Nashville singer-songwriter Travis Meadows has seen his fair share of life which has lead to him writing such songs as ‘Knives of New Orleans’ (Eric Church), ‘Riser’ (Dierks Bentley) and ‘What We Ain’t Got’ (Jake Owen). He has just released an outstanding album called ‘First Cigarette’ and we were lucky enough to catch up with him to talk about it.
Tell our readers a little about yourself and your journey to where you are today.
I was born in Jackson Mississippi. My grandparents raised me. I had everything I needed growing up except love for myself and self-esteem, so that took me a long and winding road. Always hungry always looking for something else to fill that void and coming up empty-handed. I tried drugs, religion, women, alcohol you know all of it. Even though I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for completely in any of those things, I did find myself eventually, and all of those different roads and experiences made me who I am today. I’m still a little restless, But I think that’s what keeps getting up in the morning and tried again day after day.
Your new album, ‘First Cigarette’ is a fantastic piece of work for fans of raw, emotional songwriting. Can you explain the title for us?
Thank you. I think underdogs would have probably been a great title track for the record. But to me, it seemed a little put it. In my life now I’m more content with who I am than I’ve ever been and I wanted to reflect that on this record. First cigarette actually has nothing to do with smoking and everything to do with contentment. So that’s how it came about
The cover is quite unusual – almost surreal? What was the thinking behind it.
Actually, I had a vision if you will. My girlfriend and I had been talking about getting married and about the same time she went for a routine mammogram and got some bad news. So we are kind of in the middle of walking down that extremely challenging path. She had to have some major surgery done and so that was the last picture of her breasts before reconstruction. . The photo was taken two days before the surgery so we were down to the wire.
Larry, was my three-legged dog who I loved deeply. I learned so much from him. He was missing a leg but I think nobody ever told him, so he didn’t know the difference. He did pretty much anything he wanted to do, stairs, up on the couch, chasing squirrels you name it, but every once in a while he would fall and when he did he would get up smiling. I’m serious Larry smiled when you pet his belly he’s the only dog I have owned that smiled. So, he would fall down and get up smiling. I learned a lot a lot from him. That’s the last picture of him alive. How he died is for another interview for another day. There is a lot of overcoming in that picture. That’s what this record is about falling down and getting back up, you know life.
‘Pray for Jungleland’ (and ‘Knives of New Orleans’) feel like more than just a passing nod to Springsteen. Was / is he a hero of yours and who are your other influences?
Of course I love Springsteen he was a huge influence on me. I really have a wide array of Influences. Hank Williams Senior. Merle Haggard , Willie Nelson, Led Zeppelin, John Prine, Elvis Presley. It’s a pretty widespread. I cannot imagine my life without music in it.
‘Underdogs’ must be a great song to sing live. We love that one – is it biographical?
In a way. I think it’s broader than that though. I think we have all been overlooked or misunderstood from time to time. So this was just a song to celebrate the stubbornness and us all to fight another day. Life can be challenging.
‘Sideways’ feels like it is more than just a song, it is an ethos. Musical therapy almost?
You have written for Eric Church, Dierks Bentley & Jake Owen among others – how hard is it to get a co-write in Nashville or is it always just about ‘the song’.
For me it’s always about the song. I moved to town to be a Songwriter. I had kind of given up on being an artist. Little did I know that that was not what was in store for me. Writing songs for other people is just not enough for me. I needed to write songs that I love and most of those did not fit what being played on the radio these days. Nothing wrong with that. But that’s what pushed me to my records so that I could put the songs that I love out there. It worked, major artists started becoming fans of my records and then wanted to record the songs which then led to co-writes.
Is it true that you were a preacher at one point in your life?
Yes in a magical far away land. It worked for a long time. Right up to the point I started asking questions and didn’t like the answers I was getting. So I went back to my old friend addiction.
You certainly have faced quite a lot of adversity over the years – how has that shaped your writing?
I think it’s helped me write from a more honest place. I’m not afraid to show you my scars.
Tell us about your writing – is it impulsive or do you have prescribed sessions? Do you prefer to work alone or with someone else? What does it look like?
I write for Publisher in Nashville so there are days when I have appointments that I show up to the office for. Some of those songs turn out pretty great some of them not so much. You never know when creativity is going to strike. You just have to hope you are in a place where you can pull it down. I enjoyed both solo and co-writes. The great thing about writing with someone else is that it will take the song somewhere you never would’ve thought of going. I do write by myself as often as possible though because if you write with other people too often you forget how to trust your own instincts. I think that’s really important in writing honest and authentic songs. They have to be in your voice. It looks like noting something into my phone. Or writing something down on a napkin. Or eavesdropping on a conversation at the coffee shop. Sometimes it’s as simple as picking up a guitar but there are days when not even that will bring the song.
Country music is so popular in the UK right now. Have you ever played over here before? If not, do you think you ever would come over?
I have done some songwriting in the UK but I have never performed there. I would absolutely love to come and spend some time performing over there. Let’s wish into being.