Ronnie Watts Kisses Summer Goodbye with Electrifying New Remix
heartbreak, but make it pop musicRonnie Watts
Last week Ronnie Watts dropped a remix for her lead track Sad Summer, off her latest EP I Don’t Trust You At All. Given a cheeky parenthetical, Sad Summer (but it’s not summer anymore remix) is an ultra-violet electro-pop ballad. Mixed by Colin Foote, it’s the perfect dose of danceable catharsis to complement the signature ache and longing in her sound.
Before her breakout EP — which was produced by Hunter James and garnered over 100,000 streams in one month on Spotify— this emerging pop artist gained a following with singles Famous in California and Roses.
Ronnie produced, released, and promoted her own music throughout high school until she was approached by Universal UK Management before the age of 18. And while she may be brimming with drive and talent, she is also approachable and relatable— perhaps that’s what allows her music to strike a chord with those who listen to it. Her songs are like a soundtrack to a teen’s inner dialogue.
Ronnie has always been around music. She grew up with an instrument-stocked studio in the basement of her parents’ house in Rochester, New York. Her dad is a musician who taught her how to play the guitar, and somehow she’s just always known how to play the piano despite not having formal lessons. Determined to be a singer, she started playing gigs at 12 years old and hasn’t stopped.
Now at 19, her music shows a sophistication beyond her years. The tracks in I Don’t Trust You At All fold the listener in with their expressive lyrics and beautiful compositions. It’s clear that Ronnie uses songwriting to process her feelings, because her verses read like poems of the heart. At times aching, at times brutal, each song— even the most melancholy of them— is radiant.
From the gorgeous melody of Big House to the rawness of Supermodel (which is actually a voice memo from her phone that was never re-recorded), each song on this project deserves attention.
To find out more about the creation of I Don’t Trust You At All, I chatted with Ronnie about the hurt that spurred this EP, how she got her start, and how she’s grown as an artist in recent years. Read below for the in-depth interview.
(1) I’ve noticed your lyrics tell stories and convey emotions really well— in fact to me you’re a similar lyricist to Taylor Swift in that you both hone in on certain images to create a mood, like when you say “your half eaten ice-cream in the freezer / you think you love me just wait till you see her”. How would you describe your songwriting process?
Like Taylor Swift I definitely take from real life experiences, that’s where I come from. I have my phone filled with voice memos of just random melody ideas I have, and my notes app is filled with a bunch of random sentences.
Usually my best songs come when I’m not thinking about it or I don’t have pressure to write a song. It’s just like ‘I need to write this song because I need to get this emotion out of me.’ I sit out at the piano or my guitar and start strumming and it just kind of happens. And it’s funny because I usually forget how the process works because I’m just in this other world and I feel so external that when it’s done I’m like ‘woah what just happened.’
(2) Who are your musical influences?
I love Taylor Swift. I love Lorde so much, I think one of my goals is to be as close to as good as her, I feel like I’ll always be striving for that. And the 1975.
(3) So you released your first EP at 16 years old without a label or any kind of management. What was the process like to get that first EP out into the world?
I didn’t have a label or management at the time, so we used our PA system to record live shows and we had that in the EP. We also did some recording in our studio, and it was pretty easy to get it up there with the help of my dad.
As I’m getting older and my music has progressed we’re like, ‘should we keep this up or should we take it down?’ And I’m like no I think we need to keep it up here because it shows my growth. I feel like there’s something really genuine about still having that up there even though it’s not my best.
(4) So you started releasing songs in high school. Was it hard to create music while going to school, or was it a good environment to get started?
Honestly I feel like it helped a lot because with all those other activities that come from HS and all that drama and craziness my music was a step away from all that and it was nice to release all that energy.
So I feel like it was good, and even today I realized that my music has helped me meet so many friends because people come to me and are like ‘are you Ronnie? I love your music!’ and it’s the coolest feeling ever and a great way to meet people that I wouldn’t have met before. A lot of people know me because I release music and I feel like that’s helped me come out of my shell.
(5) Can you tell me a little more about your journey to get to where you are at this point in your career?
It’s actually a funny story because I graduated a year early from high school and I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen, I just knew that I knew I needed to be out of school and I needed to make music.
So I got out of school and thought I would move to Nashville, but I visited Nashville and— it’s an amazing city— but something about it made me think this isn’t where I’m supposed to be right now. So I was going into a crisis, I was like ‘oh god what am I going to do, I feel so helpless I don’t know where to go.’
So it kind of happened all at once. Then Sony Mexico reached out to me and flew me down to Mexico City to do a Christmas CD, and it was so wild that that happened. And then right after, my [future] manager reached out to me, he was scrolling through SoundCloud not looking to sign anyone and he came across some of my covers and reached out to me… and it’s been so great to have that support and a team by my side.
(6) How would you describe the sound of your music?
I always call it Heartbreak Pop. It’s pop music but it has a lot of ache to it, no matter if it’s a sad song or a happy song it has that ache.
(7) How do you think you and your sound has evolved from that first EP almost 5 years ago?
I think I’ve gotten more confident in my music and more practiced. I know how my process works now better, and it’s natural growth. I was never trying to sound different than I was a few years ago
I feel like just being put in scary situations has helped me grow a lot. Like when I went to Mexico and I literally got off the plane and they threw me in the studio and I didn’t know a lot and I was just thrown into it. But that’s how I’ve grown the most, is just being in those situations that freaked me out.
(8) And now fast forward to your new song— why did you choose Sad Summer to remix?
I feel like it’s the song that can be remixed, I think some of the other ones like You Said or the slow sad ones, it would be like, ‘are you doing this just to get more plays or for a Top 40 vibe?’ I don’t want to do an injustice to any of my songs.
The lyrics in Sad Summer are sad but the music is pretty fun and I think creating even more of a juxtaposition with the remix to make it even more fun and dancey, with the lyrics still being just as heartbreaking— I just loved that juxtaposition.
(9) What do you want people to feel when they listen to it?
I see a vision of them dancing in their room with headphones on at 1 o’clock in the morning. They could be the happiest in the world or the saddest in the world but they’re still jumping up and down and releasing all their emotions.
(10) What does Sad Summer signify to you?
I think it sums up the roller coaster that a relationship is. It starts off with ‘we’re in a grocery store,’ and you hold on to the little memories more than the big things. Like wow I just miss walking around the grocery store with you because it was so fun, and you kind of miss that more than big things that would usually stand out.
So I’m reflecting on that and slowly throughout the song it’s derailing until it’s like ‘lying on the grass can’t look at you because it’s over.’
(11) Did you work with any producers or collaborators on the remix?
I worked on this with Colin Foote. It was such a challenge to find someone to remix it and we had so many problems. It wasn’t working, we had to go through so many producers. And then we found him and it was amazing! He sent the first draft over and I was like ‘I love this so much this is perfect.’
(12) So it’s evident that this newest EP is about heart break. Would you mind sharing a little more about what inspired the album?
The story behind it is that I was dating this guy and everything seemed to be going super well, and then I went down to visit him and he didn’t pick me up from the train station. And I basically never heard from him again, he had met somebody else and was so in love with her. So it went from 100 to zero in a day and it was really weird and I was definitely very blindsided. But it got me so many good songs.
I don’t know what I would do without music because I feel like it definitely kept me on track during that weird time of what just happened. And that was definitely a good outlet to have because that was a new type of hurt, and it’s the worst type of hurt when it comes from someone you really trusted and you thought would never hurt you.
(13) And did you send the songs to the ex?
Yeah, one day I had all these voice memos before they were produced or anything and I just sent them all to him without any context or anything, just the voice memos. And he was definitely a little shook up by it but I didn’t respond or say anything else.
He was confused but it definitely got him thinking. I was just like these are yours. And sending it to him was like a weight off, like I don’t have to deal with this anymore… But I saw him a couple months later and he was like I listen to them all the time and analyze them.
(14) What has the response been to this EP?
It’s been awesome. I appreciate all of it so much because my mom was telling me today, ‘remember when you were so happy you got 100 streams and now you’re getting hundreds of thousands of streams.’ I have to remind myself, it just seems like a number sometimes but these are actual people listening to my music and it’s so cool because I don’t get to see it but I know it’s happening, so it’s a little weird but I appreciate it so much.
(15) Is there a song that stands out in particular when you think of its writing process or production?
I really love On My Mind because I feel like it has the lyricism I strive for but also the production is more out of realm and something a little different which I really like.
I also love Big House. For some reason that’s the song I never get sick of playing.
(16) Did you create the visuals for the EP yourself?
Yeah I was shooting that with my friend, she was taking photos and I used an editing app for the visual in the background. That’s how I do basically all of my artwork and music videos.
This pandemic solidified that because I’d always done my own artwork and my own music videos and we were planning on expanding this year when that happened, and honestly I love just working out things by myself or with my family and friends. I feel like I don’t need someone in a board meeting telling me this is what we need. I feel like it’s more natural and authentic when I just do it with my friends.
(17) What’s your favorite part about being an artist?
My favorite part is being able to connect with people. The main goal is to help people and connect with people from a place where my music makes people feel like they’re not alone.