Last May, my friend Jim Powell called and said he had tickets to see a singer-songwriter at the famous Decatur music club Eddie’s Attic.
I had no idea this would eventually lead to a concert in downtown Rome.
The guy’s name was Travis Meadows and I’d never heard of him before. Jim was excited to see him and said the guy was really good but I’d never even heard his name.
On the way to the show, Jim regaled me and our mutual friend Josh Brown with the story of Travis Meadows as the man’s music played softly in the background.
He said Meadows, a Mississippi native, was a recovering alcoholic which colored much of his songwriting. But I didn’t realize the depth of his story.
One of Meadows’ earliest memories is his brother’s drowning and things didn’t get better when Meadows began using drugs at an early age. Then at 14 he was diagnosed with bone cancer which eventually led to the loss of most of his right leg. At 16 he began playing music in local bars. During his 20s, he performed with blues musicians such as Sam Myers and moved to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where he began writing songs. In his mid-20s, Meadows became a Christian missionary and later a preacher, traveling around the country and abroad, writing and performing Christian music.
By his late 30s, however, he became disenchanted with the church and moved to Nashville to pursue a songwriting career. While crafting songs, Meadows battled alcohol and substance abuse and after four trips to rehab, he succeeded in regaining sobriety in 2010.
That year, he released a studio album titled “Killing Uncle Buzzy,” written during his recovery.
And it was “Killing Uncle Buzzy” that Jim, Josh and I were listening to as we spend down I-75.
When we got to Eddie’s Attic, the weather was already turning bad. It looked like rain. We sat through the opening act and then Travis Meadows was introduced along with his musical companion, Whiskey Jack.
Travis came on to the little stage (it’s not a very big room) and immediately you could tell the man’s done some hard living. He was wiry and almost gaunt. He wore mostly black with a little black fedora-looking hat perched on his head. He had five o’clock shadow and dark circles under his eyes. He really did look like someone who had been to hell and back.
And then he started talking.
He told the crowd a little bit about himself, some of which Jim had already told me. And said that while in rehab he was told to keep a journal. He was told to write about his thoughts and his feelings and his anger and whatever else he was going through.
His journal would become an album. His journal entries became lyrics and as he began playing, it was painfully obvious that Travis Meadows had lived every single crazy, dangerous, heartbreaking, hilarious line he was singing.
We sat entranced as he poured his heart out through that microphone.
Between songs he would talk a little about his past and about what each song meant to him. And they all mean something to him. Then he’d launch into the next one and we were taken back to his childhood or his teenage years or his time as a preacher...or a drunk.
Then he sang “Grown Up Clothes” in which he says:
My daddy was a boy
All dressed up in grown up clothes
And the bottle my daddy clung to
Would not let my daddy go
At seventeen, he had a baby
He couldn’t watch that baby grow
And the baby grew up just like him
A little boy in grown up clothes
And we all listened, quiet and still as death in that little room. I suppose we were afraid that any movement or sound would break the spell Meadows had cast over us.
And the wind blows hard
And the rain comes down
And you don’t get far alone
And you hide your scars
And you hate this town
Ain’t no such thing as home
I suppose, heaven knows
I’m just a boy in grown up clothes.
Meadows sang and played guitar, while Whiskey Jack’s beautiful slide guitar was a perfect complement to the powerful lyrics.
Josh was sitting in front of me and I could see that there were tears in his eyes. And then I looked around the room and he wasn’t the only one crying. I looked at the small window high above us and the rain was coming down just like in the song.
As he finished that song to thunderous applause, Meadows made sure to note that it wasn’t all sad stuff he was singing about. He was remarkably candid about his past and present. Many of his stories were comical, especially when punctuated by his lyrics in whatever song came next...
I played in dive bars, forget-able clubs
I wrote songs that nobody heard
I sold guitars for watered down drugs
I rode all the way to the curb
If dumb makes you famous,
then I can’t complain
The Davidson County Police know my name
And then Meadows said that since his dad left when he was very young, he was raised by his grandparents. His next song was called “Black” in which he sings about road trips with his grandfather where he learned a lot about being a man, including how to drink his coffee black.
Well that one brought back memories of my own granddaddy who was like a dad to me. And I found myself wiping away tears then too.
I suppose it was simply the plain, no-frills truth in Meadows lyrics, coupled with his and Whiskey Jack’s musicianship that hit me right in the gut.
When the show was over we were all stunned. Meadows said his goodbyes and noted that he and Whiskey Jack had to hit the road to get to the next gig. He had to keep working just to pay for gas to get to whatever was the next stop.
I was reminded then of the unfairness of the music industry sometimes that far less talented people are enjoying million-dollar contracts while a true talent like Travis Meadows was at the time floundering in obscurity, just trying to get down the road to the next gig.
But Travis has since been enjoying a little success. Some of his songs have been recorded by the likes of Ronnie Dunn, Dierks Bentley, Eric Church, Blackberry Smoke and Jake Owen who had a hit with Meadows’ “What We Ain’t Got.”
Meadows ain’t so pretty and shiny as those big country stars but I’ll take him performing the songs he wrote over any of ‘em.
And Rome, Georgia gets a chance to experience just that on March 25.
After returning from the Eddie’s Attic show, Jim Powell got the wheels in motion to bring Meadows to the DeSoto Theatre. On March 25 the man himself will be in town for “Travis Meadows: Stories of Survival.” The concert is presented by Harbin Clinic and will benefit the Historic DeSoto Theatre Foundation as well as the William S. Davies Homeless Shelters. Platinum and gold sponsors for the show are Rome News-Tribune, Pat and Wayne Vick, Craig McDaniel and Parker FiberNet.
Doors will open at 7 p.m. with the show starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $17 for general admission, $37 for reserved and $77 for patron tickets. Tickets are available online at www.historicdesototheatre.org.
I know there are lot of people in town who appreciate live music and those who appreciate live ORIGINAL music. I strongly encourage you to see Travis Meadows play. You won’t be disappointed.
And all the money benefits two great local organizations, our beautiful historic theater and our homeless shelter.
There’s not a lot of musicians I’ll stick my neck out for. But I’ll be at this concert and I’ll go ahead and tell you that if you’re there with me and you open yourself up to this man’s music, it’ll be an experience you won’t regret.
I’ll see y’all at the DeSoto.