An orphan who turned into a preacher
A preacher who turned into a songwriter
A songwriter that turned into a drunk
A drunk that is learning to be a human being
Much of the attention for Travis Meadows began in 2010, when Meadows self-released Killin’ Uncle Buzzy, a raw masterpiece that left listeners stunned. “I was in rehab, and one of my counselors suggested that I keep a journal, so I basically made a record out of that journal,” Meadows says. It became an unlikely phenomenon, handed from friend to friend and artist to artist with whispers of, ‘Listen. It’s the best thing you’ll hear all year.’
Killin’ Uncle Buzzy sees Nashville-based, Mississippi-born singer/songwriter Meadows’ heart-wrenchingly authentic lyricism slip hand-in-hand with his delicately beautiful yet haunting country melodies. Each performance on the album cannot only be heard but felt in heart and soul across every earthy timbre: warm, organic strums of guitar and the stirring spirit of Meadows’ sage vocals play sanctuary to the ghosts of his personal tragedy and the haunts of his time in rehab and prison. In 35 minutes, Meadows creates more of an imprint on the listener with Killin’ Uncle Buzzy than many artists could do with their life’s work.
Meadows’ prolific, searingly honest lyrics appear in performances by some of country’s biggest stars. Disciples have been dancing by Meadows’ fire for years: Eric Church, Dierks Bentley, Jake Owen, Mary Gauthier, Brandy Clark, Blackberry Smoke, Hank Williams, Jr., Wynonna Judd, Randy Houser, and others began writing with, recording, and praising Meadows as soon as they heard his work. Songs such as “Riser,” the title track for Bentley’s 2015 album; Church’s “Knives of New Orleans” and “Dark Side”; and Owen’s “What We Ain’t Got” are all Meadows-penned chart-climbers.
Travis Meadows spent years trying to escape himself. He’s anything but selfish, so he’d find a way to get away––a bottle, a bag, a sermon––and he’d share it with everyone. That was then. Now, Meadows isn’t trying to get anybody lost or high. Instead, he’s trying to get every single one of us to settle in deeply to ourselves––and love what’s there.
“I feel like what I’m doing is giving people permission to be okay with who they are, where they’re at now,” Meadows says. “A lot of us say stuff like, ‘If I’d been married to this guy or this girl, or if I had enough money, or if I had a better job. If I wasn’t an alcoholic, or if I drank more. If this, if that, then, I think I could be a better person.’” He pauses. “I think the key to life is being okay with who you are.”
Meadows isn’t just waxing poetic about the perks of self-acceptance. He has clawed his way to the peace he’s found, and his willingness to map that journey through his songs has saved more lives than his own. “I’ve always put secrets in my records, but I had this ring of fire that nobody could get in––a defense mechanism from my childhood. Nobody gets too close,” he says.
Travis Meadows – From Heartbreaking Tragedy to Songwriting Triumph
Born in Mississippi, Meadows’ face-to-face with the black shadow of Tragedy began at just the age of two, when Meadows witnessed his baby brother drown in a lake.
Having been born unto two teenage parents who were “too young to have kids” and were anything but harmonious in their relationship, and following his little brother’s sad passing, Meadows was taken in and brought up by his grandparents. Though he was grateful for their love and care, he looked on in pain as he saw both his mother and his father have other children and nest in their new families. “I always felt a little unwanted. I struggled with that for a long time … probably still do,” Meadows admits.
When Meadows hit puberty, cancer hit him like a hammer to the face. Diagnosed at 14 years old, Meadows went on to lose his right leg, as well as his hair and a large part of his hearing following chemotherapy.
Today, he’s partnered with his dog, three-Legged Larry, a dog he felt an instant connection to following decades of keeping his prosthetic leg a secret, and which ultimately saw him share his secret on Facebook, consequently providing Meadows with catharsis as well as hope and support to other amputees and cancer survivors. “Larry will be running through the house, and sometimes, something will hit him wrong and he’ll fall. And he’ll get up happy,” says Meadows. “It’s been so good for me to see Larry do that. When you fall, it’s OK, you get up and you smile and you go on.”
Meadows was branded a miracle to have made it through the other side of his cancer alive – and yet this second chance at life was as turbulent as the first…
Following an acid trip in which he witnessed the Devil, Meadows became a preacher for 17 years, working under the belief that all tragedy and misfortune was inextricably linked to non-virtuous practices, and hailed the likes of praying at Church as the solution to one’s troubles. He spread his beliefs the world over, enduring interrogations by the KGB and threats of death-by-stoning in India in the process. He returned home to an impoverished existence.
“I don’t remember exactly how it happened… but I think I was trippin’ on acid or something and I think I saw the Devil. And I kinda concluded in my head, if the Devil was real, God was real,” says Meadows. “So the next thing I know, I was a preacher. For all that period of time, I felt like if something was going wrong with your life it was ‘cos you was doin’ something wrong.”
Making his way from Mississippi to Tennessee to cut his teeth in playing bluegrass music – building his repertoire up from 3 songs to 150 songs, most of which were written by Meadows himself – Meadows eventually found himself relocating to Nashville to add kindle to the glowing sparks of his songwriting and forge a career out of it. Meadows eventually made it to performing at Nashville’s world-famous The Bluebird Cafe, where many renowned artists and songwriters perform, including Don Schlitz, LeAnn Rimes and Maren Morris. “It was a holy thing for me to play The Bluebird Cafe,” Meadows professes.
However, in Nashville Meadows found himself in a triad of crises (marriage, faith and career) that saw him delve deep into an alcohol addiction that meant he could barely function in daily life, never mind as an artist, ultimately being banned from playing at a myriad of venues, including The Bluebird Cafe, a venue he held so sacred. Meadows confesses that he “stayed drunk for 6 years.”
Meadows started going to rehab and it was his counsellor’s suggestion that he keep a journal to track his progress that ultimately led to his widely acclaimed Killin’ Uncle Buzzy – rather than a journal, Meadows used his natural proficiency in authentic lyricism to pour out his experiences as he went through rehab.
Killin’ Uncle Buzzy and its prolific, searingly honest lyrics finally brought Meadows’ artistry the successful career it deserved, with country’s biggest stars, lining up to praise and work with Meadows. Songs such as “Riser,” the title track for Dierks Bentley’s 2015 album; Eric Church’s “Knives of New Orleans” and “Dark Side”; and Jake Owen’s “What We Ain’t Got” are all Meadows-penned chart-climbers. In the past 18 months, Meadows has sold 2 million singles as a songwriter. (And to his great delight, Meadows ended up being welcomed back to his musical home at The Bluebird Cafe, performing his music there once more.)