‘Nashville’ brought to us some of the best characters on TV in recent years. They are rich and complex and, as it turns out, completely authentic. Just look at Deacon Claybourne.
One of the things you discover when you first arrive to Nashville (given of course, you don’t spend your entire stay drinking and singing Karaoke downtown) is the characters from the show are real.
Fine, they are not REAL real but their types very much are. Stay long enough in town and you’ll meet a Scarlett and a Gunnar, an Avery, a Will and so on.
One evening I met a Deacon Claybourne. He didn’t look exactly like Charles Esten but then again, who does?
He did however come to Nashville from Mississippi to pursue his dreams and share his three chords and the truth with the world in his own voice. He made the long way – as an artist looking for recognition and as a man fighting his own demons. He’s a recovering alcoholic and a cancer survivor and when he opens his mouth and sings his songs with his deep voice, you know you are listening to something special; no one can tell his story quite like he can.
Like Deacon, he is very well-known and respected within the industry but ,also like Deacon, never became a huge star (and I doubt he ever wanted to become one).
Every one of this songs tells a story. Stories about his childhood, his personal struggles, life, roads, fatherhood, faith, black coffee and yes, love.
The name of this Deacon is Travis Meadows and he’s one of Nashville’s true and best storytellers.
I apparently can’t listen to him without crying.
It started almost a year ago when I attended the ‘Men of Nashville’ Concert as part of the CMA awards week. Chris Carmack invited him to sing with his ‘Broken Song’, which Meadows co-wrote with Cody Johnson and Tony Lane. I already loved this song and Chris Carmack’s voice is on of my favorites from the Nashville ensemble but Meadows’ voice and delivery moved me in a way I couldn’t anticipate. It was suddenly more than a song – it was a confession…and I found myself crying.
Few months later, at a ‘Tin Pan South Festival’ music round I saw him again. He sang a few songs and one of them was ‘Riser’. Travis Meadows wrote this song with Steve Moakler but Dierks Bentley made it a hit. Again, when I heard Meadows sing it that day, I was already familiar with that song; I even watched a very special and emotional live performance of it a month prior when Dierks Bentley played that song with the African children’s Choir.
It’s a great song! But when Bentley sings it what I hear is the victory, the achievement – the rise. When Travis Meadows sang it I heard the road leading to that rise. I heard the pain, the struggle and the vulnerability. It was raw and powerful and…I cried again.
Few weeks ago I watched him play at the Douglas Corner Cafe in Nashville, one of those “old school” venues Deacon would probably appreciate.
“All I want is what I had
I’d trade it all just to get her back
She’s moving on, but I guess I’m not
We all want what we ain’t got…”
It was shortly after ABC Network announced they cancel Nashville. I enjoyed every minute of that Travis Meadows show, but I think the fact I knew the journey of my beloved TV show is about to end my mind wandered even more than usual to the show and the blurred lines between the city and the TV show.
I’m completely honest, most chances are I wouldn’t have discovered Travis Meadows without the show.
The show put Nashville on the map for me and eventually made me make the long journey there, but it also gave me an introduction to Nashville’s music scene. It was certainly not everything there is to know about that scene, but it was still a beautiful, accessible window to it.
When I watched Travis Meadows that night there was something inside me that expected to see Deacon Claybourne in the audience. He wasn’t there, but so many others were and when I cried, yet again, I felt like Juliette Barnes listening to Deacon sing ‘Back Home’ at the Bluebird Cafe.
Travis Meadows has so many stories and no one can tell them like he does. Deacon Claybourne has them as well and no one can tell them like him.
Those Nashville artists and characters capture the heart of music city and all have so much more to say.
How great it is Nashville exists and thanks to CMT and Hulu the beautiful window to this town will go on another year, because the music and talent in this town deserves an open window.