To call Travis Meadows’ path in life tragic is a disservice to both Meadows and the overall notion of tragedy itself. This is a man who, as a youth, watched his brother drown. Who began using drugs at age 11. Who battled (and beat) cancer at age 14, only to lose a leg below the knee in the process.
In the years since, Meadows has been arrested. He has battled substance abuse and done numerous stints in rehab. He found religion. He lost religion. Meadows’ chosen profession, that of a singer-songwriter, is certainly fitting, considering Meadows’ life – until fairly recently – could be considered its own sad country song.
“That’s certainly a fair assessment,” Meadows said on a recent phone call. “It’s weird, because I’m in a good place now. I’m a happy man – recently married, career is going well, not having to scrape quarters together in the middle of the month to pay the light bill. I’m fortunate, but it’s been a long time coming. I’m used to waiting on that piano to fall out of the sky.”
Yep, at 52, things are finally trending in Meadows’ direction. He is sober. His personal life is rolling. And his latest record, First Cigarette, is moving some product and earning critical acclaim. This certainly makes sense, considering First Cigarette is about as fine a country/indie hybrid you’ll ever hear.
Tracks like “McDowell Road” are littered with regret, while others like “Better Boat” portray a man who’s finally starting to figure this thing called life out. “Travelin’ Bone” is a not a song to jam if you miss home. And then there’s “Underdogs,” the high point of First Cigarette, a song meant to inspire and one that successfully does so.
Meadows, who playsMain Street Crossing in Tomball on Monday
, admits his road to sobriety and success was a long one. In 2010, he faced a number of trying events. His career was languishing. His marriage had fallen apart. Meadows found himself at a religious crossroads. In rebellion of his unfortunate circumstances, or perhaps in acceptance of them, he said “fuck it” and began drowning his sorrows in booze.
Somehow, six years later, there was still some humanity left to salvage.
“There was still enough hope or light at the end of the tunnel where I thought, ‘there’s gotta be more than this,’” Meadows said. “Essentially, I had a really bad day that lasted six years.”
Even if you’re not familiar with Meadows the singer and performer, it’s quite likely you’re familiar with some of his work. He has written and performed alongside a number of name-brand musicians, including Eric Church, Dierks Bentley, Jake Owen and Hank Williams, Jr.
Meadows began gaining some career traction around the turn of the decade, when he self-released Killin’ Uncle Buzzy. Named in honor of the drunken mess he had become, a character he hoped to eradicate, Killin’ Uncle Buzzy is essentially a rehab diary set to music, a raw, dark confessional of sorts.
Nearly a decade later, Meadows has shed many of the demons from whichBuzzy
was spawned. He had always prided himself on fighting for everything in life. Turns out, surrender was his ultimate path to salvation.
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“I grew up believing you had to be strong to survive, that you have to fight for what you want,” Meadows said. “But, when all of a sudden you find yourself in a position of surrender, the whole world opens up to you. I swear, I was like an angry fish swimming upstream against the current and life kept hitting me in the face. When I turned around and swam with the stream, good things started coming.”
That momentum has certainly kept up in recent months. Meadows’ career is on the upswing, and while he won’t get too much into details, he alludes to an AA-type program that has helped him stay clean. The former drunk-turned-preacher-turned-drunk is no longer religious, but he does maintain an air of spirituality.
If anything, his relationship with God is akin to that of an old friend.
“It’s like one of those family reunions where everyone gets together, everyone is hugging and eating, sitting on the couch with the game on and being comfortable,” Meadows said. “At that point, you don’t have to yell across the room; you’re on the couch because you belong. At this point, God’s on one couch and I’m on the other. We ain’t talking but we belong, and that’s good enough for me.”