Travis Meadows was not prepared for what he heard on Friday morning (July 13); Kenny Chesney and Mindy Smith singing words inspired by a recovery meeting he once attended years ago.
When Smith’s voice came in on “Better Boat,” Meadows started crying.
“I’ve had cuts before,” he tells CMT.com, “and I don’t know why I responded to that like I did. I couldn’t talk for a few minutes.”
Meadows’ feelings are legitimate in that “Better Boat” is more than just a Chesney cut. Meadows overcoming his struggles with cancer, alcoholism, drug addiction and jail can be directly applied to the underlying message on Chesney’s next album, Songs for the Saints. Out July 27, the collection is Chesney’s tribute to the unwavering spirit and resilience exhibited by those affected by the 2017 hurricanes that devastated the Virgin Islands. Proceeds from the album sales will continue to support disaster relief for the U.S. and British Virgin Islands through the nonprofit, Love for Love City Fund.
“Whoever said you have to go through things to be able to appreciate life, that’s a horrible plan, and they should have talked to me about it first,” Meadows says.
A Mississippi native and a former preacher, Meadows says he grew up a very optimistic kid. “Even going through cancer,” he says, “I was always just a resilient young man and believed things would get better. And then I had that really dark period where all of that went away, and I kind of didn’t care anymore. And that scared me, and it scared everybody that was close to me because they had never seen me give up like that.
“In the recovery communities, they call it a bottom,” he adds. “And I guess you keep hitting bottoms until you start to strive for change. For me, that was the fourth time to rehab, and the last trip to jail. That was my bottom, and I just said, ‘I can’t be this anymore.’”
Chesney initially cut “Better Boat” two album cycles ago, but it never made the final cut on his previous releases until now. Meadows released his original version on his latest album, First Cigarette, an autobiographical collection that pulls from his upbringing in Mississippi.
“I remember the day vividly writing ‘Better Boat’ with Liz Rose,” Meadows recalls. “I had been in a recovery meeting, and I heard something that really changed my life. Serenity is the thing that everybody in those meetings is looking for. We as humans, we’re looking for serenity; some kind of peace of mind in this crazy blue ball we live on. It was said, ‘Serenity is not found in a calmer sea; it’s found in the building of a better boat.’”
Chesney’s Songs for the Saints arrives July 27.