By Kelsey Leiter
Whether they were ready or not, students in attendance at Ryan Cabrera’s acoustic show were transported back to 2004, the year in which the singer/songwriter’s famous hit-single, “On the Way Down,” was all over the radio.
But Cabrera had more to offer than just one-hit wonders. Cabrera and his band performed both new songs from his EP — released last month — and older hits like “Shine On” to a small but enthusiastic crowd in Mayo Concert Hall on Tuesday, March 31.
The musician’s fame actually began in the early days of reality television. After his then-girlfriend Ashlee Simpson appeared in the music video for “On the Way Down,” Cabrera made his own cameo on her reality series, “The Ashlee Simpson Show.” When Cabrera later dated Audrina Patridge, he once again found himself on television, though this time in scenes from Patridge’s show, “The Hills.”
After a seven-year hiatus, however, Cabrera — now 32 — has finally released some new music. His EP, “Wake Up Beautiful,” feature five new songs that have a much different sound than his first album, “Take It All Away,” which dropped in 2004.
“It’s more intense and better than anything I’ve done in the past,” Cabrera said. “People … will be surprised it’s not pop.”
He admits his new album, which will be released in full later this year, took longer than he expected. In the first three to four years of his creative process, he scrapped nearly 60 songs before finally writing “I See Love,” which then sparked the motivation for the rest of the album.
Cabrera revealed that in the past he was much more focused on emulation of other artists than finding his own sound.
“When you’re 19 years old, you imitate what’s around you … I just wanted to be Dave Matthews,” Cabrera said. “Then you sort of develop your sounds and figure out who you are. You’d like to think you just get better and better as a songwriter.”
During the writing process for his new tracks, entitled “House on Fire,” “Sing Along,” “Forgot How to Fly,” “All We Have” and “I See Love,” Cabrera said he focused on the musicality and lyrics.
“I’m still a lyrics guy, even when it kinda feels like lyrics have been lost with the shit they play on the radio,” he said.
Cabrera took the stage after opener Taylor Berrett amazed the audience with his heartfelt lyrics and quirky humor. Berrett had the women in the crowd swooning when he revealed “Next Best Thing,” a song about an experience he had being friend-zoned, which is in fact about his fiancé. Berrett, who also stands at over six feet, jokingly admitted he knew he was meant to be a performer because “the stage was the only place I wasn’t in anyone’s way at a show.”
A musical mix between Jason Mraz and Phillip Phillips, Berrett’s new album, “Great Falls,” was recorded in London and produced by Jake Gosling, who has worked with Ed Sheeran, Christina Perri and One Direction. Within a day of its Tuesday, March 10 debut, the album broke top 10 on iTunes’ singer/songwriter chart with Berrett coming in behind Sheeran.
His very personal songs were made even more lovable by his casual and light-hearted presence on stage where he engaged with the audience to answer any and all of his fans’ questions. One audience member asked the young performer to attend her sorority formal, though he politely declined.
Both Cabrera and Berrett’s new music can be found on iTunes now.