Have you ever heard the name Travis Meeks? No? Sure, he’s nowhere near as recognizable as a Mick Jagger or a Jim Morrison or even stars of his decade like Kurt Cobain, but this man made his mark in music ever so slightly and was destined for rising success. Travis Meeks is the multi-instrumentalist and singer who battled addiction, was the mastermind behind the band, Days of the New and had a hit song by the time he was barely able to vote. Why is his story so significant? Well, the potential was there for Meeks to become something much more than a relic of the 1990s mainstream rock scene before gaining a reputation of being hard to work with and letting substance abuse take over. That isn’t exactly a unique tale but for such a big fan, it’s sad to see such talent wasted. Some of it was bad luck, but most was his own fault. What heights would Days of the New have reached under better circumstances? Well let’s start from the beginning and try to see why.
The musical adventures of Travis Meeks started when he was a teenager in Charlestown, a small city in southern Indiana. With not much to do in the middle of nowhere, he turned to music. As a high schooler, he captained the heavy metal outfit, Dead Reckoning. The group was akin to the style of Pantera but would undergo a drastic change when they eventually stripped down their entire sound to begin a new journey in 1995.
Meeks was joined by musicians, Matt Taul, Jesse Vest, and later, Todd Whitener to form Days of the New. They then traded in their electric guitars and went unplugged. This now all-acoustic group would feature hard-hitting strings and raw vocals from Meeks, who himself was obviously influenced by the likes of Axl Rose and Layne Staley. When all the pieces fit together, they soon went on to record their self-titled debut album. Released in 1997, Meeks was only 18-years-old of age at this point. The LP was dubbed the Orange album due to the orange jewel case the CD was packaged in and the color of the background on the cover. It produced the hit track, Touch, Peel, and Stand, a song largely forgotten when popular 90s rock is brought up despite being one of the most popular rock songs of the decade. After a notable performance on Late Night with David Letterman, Orange went on to produce two other popular singles, The Down Town, and Shelf in the Room. Other standout tracks were Freak and (my personal favorite) Now. Due to the strength of these songs, Orange became a success for the band and sold over a million copies worldwide, certifying its platinum status. Things were looking up for the Indiana rockers but like a lot of bands that achieve success, internal problems would soon tear them apart.
DOTN would hit the road supporting Metallica on their Poor Re-Touring Me tour in 1998 which to this day is still one of the oddest tour bills I’ve ever seen. I mean, I would have loved the hell out of it but watching a couple of dudes wail away on acoustic guitars waiting for one of the heaviest live acts ever is a bit of a head scratcher. Hey, Jerry Cantrell was on that tour too! It must have been nice for Meeks to share the stage with some of his influences.
Nevertheless, mounting strife within the group caused Meeks to boot Taul, Vest, and Whitener that same year but retained the Days of the New moniker for himself. This would be the first of many burned bridges Meeks made for himself. The exiled members would rebound and experience more success a few years later when they went on to form Tantric, a band who had a few popular singles in the early 2000s, most notably, Breakdown. Meeks soon entered the studio to record the follow-up to Orange.
The year 1999 featured an all-new line up and the group’s second self titled LP was released, this time dubbed Green. Two singles were released, Enemy and Weapon & The Wound. With Meeks wanting to experiment and expand their sound, the album boasted a full orchestra and keyboards for a more atmospheric feeling. Even though Matt Taul was gone by this point, some of his drum parts appeared on the record. In addition, a young, unknown singer name Nicole Scherzinger contributed her voice to a few tracks. I’m not sure if she ever went on to do anything else in music but she sure had talent!
In 2000, Meeks had yet another different band at his disposal. Together, they put out the third and final Days of the New release, this time labeled Red. It hit stores on September 25, 2001, exactly two weeks after the tragedy of 9/11. As a result, very little promotion was done to help sell the record and it wound up underselling. It did achieve critical acclaim though, featuring even more experimenting with the much needed addition of electric guitar. It was a very interesting record that me and fans enjoyed but was on its deathbed due to circumstance. It did spawn two minor radio singles though, Hang On To This and Die Born. With Red being a relative bomb, even in spite of touring, Meeks was now at a crossroad in his career.
Travis Meeks reportedly was one of the names on the long list of singers who auditioned to be the vocalist for Velvet Revolver in 2002. The job eventually wound up going to Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots fame. Meeks continued to tour as a solo act but his personal demons affected his performance and made it very hard for him to earn a living.
His drug addiction spiraled out of control to the point where he needed serious help. As a result, he was back in the limelight, albeit not a positive one, in 2005 after he was featured on a season one episode of the A&E television series, Intervention. The series profiles several people struggling with substance abuse who are given an intervention by their close ones. Either they comply and try to change or risk losing everything. We learned that Meeks had a crystal meth addiction and by the end of his installment, Meeks had walked out of the intervention but later returned and seemingly cleaned himself up. After a promising return to sobriety, he unfortunately, has relapsed several times since.
Since the late 2000s, a fourth DOTN record entitled Tree Colors has been in the works but its slated release has been stalled due to Meeks’ inability to get his head on straight. It’s worth noting that Meeks was also collaborating with former Alice in Chains bassist, Mike Starr, right before the latter passed away in 2011. It’s not known whether this was for brand new DOTN material or another project between the two but all progress has been shelved since Starr’s death.
In 2014, Taul, Vest, and Whitener, all of whom were dropped from Tantric years earlier, agreed to reunite with Meeks and tour under the Days of the New banner. This would be the first time the original band performed together in over 15 years. Fans everywhere rejoiced and this was just the boost Meeks needed to reclaim his music career, Sadly, things turned sour again just a few dates into the tour when Meeks’ problems started to surface once again and the band was once again on the outs. Jesse Vest set the record straight on Facebook claiming that Meeks begged the original members to perform with him and tried to co-exist with him. Meeks was arrested in October 2014 for failure to appear in court for a previous drug charge.
Meeks keeps trucking on to this day with yet a new band in in tow. Will he ever put himself back together? Only time will tell. Let’s hope for the best.