Profile — Rome Ramirez of Sublime With Rome Talks What’s Next (Exclusive Interview)

Sometime in 2010, Rome Ramirez — lead singer and guitarist of Sublime with Rome — stepped outside to smoke and collect his thoughts. He was facing a decision that he knew would change his life and needed to think. There are moments in life that can end up defining a person, fleeting things that must be held onto with both hands lest they slip away. These moments have the potential to become lifetimes and they must be taken seriously.

Seconds before Ramirez stepped outside, Eric Wilson, Sublime’s founding bass player, had asked Ramirez if he’d like to join the band as its new frontman. It was a moment Ramirez had been dreaming about since he first picked up a guitar, one he knew he needed to take in fully. After about 10 minutes had gone by and the cigarette burned down to the end, Ramirez knew his answer. He went back inside and his life changed.

Nearly 15 years later, Ramirez has toured the world with Sublime with Rome, selling out some of the biggest venues and festivals on the planet and solidifying his name as synonymous with Sublime, his favorite band still to this day. But as with anything, the passing of time begets change, and the chapter of Ramirez’s life as the frontman of Sublime with Rome is coming to an end. Ramirez recently spoke with 303 Magazine about his time with the band, his love of creating, the lessons offered by the passage of time, what’s next for him, and more.

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Ramirez was born in the San Francisco Bay area. He described aspects of his childhood as “pretty fucked up” but filled with music. His mother would fill their home with Motown while his father taught him about rock, reggae, and hip-hop. He said, “I grew up on everything from Journey to the Supremes to Bob Marley.” Growing up on such a wide range of genres eventually led him to Sublime, who built the success that they did by melding everything from traditional reggae and ska to hip-hop to hardcore. The band was everything Ramirez was looking for and influenced him to pick up a guitar at twelve “to learn how to play [Sublime] songs right.”

Music showed Ramirez a different path, allowing him to channel some of the anger he felt growing up into something positive. He said, “Instead of going and getting into a bunch of fights, like I did when I was younger, I just channeled it into writing lyrics and learning how to play guitar.”

As he got older, his songwriting abilities grew, and he came to understand that music would be his life. However, at this point, he hadn’t truly performed for anyone or even really sang outside of the safety of his bedroom. When he was “around 16 or 17,” he brought his guitar to a party. A girl came up and asked him to sing something. Naturally, he played a Sublime song and got the attention of the whole party. “When I was done, she told me, ‘You have a really good voice.’ And then a bunch of other people at the party were like, ‘Dude, you should sing more.’ It was a big deal for me. I never forgot that, and then after that, man, it was game on.” When he turned 18 about a year later, Ramirez moved to LA to try to break into the music industry in any way he could.

When he first arrived, Ramirez was unsure of the exact capacity in which he wanted to work within the industry. He knew he loved writing and playing songs of his own but also that the direct musician route could be the most difficult and decided to learn music production and engineering. However, after living in LA for a while, he found himself surrounded by musicians he respected and who came to respect him in turn. Around this time, he began attending parties thrown by Eric Wilson. The two hit it off almost immediately and started jamming, laying the early foundation for what would become one of the most important collaborations of Ramirez’s life.

Right around the same time as Ramirez befriended Wilson, he also began writing songs with a group of guys who would eventually become The Dirty Heads. This particular collaboration resulted in what is still one of Ramirez’s biggest hits today: “Lay Me Down.” The song skyrocketed and could be heard everywhere in the early years of the 2010s, still sticking firmly in the heads of all who hear it. Ramirez describes the song as the one that truly “changed [his] life” in that it solidified him as an emerging voice in modern American reggae and proved to Wilson that Ramirez was capable of fronting a band as beloved as Sublime.

Sure enough, just months after “Lay Me Down’s” release, Wilson asked Ramirez that fateful question: “Do you want to be in Sublime?” Once Ramirez came back in from his smoke, he grabbed the moment with both hands and told Wilson three words that made Ramirez’s dreams into reality: “Hell yeah, man.”

Ramirez’s life changed from there. After initially attempting to tour the band under the classic “Sublime” moniker, the band was told to change the name due to legal reasons and became Sublime with Rome, entwining Ramirez’s name forever with the band that first influenced him to pick up a guitar. It’s something that very few people get to experience, and Ramirez has made the most of every second, learning and growing as both an artist and a human being as much as possible.

15 years and three Sublime with Rome albums later, Ramirez couldn’t be happier with the trajectory of his career. He said, “It was just awesome. Jamming with the Sublime guys and doing that for 15 years, and simultaneously writing and producing for other artists, both major and indie. It’s awesome. It’s everything I wanted as a kid, to have a life full of music.”

Ramirez refers to his life as a sequence of “fun adventures,” saying that the key to maintaining a life in music is gratitude and never losing the love for creating in the face of hardship and industry pressure. He said, “You get that one hour on stage. And that one hour on stage is essentially why anyone ever signed up for this to begin with. But the ones that can survive, and the ones who can thrive in this industry are the ones that can remain grateful, that can remind themselves, ‘This is the life that you wanted and you have to take the good with the bad.'”

But every adventure must come to an end, and 15 years is a very long time. COVID hit the band hard, with each member undergoing individual struggles. Ramirez chose to get through it by producing more music for other artists while working on music of his own. It showed him that he was becoming ready for the next chapter. When Sublime with Rome came back after the pandemic, Ramirez described feeling as if the band was entering a “sunset period.” The end of the adventure that changed his life was in sight.

In September 2023, Ramirez made the decision to move on from Sublime with Rome before officially announcing in January 2024 that he’d be leaving the band following one final tour and an album. It wasn’t a decision made lightly but one that he felt was necessary. He said, “You do something for 15 years, and after a while, the monotony starts to creep in. I feel like towards the end, I was starting to come to the place where, creatively, I wanted to do the things that I’d been working on in the pandemic.” He wishes nothing but the best to the next iteration of Sublime — who he still refers to as his favorite band after all this time — but is truly looking forward to his own next steps.

The final Sublime with Rome album is dropping May 10th, and Ramirez’s new solo projects will be out sometime over the summer. He’s incredibly excited about the artists he’s working with, though he is not ready to announce exactly who those artists are quite yet. He promises some big things in the works and is ready for that next adventure.

Rome Ramirez has had anything but a typical career in music. However, he serves as a reminder that your wildest dreams are possible if you work hard, show up when you’re supposed to, and keep your eyes open for those fleeting moments that have the potential to become so much more. Every moment counts and remember to hold on tight.

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