Ryan Cabrera may be better known as Ashlee Simpson’s ex-boyfriend, but now he’s making a name for himself.
His major label debut album, “Take It All Away,” has sold more than 320,000 copies so far, and its first single, “On the Way Down,” hit No. 8 on the Billboard chart. After opening for Jewel and Jessica Simpson and performing on college campuses, Cabrera just kicked off his first headlining tour.
But it was hard work — not connections — that brought the 22-year-old singer this far.
He first picked up a guitar at age 15 and spent the next few years teaching himself to play chords and simple tunes. He formed a band with some buddies — Cabrera got roped into singing — and played gigs around the Dallas area for a few years. He went to college but dropped out after a year to devote himself to music, knowing his voice needed work.
His coach turned out to be Jessica Simpson’s instructor, and she recommended to Simpson’s manager-father that he check out Cabrera. After signing with Joe Simpson, Cabrera landed a recording contract and went to Los Angeles, where he lived with the Simpsons for eight months. And then...
AP: I have to ask about your relationship with Ashlee Simpson.
Cabrera: We were best buds. It became like a brother-sister relationship. We were dating other people when I moved in, but that didn’t work out. Then we got together during my video, and then after that, it was ON.
AP: And now?
Cabrera: Just like we were before — we’re best friends. It sucks because we’re both doing so many things right now that it’s impossible to be together right now. We’ll see what happens in the future.
AP: Was it weird watching your relationship on her reality TV show and knowing other people were, too?
Cabrera: The only weird part is how they show it. I’m used to being around cameras because of (“Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica”). What’s weird is when they edit it and try to put a month’s period into one show.
AP: Did her show help your career?
Cabrera: Sure. Whenever people get to see you, it’s a great thing. Once people see an image and see the character, they can get into the music a lot more.
AP: How did you get into singing? Was it something you always wanted to do?
Cabrera: Absolutely not. The guys in my band said “There’s three of us and one of you so you’re singing.” I was horrible, I was absolutely awful. That’s why I put myself through that insane program.
AP: What did it entail?
Cabrera: I sang every day by myself for six hours. I was holding up chairs while singing scales to work out my diaphragm. I heard Michael Jackson did it, but everybody said not to, it’s not good for your voice.
AP: A lot of your songs deal with breaking up or thanking a girl for her love. Did you draw on personal experiences?
Cabrera: I would say so. I went through losing my first love while I was writing the album. I also wrote a song about the new girl in my life. “On the Way Down” is about searching for happiness in things that weren’t real, searching for happiness in material possessions. For me, it’s a spiritual song. But I left song open to interpretation. It could be about a girl, or it could be about a pet parakeet.
AP: How did you guys get into “Rock, Vote & Win”?
Cabrera: I wanted to be involved with Rock the Vote, but Joe suggested we do our own thing. Then we got Clear Channel on board and came up with the idea. I wanted to get involved with something, I didn’t care exactly what. “Rock, Vote & Win” is really educational, and it’s fun for schools. We’re not trying to tell them who to vote for, we’re just telling them to vote.
AP: Did you vote in the last presidential election?
Cabrera: I did NOT vote last time. When I was 18, I was a punk kid just trying to play guitar, not really trying to know what’s going on. That’s why we’re trying to get people aware.
AP: Anything else I need to know about you?
Cabrera: I really like chocolate chip cookies.