Uncle Buzzy came out to play whenever Travis Meadows drank. He was memory from the right knee down, constantly instigating and doomed to fear. The first time Uncle Buzzy came to visit was when Travis was 2-years-old. Travis saw his baby brother drown. Buzzy hung around awhile, but played nice. Travis watched his parents tear their marriage apart. The each found a new heart to love while Travis and Uncle Buzzy went to live with grandparents. Travis was 11-years-old when he started following Buzzy’s instructions. Some things can take away the hurt, kid– and there was a great deal of pain.
Travis started playing the drums, found bands. A night, he and Uncle Buzzy found fuel in whatever convenient high was readily available and wrote songs. Then the cancer came and took Travis’ leg. His brother, his parents, his body… Not lost… Taken. Travis tried to get it back in the words of a song. The bands, the other kids didn’t get it. Uncle Buzzy told him not to worry. Come on, kid, let’s go.
Travis and Uncle Buzzy went to Tennessee to get high, play bluegrass, and write songs. Something derailed the plan. Jesus. The chemotherapy had damaged his ears, but Travis heard the Nazarene’s call. Uncle Buzzy wasn’t happy. Suddenly, someone was listening to Travis. He joined Christ’s effort on Earth. He wrote new songs, and helped his fellow missionaries develop fresh methods. Travis had acceptance and purpose. He married and had a family. He preached the word. Travis delivered his message and truth to everyone who needed it. Travis wrote and recorded music for the Lord. He allowed his talents and methods to grow and bear fruit. He loved and was loved. Uncle Buzzy appreciated all this. You know it won’t last, right kid?
Nobody wanted to hear Travis one day. They’d watched, assimilated, and decided he was too… Heavy. They harvested and left the tree to die. Taken again.Travis felt two decades of faith and vision buckle underneath him, and he fell. Down past the church, past his wife and babies. Tumbling, he snagged on old hurts, ancient despairs. He couldn’t see it, but Travis knew the bottom was close. He reached for a hold– anything to slow or stop his descent. Uncle Buzzy gripped him tight. Not yet, kid.
Now, it was Nashville, and songwriting– and vodka because no none can smell it, right? Travis and Uncle Buzzy parlayed their experience from the Christian music realm into a publishing deal. Travis wrote and drank vodka. He missed appointments, tanked sessions. He couldn’t remember the last good day, any peace. He looked around for Uncle Buzzy. Under the bed? In the bathroom? How about the freezer where the vodka stayed oh-so-cold? No. Travis Meadows caught his reflection and wasn’t even surprised to see Uncle Buzzy looking back. Here’s looking at you, kid.
Killin’ Uncle Buzzy happened in 2011. It sprang from Travis’ great and final leap for sobriety. Rehab was like a beautiful vacation from the darkness– so fantastic, in fact, that Travis wound up there four times. A counselor on the last turn suggested a journal to manage his feelings, but Travis had other ideas. Songs. Words were useless on paper– they needed to be sung, experienced. The resulting album was an excorsism, a purge. All the doubt and failure, every ache and traded fortune… Travis Meadows wasn’t writing songs any more– he was writing real. Those confessions circulated Nashville in whispers, then rumors– they found breath among admirers. A second album followed in 2013, Old Ghosts and Unfinsihed Business. Some of the biggest names in Top 40 Country picked up Travis’ songs. He was clear-headed and capable. Uncle Buzzy wasn’t in the mirror anymore.
Travis Meadows released First Cigarette to the world in 2017. It’s an unconventional Nashville record full of ambient noise and hiss, reverb and reality. Addiction was hell and Travis put all the gory details into that first album. As his recovery determined the next phase, Travis must have felt the shame and shock of all he’d surpassed, but his instincts were true. The songs held Travis through the tunnel. With First Cigarette, he’s begun to focus more on the good days. He speaks to his past, to his children. Travis offers the sad wisdom culled from addiction. It’s not hope, but it ain’t bad.
And Uncle Buzzy? That one didn’t die, couldn’t– because where would Hell go if it were to die? Travis Meadows keeps his demon chained behind oak and iron. He doesn’t know if he can gaol him forever, but he did yesterday, and he will today. Tomorrow morning, Travis will swing his leg from the bed screw a cigarette between his teeth, fire it, and breathe deep. He’ll probably hear Uncle Buzzy rattle, expects to even– but all he has left is that first cigarette.