American singer-songwriter Doug Levitt renowned for The Greyhound Diaries project.

Doug Levitt Biography

Introducing Doug Levitt

 

Doug Levitt is an American singer-songwriter, author, and journalist known for his innovative approach to storytelling through music and his extensive travels across the United States on Greyhound buses.  As described by multi-Grammy-winning producer Trina Shoemaker, ” Doug is an outstanding songwriter, one of the best that I have heard probably in the past decade.”

In the vast expanse of American music, there exists a genre deeply rooted in storytelling — country music. Within this genre, troubadours traverse the nation’s highways and byways, carrying with them the stories of its people. Doug Levitt is one such troubadour, a singer-songwriter whose journey mirrors the very essence of the Americana experience.

Bound for Glory

 

Levitt’s odyssey began nearly 15 years ago with nothing but a Greyhound pass, a beat-up Gibson J-100, and a copy of Woody Guthrie’s “Bound for Glory”. Armed with a desire to explore the heart of America, he embarked on a mission to tell the stories of those living on the margins, to shed light on the often unseen and unheard narratives that shape our collective consciousness.

Woody Guthrie, a seminal figure in American folk music, is renowned for his poignant lyrics, social activism, and enduring influence on generations of musicians. “Bound for Glory” is Guthrie’s semi-autobiographical novel, detailing his experiences as a folk singer during the Great Depression, capturing the essence of his journey, struggles, and aspirations in pursuit of artistic expression and social justice in America.

Doug explains, “Our stories are where we meet. They are the crossroads of human experience……But more important, I see now,” he says, “we share our stories to know we’re not alone.”

The Greyhound Diaries

 

The Greyhound Diaries project delves into the stories from the underbelly of America, collected by the traveller and musician Doug Levitt during his journeys on Greyhound buses.

Doug’s travels spanned more than 150,000 Greyhound miles, taking him from prisons to Veterans Associations, from shelters to prestigious venues like the Kennedy Center and Martin Luther King’s church. Along the way, Levitt immersed himself in the rich tapestry of American life, capturing its essence through his poignant lyrics and soulful melodies.

The Greyhound bus service was established in 1914. It is a transportation network renowned for providing affordable intercity travel across the United States, connecting diverse communities and passengers with its extensive routes. Storywriters have repeatedly used the iconic Greyhound brand as a symbol of American travel. They are used as a story device to depict characters’ journeys. Some notable film examples include Midnight Cowboy (1969), Forrest Gump (1994) and Into the Wild (2007).

As a singer-songwriter, Levitt listens to the struggles and triumphs of America’s marginalized communities as they traverse the country on long-haul coaches. Over nearly fifteen years, he has crisscrossed the United States with his guitar on his back and a notebook in his pocket. For many, Greyhound is the only affordable option for long-distance travel, creating a unique community of individuals seeking work, dealing with family crises, and embarking on personal transformations.

Through encounters with passengers like Kat, returning home to her daughter while her boyfriend serves time in jail, or Jay, navigating joint custody arrangements for his young son, Levitt captures the raw humanity of life on the road. He encounters individuals like the Sombrero Man, an activist campaigning on various issues, including gun control, who shares a poignant story of assistance from a stranger. There’s also Sam, who grapples with addiction after a life-altering accident.

Drawing inspiration from these encounters, Levitt weaves their narratives into heartfelt songs, each melody a reflection of the human experience shared on Greyhound buses. The documentary also follows Levitt on a pilgrimage to the hometown of his muse, the legendary songwriter Woody Guthrie, in Okemah, Oklahoma.

Through poignant storytelling and introspective journeys, The Greyhound Diaries offers a glimpse into the soul of America, as seen through the eyes and melodies of Doug Levitt.

Doug’s project, The Greyhound Diaries, is documented here www.greyhounddiaries.com

The Greyhound Diaries documentary on BBC Sounds is available here www.bbc.co.uk

Edge of Everywhere

 

The culmination of his journey is “Edge of Everywhere”, an album that transcends mere music to become a testament to the human spirit.

Produced by the legendary Trina Shoemaker, whose illustrious career includes collaborations with artists like Brandi Carlile and Sheryl Crow, the album is a testament to the power of storytelling.

Trina Shoemaker discusses the making of Edge of Everywhere:

“A collection of songs that needs to stand alone as a record but also needs to reflect the depth of the greater project, which is capturing the spirit of America over the last ten years as seen through the eyes of people who don’t usually get the chance to tell their story, certainly not with poetry, beauty, respect and an understanding, and somehow Doug was able to.

 

I would say Doug is an outstanding songwriter, one of the best I have heard, probably in the last decade. Doug’s songs are what captivated me. There were vocal performances that were unbelievable. I first I thought that it was not possible that you could ride around on a Greyhound bus, because I couldn’t. I would be terrified of it, actually, but when I met Doug, I thought he could and did, and he is one of these people. Doug suffered tragedy as a younger person, and in that suffering, I think it made it possible both for him to bond with people and their pain and their suffering that most of us would feel too uncomfortable or just awkward. But Doug, the way that he dealt with his personal tragedy allowed him to share that with people and them to open up where most of us would either just be shocked or feel a great deal of pity and not know what to say. The people on the bus suffered, too, and knew exactly what to say. It may have helped him heal and brought life to his songs.

The reality of his project is the recordings of the great American spirit and a catalogue Smithsonian for some future generations and understand where we came from and where we are going as a society, as a diverse society where everybody does have a story. People who you thought had no story at all have the most fascinating ones and I was enchanted frankly and remained enchanted.”     

Shoemaker’s partnership with Levitt proves to be cosmically fitting; together, they create moving murals of sound, offering glimpses into the lives of those often overlooked by society.

But what sets Levitt apart is not just his musical talent but his ability to empathize with the stories of others. Raised in the aftermath of a tragic loss, he found solace in music, using it as a means to navigate his own grief and connect with the pain of others. His experiences as a foreign correspondent further honed his understanding of human suffering, compelling him to channel his emotions into his music.

Through songs like “Turning Myself In” and “Back in Okemah”, Levitt delves into the lives of individuals grappling with adversity, offering glimpses of hope and resilience in the face of hardship. His bourbon-rich baritone and Cat Stevens-like falsetto guide the American landscape’s vast expanse, inviting listeners to embark on a transient and transcendental journey.

Edge Of Everywhere is like no other album you will hear all year, or for that matter have possibly heard for many years.” Americana UK 10/10

 More about Doug Levitt

 

He has been featured in interviews and profiles by major media outlets including CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Billboard, ITV Channel 4, The Wall Street Journal, The Independent in the UK, and Reuters.

Before embarking on his Greyhound project, Doug worked as a correspondent based in London, reporting from locations such as Rwanda, Iran, and Bosnia for networks such as CNN, NBC and ABC. A graduate of Cornell University, where he studied under the mentorship of Carl Sagan in Critical Thinking, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and pursued his master’s degree in Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict at the London School of Economics. His education began in the Washington DC public school system.

In 2019, he was honoured with the Speranza Foundation’s Lincoln City Fellowship for his contributions to music.

Doug Levitt’s journey to Blackpool

 

In many ways, Levitt embodies the spirit of the troubadour — a wandering minstrel whose songs serve as beacons of light in the darkness, offering solace to those in need. His music reminds us that our stories are not just our own, but part of a larger tapestry of human experience. As he aptly puts it, “Our stories are where we meet. They are the crossroads of human experience.” And in sharing our stories, we find solace in the knowledge that we are not alone.

We are honoured that Doug’s next stop on his journey will be to the UK seaside town of Blackpool, where he will perform and tell stories from The Edge of Everywhere in the Empress Ballroom on 31 August 2024.

His technical rider request captures the spirit of the troubadour: “One man, one guitar, one room.”

 

Doug Levitt performing at The British Country Music Festival 2024
Doug Levitt to appearing in Blackpool

Doug Levitt Latest Releases

Doug Levitt Edge of Everywhere TBCMF

Doug Levitt Edge of Everywhere Spotify Playlist

Doug Levitt Links

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