Like many music fans around the globe, singer-songwriter Rome Ramirez spent his formative years exploring the world of music. Little did he know back then this musical exploration was laying the groundwork for what is sure to be a fascinating and long-lasting career in the music industry. One of his influences was Sublime, a reggae rock band out of Long Beach, California whose funky grooves and timeless sound had an undeniable impact on music and pop culture back in the 1990s. The band had received most of it’s success after the untimely death of Sublime’s frontman Bradley Nowell and it was difficult to imagine recapturing the magic and undeniable feel-good vibe of the original lineup. Years later at house party thrown by Sublime bassist Eric Wilson, Rome joined the guys on stage for a jam session and a few Sublime covers. It was that fateful night that rekindled the fire of the Sublime sound with it’s members but one that started Rome on a trajectory to superstardom. It wouldn’t be long before Sublime With Rome was playing to sold out venues around the nation and released “Yours Truly” in 2011. With a legion of fans both old and new, Sublime With Rome is still going strong and is currently plotting a follow-up album, slated for an early 2015 release. Never afraid to spread his wings and explore new musical ground, Rome is now set to launch the next chapter of his epic saga and continue to take the world by storm! Over the past two years this multi-faceted artist has been creating his own personal masterpiece — a debut solo record designed to showcase exactly who he is an artist and where he intends to take his fans in the years to come! Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Rome to discuss the wild ride he has taken in the past few years, the creation of his debut solo album, the future of Sublime with Rome and much more!
I wanted to start off with a look at your early years. What are your first memories of music?
Some of the very first music I remember, that had an impact on me and really drew me into music was, ironically, Sublime. That was the first band that I heard that I really became obsessed with. I bought all the CDs, posters and everything else. Reggae music was some of the first music I was introduced to and it really captivated me. I grew up liking a lot of different stuff but some of my favorite bands became Primus. I also loved everything punk rock; from Bad Brains to Black Flag. I enjoyed metal music as well. I was really into Lamb of God and Killswitch Engage. There is also the hip hop side of things and I love anything that J Dilla does from Wu Tang Clan to Slum Village and beyond. My musical tastes are all over the place, man!
What was it about music that made you take the plunge and pursue it as a career?
Honestly, it was just the fact that it was mine. It was the one thing I had that I had control over and it wasn’t a mandatory thing I had to do. I didn’t have my parents on my back telling me I had to practice or a teacher telling me I had to finish an assignment. It was something I could do on my own, when I wanted, how I wanted! No one was telling me what to do when it came to music and I just found that so liberating!
You eventually got hooked up with the guys in Sublime. How did that meeting first come about and how has it impacted you over the past few years?
How I get the guys was very organic. I was in a recording studio and I met Eric Wilson, the bass player. We became acquaintances and started hanging out and jamming. We knew each other for close to two years and he would have these parties. He always throws the dopest parties! We would show up and a whole band would be set up. You could jam with his band, which is a Stooges cover band. One day, he asked me if I wanted to come up and play some Sublime covers with him. The other drummer for Sublime, Kelly Vargas, lives right around the corner from him, so he would come over. I, of course, said “Hell yeah! I would love to go up there and play songs with you guys!” We did that and it was a lot of fuckin’ fun! We really enjoyed it and did it a couple of other times. Then, Eric and our soon to be manager, put together the idea. Eric asked me one day, “Would you be down to sing for Sublime?” I was like, “What the fuck? Is this happening? Is this some sort of joke? Where are the cameras? This is crazy!” [laughs] After that, Sublime with Rome really started taking off. Even to this day, it doesn’t even feel like it has been four years! Damn, that is even crazy to say! Time flies so fast when you are in this and having so much fun by playing some many great places and meeting all of these wonderful people. Time is blasting by and you want to share all of these memories and experiences with your loved one because those are the kind of things that keep you going, man! There is a point where you think, “This is cool! Let’s keep it going! Let’s make it bigger and better so it can last forever!” It is very liberating to live in the world of music!
I am sure a lot of people were skeptical when they heard about the return of Sublime a few years back. However, you were able to silence those critics pretty quickly. Are you surprised at how so many people have embraced Sublime with Rome?
I wouldn’t say I am surprised but I am very, very grateful! That is for sure! I am not surprised only because of the fact that this is only done because of fun and us wanting to do it. The guys are not, nor have they ever been, in any sort of financial trouble. When it comes to me, I was more than happy to be recording and playing music. When we are on stage, living on the bus and traveling around, it is such a good vibe! There is such a good energy there! It is just fun! When it is not fun, shit happens — turmoil can start to build, members leave and people are afraid to speak their opinions. Being in a band is very much like being in a relationship; you spend so much time together and you can tell how each other are feeling just by looking at each other. It doesn’t surprise me that we have been accepted by so positively because this whole band is only continuing only on with good intentions and the love of music.
Now it has come time for you to step out on your own for your first solo album. You have been hard at work on it for quite a while now. What can you tell us about it?
I am looking forward to being able to finally have a product from Rome. That has yet to happen. People have seen my capabilities of what I can do with Sublime and what I can do for other artists in the studio, whether it is Enrique Iglesias or The Dirty Heads. No one has had an LP from Rome yet, so this is the most exciting thing to me in my life, thus far. All of these years, all the things I have gone through, all of the things that have been introduced to me and all of the inspiration has all led to this one album where I am the only cook in the kitchen. I wrote, produced and played the entire record! I am really amped to have some music coming out that is my own and represents me at this point in time.
Aside from just putting something out that was strictly your own, did you have any goals or expectations, at a musical level, that you were anxious to take on with this album?
Yeah. The main thing I wanted to do with this record was to do everything very uniquely and speak on something lyrically. I didn’t want to do twelve Take It or Leave It’s or twelve Lay Me Down‘s. I really wanted to challenge myself and my listeners, while showing them what they can expect from me from here on out. My background is that I come from a not so nice place in the world and a lot of my friends have succumbed to the easier things in growing up where we grew up like gangbanging or selling drugs. For me to just propel in, pack all my shit up, go down south to start a band and being in this situation now, I feel like I have a great opportunity to tell people who are very much like myself that there is a way out. I had everybody saying to me, “You need to learn a trade. You need to go to school. You need to go to college.” While I am not denouncing any of that, I am just saying I don’t feel it is fair for you to put that on a young man or woman and tell them it is black or white. That is what this entire record is about — challenging that state of mind.
What can you tell us about your typical songwriting process and how the writing for this album might differ from the work you have done in the past?
On this record, the songwriting process was very much done organically. I basically packed my stuff up and took off with a guy named Dave Baptist, who I did the entire record with. We moved to Texas for about a month to the Sonic Ranch, which is a recording studio in El Paso, Texas. We went there and I had no songs. I had nothing written. At that point, I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to do with the record but I knew I didn’t want any co-writers, co-producers or anything like that. Like I said, I wanted to be the only cook in the kitchen. I came up with the song “Terrorista,” which really shaped what I wanted to accomplish for the entire LP. It usually started off with either a drum beat that I would put down or some sort of bass guitar riff. For this record, it was very, very organic. We tracked everything live and worked backwards from there.
Where are you in the process of completing the album at this point?
It’s done! I go in and mix two songs this week and then they go to mastering. The record is already done and mastered except for those two songs.
Obviously, we are excited to hear it! When do you expect a release for the record?
We are trying to shoot for a late spring, early summer release. I definitely want time to roll out some more music and videos. I think everything I have do so far, I am mainly speaking of the “Dedication EP,” has been one song here, try it at radio, another song, try it at radio and so on. I will be honest with you, that isn’t very fun! It also isn’t very effective. I come from the days where you put an album out and you got it all. You had lots of music from the artist. That is one thing that has always bothered me a little bit. Being signed to a major label and have so many people in the machine, I can’t just go and put out music as much as I want to for the fans. Now the fans don’t have as much music coming from me and I feel like I want to give them more! That is what they love me for and that is why I have them. I need them so I can do this. Waiting to give them more music is making me crazy! [laughs] It’s a trip! I definitely want to take my time with the roll out for the album and put out as much music I can and then focus on the key tracks at radio.
Now that you are in the final stages of putting the album together, what do you consider the biggest challenges you faced?
That is an interesting question. I would say the biggest challenge in making this record and this is going to sound extremely cocky but I don’t mean it in that way, was honestly outdoing ourselves. The more and more time we spent in the studio, the more I noticed that the songs I was writing were getting better and better. You have to draw the line somewhere and there becomes a point where enough is enough and you stop, solidify things and get it out. The hardest obstacle to overcome was picking the most solid ten to twelve songs and sticking with them.
It is evident by talking to you that music is very much your life. Where are you in regard to the future of your music? Have you already started writing for a follow-up album or maybe even more music with Sublime with Rome?
I am always writing, if not for me than for someone else. Currently, we are in the process of putting together the next Sublime with Rome record. Eric and I have been jamming around and putting some ideas together. We plan on going into the studio, probably, in late summer for release in putting out at the top of 2015. Other than that, I have been working on the new Dirty Heads record. That has been pretty cool. I also have an artist of my own that I am currently developing. His name is Nomadic. I am staying busy, kickin’ it in the studio. It’s all music, man!
As an artist, what do you feel you have learned about yourself over the past few years?
The biggest thing I have learned about myself over the past few years is who I am. I have completely realized now exactly who I am artistically, sonically and what I want to accomplish in my career. I know the sound I want to create. I needed to go through all of this to get where I am now. I have been working on this LP for close to two years now. It has gone through many stages. At one point, I was just a nineteen year old kid thrust into things and thinking “Oh my God! This is crazy!” I was able to work with all of my favorite producers and songwriters, who are guys I have always looked up to. We were writing all these songs which was so cool and chock full of all these hits. One day I woke up and was like “This isn’t me. I wrote a little bit on this one. I didn’t even touch that one. That one is really cool but I could have produced it way better but no one will trust me.” It was just a really self-testing type of thing like “How far are you willing to let yourself go for the possible opportunity of success?” One day, I just woke up and said “Fuck that! I want to do everything myself and I know I can create and produce this music to the level it deserves. I would rather go to bat and go to sleep at night knowing this music is my music and live life like that.” That is one of the biggest things I have learned with this album and the last couple of years. It was great to work with all of these people who I have always looked up to and then have to circle back and go “Maybe I had it in me the whole time.” I could be totally wrong, man! [laughs] We could be taking a year from now and people think it is the worst album in the world! [laughs] But that is OK because it is mine, I did it and I can’t blame anyone else but myself! That is fuckin’ awesome, man! It’s a great feeling!
With all you have been able to accomplish in your still blossoming career, a lot of people can look to you for inspiration. What is the best piece of advice you can pass along to those looking to make a career in music in the current climate?
Honestly, I think my best advice would be to create original art, stick to your guns and work as hard as you can! That is the key to success in this industry!
Looking to the future, do you have any musical bucket list items that spring to mind?
Yeah! I would love to be in the studio one day with Rage Against The Machine. That would make my life and be so awesome! I would love to work with Black Keys sometime. I would absolutely love to work with Kanye West. He is a little crazy but his music is really awesome and I am a big fan of his art! Adele is equally awesome. I would love to work with him sometime. She really has a killer voice on her! I could go on and on!
Is there any charity work you are involved with we could help you spread the word on?
My boy Ron Emory has a very cool project out in Sioux City, Iowa. You probably know him as the guitar player for T.S.O.L., but he has a music foundation (The Sioux City Conservatory of Music – www.siouxcityconservatory.com) that Sublime with Rome plays at every once and a while for the kids. It is really awesome, man! It is a school in Sioux City, Iowa where for a nominal price a month, they give housing to kids who want to go and jam or take guitar lessons, drum lessons, piano lessons or even just live rooms. If a kid wants to play guitar but he can’t afford a guitar, he can go there to play one. Depending on the individual and their situations, certain rock star homies and friends can sponsor kids if their families cannot. It is great because a kid doesn’t have to be shut out of the world of music! I think it is really cool and something a lot of individuals can lend support to. It is pretty hot.
Is there anything you would like to say to your fans before I let you get back to work?
I just want to say thank you for supporting me. I am really looking forward to getting this new music out to them. Thank you for talking with me today, Jason! I really appreciate it!
Thank a lot, Rome! Keep up the good work!
Thanks! Talk to you soon.
Get all the latest information, releases and dates from Rome at his official website — www.romemusica.com. Connect with him on social media at:
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.