's, he scored a major label deal for his debut solo album, 'The Drifter.' The record's release should have been a triumphant moment for Payne -- he had moved to Hollywood by that point and even talked his way into playing Jerry Lee Lewis in the acclaimed Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line -- but instead it marked a drastic escalation of his decades-long freefall. The low-grade meth his father had introduced him to in his younger years had given way to harder stuff, and Payne watched his life spin hopelessly out of control as he put an astonishing amount of drugs into his veins.
Hitting rock bottom and getting clean proved to be an excruciatingly difficult journey, but it forced Payne to take stock of his experiences and process the trauma he'd been bottling up since his youth. The result is a spellbinding story of redemption and reconciliation, an album that's equally heartbreaking and uplifting as it celebrates the bittersweet beauty of survival. Gritty and resolute, the songs are country in the most classic sense of the word: honest, unvarnished, real. They're the work of one of Nashville's most gifted writers and performers, passionately delivered by a voice many presumed we'd never hear from again, a voice long thought to be swallowed up in a tsunami of reckless self-destruction. It all might sound like a happy ending, but for Waylon Payne, it's more like a new beginning.
"There comes a time when a man's got to stand on his own," he concludes. "For me, that time has come."
Things sure have changed for Doug Seegers ever since that magic night in the early spring of 2014, when he performed his song ”Going Down To The River” in a Swedish TV show hosted by the local country star Jill Johnson. It was an overnight success, the song went straight to #1 on the Itunes chart and in a few months Seegers went from the life as a homeless street singer in Nashville to a major star in Sweden. His debut album ”Going Down To The River” went Platinum. A duet album with Jill Johnson as well as a Christmas album both charted. A second album of original songs, “Walking On The Edge of the World”, was release to critical acclaim in 2016 and in 2017 Doug released his tribute album to Hank Williams, a true labor of love.
In the spring of 2018, Doug Seegers recorded a new album in Los Angeles with reknown producer Joe Henry, to be released worldwide in March 2019. In September 2018 the autobiography “Going Down The River”, co-written with Eubanks, was released in the US Doug Seegers has done around 300 shows, almost all of them sold out. And he’s been on all the major TV shows. The Doug Seegers fairy tale has been told several times already. A Cinderella story with all the classic ingredients and almost too good to be true. But the hobo-turned-into-star is the truth and nothing but the truth, swear to God. But no less amazing is how Seegers handled his new found fame. How he emerged as a professional, experienced artist with the ability to do his part on stage, in the recording studio, in interviews, radio- and TV- shows, signing records, as a songwriter – like it was all he ever done in his whole life. Everybody working close to him, constantly have to remind themselves that less than 5 years ago, Seegers was living under a bridge, battling addiction and playing his music on the streets to survive. Even more astonishing is to see the everyday growth of Doug Seegers as a human being. For many years he lived a rough life, even though Doug himself doesn’t agree. Self pity is not his thing. But the life he used to live scarred him of course. His ability to remember thing was limited, to put it mildly. Off stage he could get restless and unfocused and he sometimes had a hard time dealing with the world outside the music. But the healing has begun. He’s improving every day. Doug is not an educated man, he probably skipped school most of the time. He rarely reads books, but he’s still a very intelligent man, picking up new things every day at the speed of a child, eager to learn.
Doug Seegers is deeply rooted in the musical traditions of the American South. A tradition where the bounders between country, soul, rock and blues are invisible or at least unclear. It’s easy to imagine Seegers writing songs with Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham in Muscle Shoals or with Chips Moman in Memphis. Songs that Aretha Franklin or Elvis Presley could have scored hits with. He could have been hanging out with Tony Joe White in Georgia or with Waylon and Willie in Nashville.
But that never happened. We know that for sure even if some parts of the Doug Seegers history still are a bit foggy. He had a band in New York in the seventies and they recorded a 7”, moved to Austin for a while in the eighties and played with Buddy Miller briefly, but apart from that he didn’t make much of a musical impression. Back in New York he worked as a carpenter and raised a family. Then there is a long period, a downward spiral including divorce, booze and drugs, ending up as a homeless in Nashville. Enter a TV team lead by Swedish stars Magnus Carlsson and Jill Johnson, both of them falling in love with Doug and his song “Going Down To The River” in the fall of 2013. At the same time Doug decided to get sober with the help of God. A few months later the show was broadcasted and thing never were the same again.
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