The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus – On Using Real-Life To Create Real Connection – Interview

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus have been taking their real-life experiences to create real connection through their music since 2006. The band first came onto the scene with their hit single ‘Face Down,’ an honest song discussing their upbringing as domestic violence survivors. “The truth is we are domestic violence survivors. We just don’t always use the exact long term. We put it into a song… that’s what we’ve always done.” Lead singer Ronnie Winter says.

“That’s what we’ve always done.” That is the statement that has connected The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus to so many. Whether it be stories of domestic violence, depression, or spirituality, the band has always sung of their true experiences which has resulted in connection among a wide range of people.

Recently, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus has lived atop the Christian Rock charts with their latest albums. Over the years, they have gained a unique following. Guitarist Randy Winters describes it as “There are the three facets. There’s the one who grew up with us, and now their kids are going, so there’s two. Then there is the totally separate Christian fanbase who have kind of grown into it now and are actually going back and discovering the original stuff.

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus have created songs that will last forever with individuals that have connected to the experiences they remain committed to singing about. Tapping into the now is something the band talked to me a lot about in our interview. That is what has helped their music continue to evolve and reach a wider and unique fanbase.

Read the full interview with The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus below. We talk about their unique fanbase, commitment to real-life lyrics, the impact they have made on others, and who has impacted them, and so much more.

Hi guys, Thank you for taking the time to sit down with GIGsoup. Can I have you all state your name so I can make out the voices when I transcribe?

Ronnie: Hi, this is my voice. I’m Ronnie.

Josh: This is my voice. I’m Josh. (lead guitar)

Danny: I’m Danny, I play keyboard.

Randy: I’m Randy, and I play guitar. Good luck telling me and Ronnie apart, our voices sound really similar.

(Laughs) I’ll do my best. I am excited you guys are here. Jumpsuit has had a huge impact on people’s lives. You have fans that have been die-hard since your first single. You helped people through the like really hard years of their life and still continue to. Now you’re reaching people as well with more Christian Rock type music. What are these shows like knowing the impact you’ve made on people?

Josh: Passionate.

Everyone: Yeah! Passionate!

Josh: I mean, how was Denver would you say?

Danny: Passionate. It was super passionate.

Ronnie: It was very passionate, and I guess the answer to that question is like we have watched our fans grow. The cool thing is they’re all from different backgrounds, and so are we. It’s also a depiction of the actual band members.

Randy: You nailed it pretty well. There are the three facets. There’s the one who grew up with us, and now their kids are going, so there’s two. Then there is the totally separate Christian fanbase who have kind of grown into it now and are actually going back and discovering the original stuff.

That’s incredible, that’s such a unique thing for a band to have.

Randy: Yeah, it is seriously, really cool.

Now you guys have had a number of songs top the charts in Christian rock. Where does that commitment to spiritual themes and Christian lyrics come from?

Ronnie: Um, you know, anytime someone uses that sub-genre of Christian rock, we have just never were in that genre. So we were even unfamiliar with what that term was, so the thing was Walmart put us in the Gospel section because they just read the lyrics. So then, the label wanted us marketed as mainstream, so they had Walmart move it. Back at the time, we’re talking 2006, Walmart was one of the biggest CD retailers out there. So for the band, it was awesome and a dream come true as crazy as that sounds to see your CD in Walmart. That was like hitting it big. Like “people know who we are now.” It didn’t matter if they bought it or if there was seven copies and like if no one was buying it like it was a big moment. To see it then move was just weird for us.

The lyrics have always delved into spirituality, and it always will, but it’s not our only thing. We are still a rock band who loves to have a good time. We sing about other topics too like heartache, depression, and like those aren’t necessarily spiritual topics but can be… but it’s more like that’s the medicine we use to cure those things. We don’t always talk about spiritual things, and that’s why we weren’t looked at as like a Christian rock band who only kind of quotes scripture song after song and borderline praise and worship. We are more of like a mainstream rock band that’s not afraid to be spiritual.

That is definitely something I think people connect and appreciate with RJA. You make it very easy to connect with the band through your lyrics. I watched the oral history of ‘Face Down’ that you did on YouTube and loved what you said about all of your lyrics in every song coming from real life. What is it like being so committed to such real lyrics, and can it be hard to be so vulnerable?

Ronnie: I mean for songwriting, the lyrics is predominately what I do. But for the music, it can come from any direction. It just depends on which song, and it also depends on how back in the catalog you’re looking. If you’re looking for a very specific answer, I’m generally considered the main songwriter. But by no means is everything coming from me, and two great examples of that, our last record the first single was called ‘The Awakening’ and Randy I believe you wrote the music. The whole structure, the entire structure for that song in Paris?

Randy: Yeah, that’s where I started. We were out there, and it was like super cold, and I started to feel like I was getting sick, and I wanted to be productive, and I wanted to remember where we were, and so I named the original demo for it ‘Paris.’ It was really cool to work on that, and I had the interface for it, and we bring our stuff all the time.

Ronnie: We record on the road, and that’s an example of a song Randy just brought to the table, and then I just grabbed the lyrics, grabbed the vocals, and changed them into what made sense to me as the vocalist for Red Jumpsuit. It was right on top of his track, and that’s how that song came to be. Which is different than me just writing a song and sending it to them, which also happens.

Then going to our new single, here’s another example. This whole EP was really kind of started from Josh and John. They got together and started jamming, and kind of working on a mixtape for themselves and two or three of those tracks ended up making the EP after I rearranged them. So that turned into the EP really, with me producing it.

Josh: Yeah, basically John and I were just recording some stuff in Michigan at the time, just for fun and not really related to anything. Then we started to realize we liked them a lot, and we showed them to Ronnie instantly, and he really took them and one-upped them hard. Now they are actually songs with actual lyrics, we didn’t have lyrics for them because neither one of us sing. So it was just music, and now it’s being used!

Ronnie: And what’s cool is that is another element of the band. So this is the drummer and the singer just doing stuff in their downtime. So it really depends on the song, and that’s a long answer, but that question deserves a long answer.

I always appreciate long answers, and Josh and Danny, what has it been like coming in later to a band with such a solid following?

Ronnie: So just to clarify, Josh has been in the band off and on for nine years. But his story with the band is really cool, and he doesn’t like telling it but…

Josh: I do like telling it, but I’ve said it a lot, but it is actually true. I was like fifteen or sixteen, and I met these guys at a show in my hometown, and I was just like a fan.

Randy: Yeah, in Syracuse, New York, which is where our families from as well.

Josh: We all have like these Syracuse roots, and essentially we all got to talking, and I was writing songs that weren’t for Red Jumpsuit or anything, but we thought maybe we were going to build an opener band and tour with Red Jumpsuit. You know? Like that was my main concern at that point, that’s what I was thinking it was heading towards. Eventually, their tour guitar player had an emergency replacement fiasco for a big festival show. Then they call me, and I was nervous as hell but I definitely said, “Of course, yes.” So I punished them enough to force myself into the band (laughs.)

Ronnie: Imagine that phone call… I’ve never gotten that phone call (laughs.) Me and Randy grew up pretty poor, you know? But our grandparents scooped us up and took care of us and gave us guitars and stuff. We didn’t have a lot, but we had music. So I never got that phone call (laughs) “Hey, do you want to jump on a plane and headline a festival tomorrow?”

Randy: It’s pretty wild. But he had the talent and had already practiced the songs and knew them. It’s a really good example of the parents facilitating the talent and just being in the right place at the right time and taking the leap of faith from Syracuse down to Florida. They moved just to facilitate. They uprooted their careers, both of them, his mom and dad just to do it.

Ronnie: Seriously, I don’t know if I’d let my kids do it (laughs.)

Josh: Yeah, my parents were amazing. I could not have done it by myself. I was sixteen and a junior in high school. I was at an ice cream shop with my then high school girlfriend when he called me. I had no idea what was going on. It feels magical now looking back.

That is seriously amazing! In that, you talked about your grandparents scooping you up and giving you guitars. When did you know you wanted to do music like you’re doing it now? Like, when did music become what connected you guys, and I’m sure got you through some of the harder childhood stuff to what it is for you now?

Ronnie: For me, I mean, every little brother wants to be like his big brother. That’s just how it goes. Luckily for me, Randy was really into music young. He was awesome. He played drums, and he was always like boom jumping over the senior as a freshman to first seat. I had a good example right away with somebody like reading music, having discipline, and understanding that there is two parts to music. It isn’t just this floating kind of amoeba type of thing.

I just watched him and wanted to be like him. So luckily he got into drums, and I got into drums, and we just saturated ourselves into the orchestral world, and we both were performers in the orchestra for quite a few years straight, and then we decided to dabble in metal. Randy, at that time, wrote everything. Randy was the full composer. So again, I honestly really did learn to write songs from watching him. I would see what he did, he came up with a guitar part, then he came up with a vocal part, and then a bass. Then because I was very insistent on writing my own drums (laughs), he showed me that.

Randy: He was fucking awesome too, so there were no problems there.

Ronnie: So that’s how I learned was from watching him.

Randy: We really took the theory that we learned in school and just applied it to instruments. Anytime we could get a hold of something, you apply a theory to it, and you can learn it very quickly. So we became well rounded very quickly. But to answer that question, really music is what brought us together, rather than the opposite. That’s really what made us connect. Ronnie has always been ridiculously smart and had that rift of “Hmm do I want to get a Ph.D. and spend nine-plus years going this way,” and I had already been like wanting to be in the military but then decided to just have a metal band and Ronnie was in, and we really tried to go for that. Then that ended up incubating into Red Jumpsuit. Then we started running our own radio ads and stuff like that, and it took off from there.

Wow, and Jumpsuit was one of the first bands to really utilize social media with myspa…

Ronnie: Yeah! Randy built computers. He’s that kid you see in movies. I’ve got pictures from back in the day of my grandpa bringing home garage sale computers and taking three computers to make one working one. So when that stuff like Myspace all came out, he was knew what was going on before anybody. I’ve always been kind of like, “Okay, whatever you say. If you say we need to make a profile, let’s make a profile.” He’s just always been on it from the beginning, and we caught the wave at the right time.

I love hearing stories like this and the connection you two have had through music. I again, really loved that video you did on the oral history of ‘Face Down.’ I’m really curious hearing about your childhood and that song being inspired by your real-life experience in a home with domestic violence. How has it been with your music and ‘Face Down’ in particular and hearing from people with similar upbringings and what the song has meant to them?

Ronnie: That’s a deep question. The truth is we are domestic violence survivors. We just don’t always use the exact long term. We put it into a song, and like Randy said earlier, that’s what we’ve always done. They’re all ‘Face Down,’ and that’s the absolute truth. Even ‘The Awakening’ is something that we are now experiencing like Randy said. Then probably ‘The Emergency’ EP will follow that up. That’s our guess.

But why not just talk about what you’ve been through. That’s our gimmick. Some people do the eye liner and literally the spikes, all of it. We just do the real. That’s our gimmick. It is kind of unlimited, it’s where we’re at now. When I heard those tracks from John and Josh, I tapped into where I was at now. They recorded that a while back. I’m not using old vocals, I’m tapping into the now. That’s how I keep Jumpsuit in the now with the lyrics. Then the band members help keep the music in the now. That’s something that I don’t do all of every part of. The music has always been collaborative the whole time, that’s why its a band.

Josh: I think it’s cool that we can show them music that doesn’t sound too Jumpsuity, but once he gets his hands on it, and his lyrics, and his voice on it… changes the rhythms and this and that… it’s a jumpsuit song!

Randy: Yeah, he puts on his jumpsuit or whatever (laughs.)

Josh: Yeah, you just let him do whatever…

Randy: and he jumps into the apparatus (laughs)

Band: (laughs)

Ronnie: Then we all sit around and judge it hard, you know. We judge ourselves harder than anyone, then if it passes our standards, we put it out.

With all your songs about real-life, has there been a song that is particularly hard to write?

Ronnie: Well, there has been phases in life. When we lost our grandfather, there is a song about him that is hard to play. Stuff like that, and that’s the most honest one I can think of. But also there has been and you know it’s a tough question. We did a benefit show for a young lady that Josh knew in Syracuse. She was like 16 or 17 and just too young to die, and it was a tragic quick passing. We’ve done some of those real somber shows where the emotion is just on high. That was hard to sing all night because it was like the parents were there and it was this really heartfelt moment. If you’re not feeling something in that type of setting, somethings wrong with you. The empathy was just soaking out. When you agree to do something you know that it is going to be a tough gig, that’s tougher than playing in front of ten thousand people.

The same thing goes for the last question, which I’m sure you want to circle back. Yes, we have a lot of people come up to us and it’s not just for ‘Face Down.’ You’d be surprised how many people come tell us that ‘Guardian Angel’ is their wedding song. That our song is forever linked to their relationship. The list goes on. People tell us of being cheated on and “False Pretense’ being their song. We’ve heard a lot of those, and it’s not just ‘Face Down,’ and that’s what I’m saying. We get it a lot though because the lyrics are real. I presume we will always get that.

I appreciate that, and I know that it is much more than ‘Face Down,’ and it all really comes from being real, as you said. As you were just saying, you have a lot of songs that have really impacted people. Then you have your album ‘The Awakening’ of people that have impacted you. You talk about God and your wife, and their impact. Can you talk about some of those people that have impacted you that make writing about real-life so easy?

Ronnie: People ask me that, and my wife, who is an artist, asks me that as well. Like “How do you write about real life? It’s so hard,” and I guess I’m just that one guy that it’s not hard for. Because we had such a hard life growing up, we have been in some crazy situations, my brother and I. Younger, and even into our early teens, and so when you go through something like that, that is just that real like realer than you’ve ever seen in a movie. Like watching a movie, and saying “They almost got it right, but it’s a little gnarlier than that.” So this kind of stuff does not phase you, like I’m just putting something on a track, and I can handle that. It’s just not difficult for me, because of what they call desensitization a little bit. So I think sure we have a little bit of that.

Randy: But for me, it is weird to thing about doing it in the opposite.

Ronnie: Me too. Thank you

Randy: We’ve always written about real life and what is impacting us in the real. To think of it the other way around feels a bit fabricated.

Ronnie: Yeah, it just doesn’t make sense to us.

Randy: So it is actually quite effortless luckily.

Ronnie: Thankfully.

I know this is only your second day of tour, what are the things you’re most excited for?

Ronnie: We actually had another add on show. Because Denver sold out, and this show sold out, we added a show on the front end. So this is actually night three. Just to be that guy (laughs.) It was a special thing.

I’m excited to have Danny out here. He’s a new addition. He’s doing keys and background harmonies. Randy’s always done harmonies and a lot, but he also has to scream, and there are times that you can’t harmonize and scream. As our catalog gets more complicated, which it does because we are getting older and better. Which we actually do get better over time as musicians who stay on it. We are adjusting our live touring setup, and I’m looking forward to how that’s going.

Josh: My answer is, I’m looking forward to the two new songs that we’ve added into the set. ‘Brace Yourself’ has had a really cool live response in the shows we’ve played it at.

Ronnie: Remember, nobody knows that yet.

Josh: Ahh, it’s just because we’ve been playing it!

Ronnie: No, it’s okay! A special thing that we’re doing on this tour is we are taking it old school, the only way that you can hear this second song from the EP is to come. It’s done and ready, but it’s not out. You have to come hear it.

Josh: So the cats out of the bag on that one (laughs.)

Ronnie: You just have to tell them that. It’s not online, you have to come.

Josh: The secrets out! That’s definitely mine. I’ve been really curious to see what it is like.

Ronnie: We are really getting a solid and honest reaction because they don’t even know that we are doing it. It’s great.

Randy: The excitement of touring and being back up with your comrades sort of say and like ripping brand new songs that you’ve put a lot of effort into, like a majority of these we recorded on the bus. Performing it live is just super awesome. Then the way that we are doing it live now with more people it is becoming more and more like record than it ever has.

Danny: And I’m just pumped to be here. In fact, to bring this full circle, Josh’s first tour was with my old band. That was nine years ago, and we’ve always talked about doing stuff together for Jumpsuit, and how cool that would be, and I got a call a month ago and here I am. There couldn’t be a better time than now. It’s really coming along.

I have a question I ask in every interview. I can’t sing, and so I only do it on the karaoke stage. So I like to ask bands that have toured all over if they like karaoke? And what your go-to song?

Danny: I hate it! I have to be drinking pretty hard. When you play music like your friends expect a certain thing. It’s hard to go out there, and like am I performing. We are just trying to have fun, and next thing you know, Grease comes on, and I don’t really like it (laughs.)

Josh: Wow, truth bomb. I’m impartial to karaoke. I did one song with my buddy James awhile ago, and we did ‘Picture’ by Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow, and that was a special moment. But that’s it, like only special moments. I don’t think I’d ever go out there and like belt a thing.

Randy: I’d say my go-to is one I stole from Ronnie, Tim McGraw ‘Don’t Take The Girl.’ That one’s just fun because it’s such a like wow that’s a real song. I also love ‘Epiphany’ by Aaron Lewis (Staind). I’ve always liked that song.

Ronnie: I like to get dressed up really nice. Like Armani, Gucci, put a tux on and then just freak people out and shred it in karaoke. Just hit em hard man. So I will do something that is really vocally difficult like Bruno Mars, or Rascal Flatts, just super high and powerful, and I get a kick out of it. Everybody, there is like shocked. Usually, there is like one or two pretty good singers before you, but most people are just having a good time, and have drank too much. Then I’m one hundred percent sober, and get up there, and slay it. I’m not saying I’m the best singer on the planet, but I do it for a living, and I have a few songs that I’ve selected that I can really nail. One of those for sure is called ‘Gimme Some Lovin’ by The Spencer Davis Group. Which is looked at as one of the hardest male vocals ever tracked live and I can nail that sucker. I like to rip off of that at first and then just see how the night goes and the competition out there. If nobody steps up I go Alice in Chains.

And that is why I will never stop asking that question. That is amazing! (laughs) I appreciate all of your time and the realness. Good luck tonight.

Red Jumpsuit Apparatus: We appreciate it. Thanks for having us.

For tickets and tour information visit The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus’ website