Ronnie Winter has created a 17-year long career in pioneering emo band The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus by just singing what comes out of his mouth in that very moment. Much of how he learned to do that was from the country music he grew up listening to, by no fault of his own as a small-town Florida native.
Winter uses similar approaches from what he called the “old cats” in Nashville, who write with an acoustic and depend mostly on jam sessions for their material instead of stockpiling lyrics and demos like so many of his friends and fellow artists do.
“I find a chord that feels right and I start singing and so far, the lyrics have just come to me” he told American Songwriter.
“And I just had a strong dose of 90s country, Vince Gill, Travis Tritt, I know all their songs and Tim McGraw’s ‘Don’t Take The Girl’ that’s my jam,” he laughed. “Those songs taught me how to write and when I went to make my punk stuff, I did it with stories, so I kind of blended the two.”
This paired with modern, angsty music for the youth of today continue to bring Winter success with The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and is partially what sets the group apart from others in their genre that may not have survived its peak fifteen years ago.
This time around Winter is writing songs that have the ability to mirror current affairs and are inspired by those around him. The leading single off their new The Emergency EP, titled “Brace Yourself,” is a song written in response to his guitarist’s mother’s battle with breast cancer originally. But as the group were touring on a previous single “A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Called LA,” finding themselves playing shows during an explosive pandemic in February and March, they quickly saw another takeaway for fans. Growing continually fearful playing shows every night and seeing the differing responses across the country to the coronavirus, they watched as their fans took to social media and “Brace Yourself” morphed into an anthem for first responders in the trenches of the pandemic.
“When we had the lyric video made, we realized the lyrics are really relevant to what’s going on,” Winter said. “We had all these Covid-19 related images from the creators and I was like ‘well that’s not what the song was written about but I like it’. Fans will make up their own ideas about songs. And then a bunch of first responders jumped on Twitter and social media when video came out, saying the song inspired them.”
Coincidentally, the title The Emergency EP also naturally aligned with the same global issues and was a defining moment for the group’s youngest member guitarist Josh Burke, who named the EP. During a sold-out show at Nashville’s famed Exit In, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus tested out “Brace Yourself” for the first time and the crowd fawned over it. That’s when Burke shared his opinion on the line “in case of emergency” from the single, saying he thought it might make a cool title and Winter immediately jived with it after seeing the fans response over the song.
Winter also let “a lot fly” on the new EP, when it came to letting the younger members experiment and do the majority of the writing, which led to a revitalized sound, that was also mixed by drummer John Espy.
“I didn’t want to hold back the new guys, a lot of the stuff I just let fly and I really wanted to let them shine this time, I wanted to give them a fair shot for their music” Winter said.
While Winter loosened the reigns on music, he held onto his role as lyricist and welcomed a new one as producer. After working with other amazing producers over the years, he started looking back on their catalog and one EP stood out to him, that received the best response from their fans, and one he also produced.
“Our best fan responses were from the first EP Hell or High Water so with our particular fanbase I wanted to go back to that vibe because I knew they liked it,” Winter said. “My vision is just a little bit harder and more aggressive. And we’ve worked with some really great producers and were not trying to compete with them but we do have less rules.”
Winter also ran with the same, more aggressive approach with lyrics for The Emergency EP whereas their last few albums have been a bit more censored as Winter has been more cautious with what he writes, as a new dad.
“Lyrically The Emergency is a bit more vulnerable, I wasn’t really worrying about criticism,” Winter said. “Some of our previous releases I almost went a bit too PG-13 because I was a dad and had this infant in my arms and it changed me. Now that I’ve got my feet back on the ground, I feel like I can say what I want while still being respectful. This EP is still important and edgy, but I’m not ashamed if my son hears it.”
The Emergency EP also took a lot of hints from The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus’ first album Don’t You Fake It, one they are still reeling in and a style Winter always touches on more or less on each album with the exception of their second, where they courageously went the “Sgt Pepper” route. Lonely Road, was dipped in heavy experimentations with instrumentation and was an avenue Winter jokingly said was happy they only went down once, but still defined their abilities and adventurousness as artists. But with cases like the fan-fav “Face Down” Winter always lunges at the opportunity to play it live and to show fans they are the same band fundamentally and in energy, as they were in 2006, even if those fans aren’t digging the new stuff.
“Not everybody is going to like everything but we just keep going,” he said. We’ve never broke up and we always tour and put out music. And I just think it’s awesome that the scene is still alive.”
For The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, it is more than alive, but thriving and with the support of new label Create Music Group, Winter can continue to put out music that he believes in while also bringing young blood into The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus’ fold.
The Emergency EP will be available everywhere August 28 via Create Music Group and don’t skip over listening to The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus’ recent single “Brace Yourself,” for a taste of what’s to come from these old-school emo cats. If you dig it, or RJA in general, pre-save/pre-order.