Ryan Cabrera: “I get to have fun for a life!”

Ryan Cabrera admits it's difficult to balance the business side of music with the creative aspects of the job.

Ryan Cabrera admits it’s difficult to balance the business side of music with the creative aspects of the job.

The stage blazed royal blue as a small crowd of teenage girls and boys anxiously awaited the promised opening act.

Sensing the audience’s eagerness, a figure outfitted with a black fedora, a friendly but cool smirk (the kind only a rock star can pull off) and an acoustic guitar appeared on stage.

Although his spiky hair was hidden, there was no confusing Ryan Cabrera’s signature pop rock voice flowing through the microphone. The song ended and Ryan didn’t miss a beat as he started joking and interacted with the crowd in front of him.

“I like to have a personal connection with the audience – I want to talk to them,” he told us when we sat down afterward to discuss surviving the music industry.

Interestingly enough, Ryan mentioned that when he was 18 or 19 years old he merely picked up the guitar for fun. He was not adamant on making a career out of it.

“It wasn’t until I saw Dave Matthews play that I was like, ‘I know this is what I want to do,’” he said.

Immediately following this realization Ryan left his high school punk band, Caine, for a new one, Rubix Groove, and poured himself into acoustic music – learning a majority of guitar by watching his idol Dave.

However, his brother surprised him with paid studio time as a birthday gift, which propelled him forward as a solo artist and led to the eventual creation of his first album, Elm Street. Shortly after, while touring for this album, Ryan attracted attention that resulted in getting signed to Atlantic Records.

Ryan Cabrera first picked up a guitar for fun at age 19 after watching Dave Matthews.

Ryan Cabrera first picked up a guitar for fun at age 19 after watching Dave Matthews.

From that point he recorded his first studio album, Take It All Away, which quickly climbed the Billboard’s Top 100 and solidified Ryan’s place in music.

“I mean I got lucky to happen to be in the right place at the right time,” he says. “You could take me – being the same artist as I was at that time –and let’s just say the people that heard me didn’t happen to be there, then I don’t think I would’ve had a career in music.”

Ryan explained that although he was lucky enough to be recognized there is an unfortunate political side to the music industry: “If you’re a singer or an artist there’s so much more involved than just being good – which is sad and not the way it should be. Sometimes it really is who you know rather than what you know.”

Ryan admitted having difficulty in separating personal feelings from business, emphasizing that an artist’s mindset is forced to change completely when in the industry. Along with this, is the need to balance business and creativity; for example, surviving record label changes and deciding out the best way to get your music to the fans in an industry that’s undergone vast changes.

“I’ve been really terrible at finding the balance between creativity and business. I’ve done a very good job at self-sabotaging myself in the business area, but being true to myself artistically,” he said, chuckling to himself. “I was never in the music industry to be popular or current; I was in it to write what was true to me as an artist.”

And he still is. Ryan still writes his own songs and loves to speak out so his audience has a personal connection with him.

“When you are playing really, really big crowds you do not really feel much, you’re basically just playing,” he said. “When we play shows where you can actually see people, that is more of an interactive thing. I enjoy that more.”

He doesn`t hold back at all when putting lyrics on paper. Ryan noted how he likes to leave his songs up for interpretation, and for his listener to decide what it should mean.

“I like my songs to be universal,” he says, meaning that there shouldn’t just be one statement coming from his music. And unlike other pop singers who make it blatantly clear with their songs who they want to address, Ryan is different.

“I have never written anything mean,” he said. “Most of the stuff that I have written has been in a good light toward them. Songs like ‘Find Your Way’ and ‘Shine On’…those were about me wanting them to do well without me.”

It took him a while to produce his upcoming album. While working on it, Ryan literally scrapped a good 10 to 20 songs because they were not what he wanted. When he finally wrote the first track on the album he knew that this is where it would all begin. His music is something that he works hard for and wants others to hear as himself…not somebody else who he is trying to be in order to please others.

Ryan Cabrera with authors Francesca Harvey and Narmeen Karzoun.

Ryan Cabrera with authors Francesca Harvey and Narmeen Karzoun.

As Ryan reflects on his journey throughout the music industry – both the ups and downs – his previous albums and his upcoming record, one thing can be certain about his career:

He doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

“I play music for a living – why would you ever want to stop that,” he says holding a serious expression before flashing a toothy smile. “I get to have fun for a life!”

Narmeen Karzoun, LSY reporter, and Francesca Harvey, LSY teen editor

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