We’ve already told you the same, but make no mistake: 1680 Artist Travis Meadows IS a badass. ‘Nuff said.
PICTURED: Jake Owen and Travis Meadows Photo Credit: Nick Rau
Nashville’s Most Badass Songwriter Travis Meadows Shares Tragic Life Stories
The artist who conquered cancer and addiction, and made friends with Eric Church and Jake Owen, has penned some of country’s most stinging songs – BY JOSEPH HUDAK; October 8, 2014
Travis Meadows will turn 50 in May. Which is nothing short of a miracle. Nashville’s most brutally honest songwriter, who has had songs cut by Eric Church, Dierks Bentley and Jake Owen — all of whom shake their heads in awe when his name is mentioned — admits that he simply should not be here.
“I probably had 413 second chances,” Meadows says in his Mississippi drawl, his eyes red around the edges, his face creased.
Raised by his grandmother, Meadows’ first memory was of watching his brother drown. At age 14, he was threatened by cancer, which he beat, but at the heavy cost of his right leg. Later, he skirted the boundaries of addiction before sobering up and becoming a Christian missionary for 17 years, substituting, as he says, one addiction for another. “When I was getting high, I wanted everybody to be high,” he quips. “When I found Jesus, I wanted everybody to get Jesus.”
He eventually landed in Nashville, determined to follow a far-fetched dream of writing country songs. He had some success, scoring a deal with Universal Music Publishing. But at 38, overcome by dependence on alcohol and a life seemingly defined by loss, Meadows hit rock bottom.
“Up until I was 38, I would always get back up. But at 38, I was just done. I laid down,” he says, sipping on coffee in one of his favorite East Nashville hangouts. “I had a real bad day that lasted six years.”
Around that time — his memory is fuzzy — he made the first of four trips to rehab.
“I’ve struggled with addiction my whole life. I remember I was five or six years old and I’d have a stomachache, and they’d give me Paregoric, which has opium in it. It felt so good, I’d get stomachaches all the time so I could take it,” he says. “But my drug of choice is ‘more.’ If I had a bottle of pills, I’d take the whole bottle. I loved cocaine when I was drinking, because it helped me drink more.”
On July 19, Meadows marked four years of sobriety. He also notched his most successful period to date as a songwriter. Within the last two years, Church, Bentley and Owen have all recorded his songs. Bentley titled his latest album after a Meadows composition, “Riser.” Owen chose a Meadows song, the ballad “What We Ain’t Got,” as his new single.
“Travis is such an amazing artist, singer and songwriter,” says Owen, who recalls sitting in on a writing session with Meadows six years ago. “I remember looking at him and thinking, ‘Man, I can’t hang with this guy. He’s better than me at this point in my life. I need to practice really hard.’ We ended up becoming friends.”
Like Meadows the missionary spread the good news, Owen spread the gospel of his new pal, gifting his friends copies of the songwriter’s album Killin’ Uncle Buzzy. Written in 2010 about his experiences in and out of rehab, Meadows’ as-real-as-they-come album became a must-hear in Nashville.
“When I heard Killin’ Uncle Buzzy, the honesty in that room was like somebody ripping a scab off a wound and pouring vinegar or lemon juice on it. It was just real,” says Church, who wrote the Jekyll and Hyde brooder “Dark Side” with Meadows for his hit album The Outsiders. “He lived everything he sang about [on Killin’ Uncle Buzzy]. You could feel that that album was for him. It was therapy. Which the best music is. It’s been a muse for me in a lot of ways.”
And a door-opener for the man who wrote its 10 tracks.
“My whole world started over with that record. I was getting out of rehab for the fourth time, and one of the counselors suggested I keep a journal. I don’t do well with a journal, so I said, ‘I’m a songwriter, I’ll write some songs,'” Meadows recalls. “I wrote one song and one turned into 10. I never intended for anyone to hear that record. It was me trying to save a life — it just happened to be mine.”
Owen’s single “What We Ain’t Got” came from Uncle Buzzy — “Every song on there is like a redemption song,” Owen says. When he performed the spare piano number this summer in front of thousands at his free Nashville “beach party,” the radio star brought Meadows onstage to duet. But not before grilling the songwriter about his soul-baring lyrics. “I cornered him and we sat on the steps by the stage for an hour before my show. I told him how much I appreciated him.”
The notoriously tight-lipped Church is equally effusive. “I write with Travis quite a bit. Everybody out there looking for the real deal…
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