Story Behind the Song: Travis Meadows, ‘First Cigarette’
“First Cigarette,” a song off of Travis Meadows’ 2017 album of the same name, is about more than the buzz that comes along with that first smoke of the day, according to the singer-songwriter. For Meadows, who has battled alcoholism and addiction, the song is about contentment and learning to accept yourself; he hopes that listeners will hear the message he’s trying to share when they listen to the track.
While Meadows has penned hits for country stars including Eric Church, he knew that "First Cigarette" was a song he had to record himself. Below, he shares more about the track with The Boot.
Well, there’s never a formula — I wish there was, because it would be considerably easier — but I’m always looking and searching.
I think the idea originally — I hate to even admit this — but I was still smoking, and after I quit drinking, I’d get up in the morning, and I’d smoke a cigarette. That first cigarette is the only one that works, as far as, I’ll get that little buzz. I snicker about it because it’s kind of my one legal buzz that I can get away with.
I just remember about three or four puffs in, that feeling hitting and this strange comfort. I’ve spent my entire life trying to get high, trying to be somebody else, trying to have different hair, different clothes, whatever — just never satisfied with me being me. Obviously, this version of me is the one that’s most comfortable in my own skin, but that’s kind of how the whole thing started: me kind of laughing at myself thinking, “How stupid are you? At this age, still smoking, still giggling, laughing, about the fact that you’re kind of getting away with something with this cigarette buzz." So I just got out my phone like I normally do — because I can’t read my own writing so I never write things down with a pen and paper — and I just wrote “first cigarette and the morning buzz.”
It really has more to do with the satisfaction of contentment, inevitably, when you listen to the song, and what I was hoping listeners would get from the song. But, it started from me kind of laughing at myself for being stupid and getting up and looking forward to that buzz in the morning, because the rest of the day, I don’t feel that anymore. That very first [buzz] after a good night of sleep — that’s where the song came from.
Then I went to Jeremy Spillman. We were set to have co-write, and he is wired like I am, you know, for the hunt. He quit drinking some years ago, so he’s been a real confidante through this whole process, learning how to live life on life’s terms without the use of little helpers and drinks and pills and whatnot. It was off to the races from there.
I absolutely knew this was my song. First of all, I don’t think anyone else would cut it. I had an experience a few years ago when I turned in a song that I loved to my publisher at the time, and somebody really big — and I won’t name who — put the song on hold. They said, “Look, this song is on hold for this really big guy, and he doesn’t like anybody else recording the song, so we can’t have it on YouTube, on a record or anywhere in public.” And I went, “Well, great, because, you know, if he records it, it would be good for all of us.” He kept the thing for over a year. I did that record without recording the song, and he did not put it on his record, and it kind of hurt my feelings and made me a little bit mad. So, when I was getting ready for this record, there are probably about eight songs that I never turned into my publisher. They did not hear those songs until the record was done, which is a terrible career choice, because I would make a lot more money if somebody bigger recorded the thing, but I was kind of in that mindset that that is never going to happen to me again.
That’s kind of the reason that I started marking records in the first place, because trying to figure out what Tim McGraw, Toby Keith or any of them [want] -- I can’t read their minds. So, writing songs and trying to predict what they may like just really got exhausting to me, so I just started making records and putting songs that I love on them. Ironically, that’s when things started changing for me, when I started approaching myself as an artist instead of a songwriter. Eric Church even told me the whole reason I was on his bus was because I was not just writing songs like everybody else, so that was quite a compliment.