With his new album, The Moon Under Water, the time has come for everyone to become reacquainted with Ryan Cabrera, however you may know of him. As Rolling Stone predicted, 'The young Texan seems intent on transcending his Diesel-wearing, mall-kid status and being taken seriously as a musician.' And that's just what he's done by putting his money where his music is - backed by his unshakeable faith that he has much to offer - to finance his latest album, make his music as he wants to, and release it on his new independent Frolic Room Records label.
Cabrera has already proved his considerable talent and mettle as a 19-year-old pop-rock prodigy who leapt from the Dallas, Texas club scene to the majors and went on to sell more than a million records and score such Top 20 hits as 'True' and 'On The Way Down' - songs so indelible to the ear that they were riding high on the radio recurrent charts a good year after becoming hits. His 2006 single 'I Will Remember You' became a multimedia sensation when it was featured in the final episode of the TV show 'Will & Grace' and was also adopted as the farewell song on Fox TV's 'So You Think You Can Dance.' (A revamped version is included on The Moon Under Water.)
The media heard undeniable talent: 'Crafty guitar work, lush harmonies and a vocal performance that glistens with confidence and fortitude' (Billboard); 'skillful melodist' (The New York Times); 'an undeniable flair writing a rock-solid hook' (Artistdirect); 'infectious personality and varying styles' (Yahoo Music); 'an artful pop-rock sound' (Wilkes Barre Citizens' Voice). Or as All Music Guide observed: 'More than just another pretty face with a lot of industry money behind him.'
He knew that too, 'and after I made my second major label record,' Cabrera recounts, 'I was thinking, do I have to do another one like this?' The talented youth was growing into adulthood, and now at age 25 his musical and cultural references and influences are expanding and deepening. But his label 'was asking me to write stuff more like my first album, and I couldn't do that. I can't just write stuff to make money or the people at the record company happy.' So he struck out on his own.
The dilemma of being a musical artisan who also became a pop star is encapsulated on 'Say,' the sparkling debut single from The Moon Under Water on which he cheekily recounts the pressures from his label to be someone he is not, and concludes, 'I'm gone.' Using the resources that success has afforded him, Cabrera took a couple of years to collaborate with his co-producers - the transplanted Australian team of fellow singer-songwriters Daniel James and Leah Haywood - on an album 'that is way more organic than anything I've done,' he notes.
To wit, The Moon Under Water is a tour de force work from a pop-rock sophisticate that blends classic and modern modes into music with a timeless charm. With his burgeoning maturity has come a wry yet genial lyrical view that gets to the heart of the complications and contradictions that sometimes plague modern human interrelationships, yet the soulful romanticism that charmed millions still thrives. From the first line of the driving opener 'In Between Lines' that greets listeners with 'Hey there, it's nice to meet you' to the U2-ish grandeur and warmth of his new version of 'I Will Remember You' that closes the set, The Moon Under Water encompasses a captivating spectrum of musical moods, styles and tempos.
And whether it's simmering and propulsive rockers like 'Enemies,' 'Sit Back, Relax' and 'The Tango,' the percolating mid-tempo grooves of 'Say' and 'Please Don't Lie' or such swooning slow dances as 'I shoulda kissed u' and 'Say You Will,' the melodies that embed themselves in your imagination and engaging and emotionally expressive voice which made Cabrera a star remain, stronger and more refined than ever before. With songs that range from the atmospheric and impressionistic 'Rise (the dog barks)' to the Beatlesque 'How About Tonight,' The Mood Under Water is rife with the artistic potency of genuine talent coming into its own.
'The sound of the new record I think will open a lot of eyes and ears, and definitely be a surprise to fans and anybody who hasn't heard my music,' Cabrera explains. 'I wanted to take my time with this record and really make a diverse entire album as opposed to just a single or two; no, I want a ride, a journey, I want the record to be able to be played all the way through. So many things have changed in my life, and the music is heading along with it.'
Some teenagers graduate high school and go on to college. Ryan Cabrera left school and matriculated in the university of rock'n'roll, learning his lessons in the recording studio and on the road. After taking up guitar in her early teens, he quickly made a name for himself on the Dallas club scene, opening shows for acts like Cheap Trick, Ben Harper and Third Eye Blind and at 18 self-releasing an independent album, Elm Street, that earned him rave reviews and sold 10,000 copies. Not long after, the smart and talented suburban teenager who worked the fast food drive through to underwrite his pay-to-play gigs was batting in the major leagues and hitting them out of the park.
'For those four or five years after I started making music at 14, that was all I ever dreamed of,' he says of the major label deal. 'But then you see a bigger picture.'
His two-album ride in the majors as well as passing through the realms of reality TV and the gossip columns was a first-class education in life in the big time. 'I signed up to play music,' Cabrera says. 'But a lot of other stuff comes with it, so I can't complain about it. Everything happens so fast that you don't even realize what's happening in your life and career, and after my first record came out I got pinned as this pop singer.' But even the young fans that keyed in with the videogenic musician heard something more in his music. 'He is one of the few music artists who has exceptional talent and is still grounded in every way,' noted Teen Scene in 2004.
And today Ryan Cabrera is quickly growing into artistic maturity. His musical heroes and aspirations are inked onto his right arm: The Beatles striding across Abbey Road on his forearm and a New Orleans French Quarter street scene on his bicep with Louis Armstrong tickling the ivories. His album takes its title from the name of his favorite London pub, which fashioned itself after a poem by George Orwell of the same title that describes the perfect pub. And he named his Frolic Room record label after the Los Angeles watering hole frequented by his favorite writer, Charles Bukowski.
'I'm 25 years old now and have been through a lot more stuff. My music continues to evolve,' Cabrera explains. 'I'm writing all the songs so they're still going to have my vibe to them, but I also listen to a lot of different stuff. I read different things now. I didn't want to make the same record again and again just because the others did well.'
On The Moon Under Water, Cabrera melds his aim to create music of substance and soulfulness with his innate knack for fashioning compelling pop hooks. 'I think that pop has gotten a bad name,' he notes. 'You can still have music that's credible and thoughtful and not easy to play and not easy to write, and it's still pop. You want to hear it, and it's in your ear and memorable.'
But even if he wasn't about to forsake creating music with definite ear appeal, Cabrera is determined to offer listeners a full musical experience rife with variety and his ever-expanding stylistic palette of reference points. 'I like variety and listen to so many kinds of music, so I figured: why can't you make an album that doesn't sound like all the songs are the same? One of the cool things about being independent is that I can do that,' he observes. 'I wanted to make a record where, if you're in this mood, you love this track, and then tomorrow, you love that track, and then the next day, you feel like listening to another track instead of someone listening to the whole album and not knowing the difference between the songs. I didn't think about singles when I was making this record. The one thing I wanted to accomplish was for people to know that this is an album.'
The signature of his considerable writing, singing and musical talents still remains, sure to satisfy the fans he already won with this artistry. Yet The Moon Under Water will also introduce new listeners to a creative musician whose ultimate artistic goal is to continue improving, growing and making music with a depth and range that reflects who he is. 'When the Beatles got deeper into their art, at the end of the day they still made great pop songs,' he notes. 'I'm not in any way comparing myself to them, but it shows that you can make great, catchy music while still incorporating your artistic viewpoint. You can still grow.
'It feels right,' Cabrera says of what he's created on The Moon Under Water and going independent to release and market his music. 'It's a way bigger risk, and it could end up just backfiring on me. But at the end of the day, I figured if I didn't make the record I want to make now I'd just be miserable for the rest of my life.
'At this point it's all about the music,' he concludes. 'My goal all along has been to have a career in music, end of story. That's it - just to play music as my life. And the best stuff is yet to come.'