Ryan Cabrera may have entered mainstream pop consciousness as Ashlee Simpson's on-again, off-again boy toy, but the 22-year-old singer, who has begun shaping up his sophomore LP, is hellbent on proving that he's the real deal when it comes to his music.
"I'm on a mission," he said. "I was just [in the studio] recording yesterday, and this new album is going to be crazy."
Cabrera, whose infectious pop hooks and feel-good melodies catapulted his singles "True" and "On the Way Down" to top-10 radio success, plans to expand his musical horizons this time around — think less bubblegum pop and more genuine soul.
"I've been listening to a lot of soul lately," he said. "[The album's] still going to be my style, but almost kind of like Sade, Chris Isaak or Coldplay."
While the songwriter has been penning some new tunes with his buddies, he plans to produce the as-yet-untitled album himself. Perhaps Cabrera learned a few tricks from Goo Goo Dolls frontman Johnny Rzeznik, who co-produced his debut effort, Take It All Away (see "Ryan Cabrera, Ashlee's Ex, Sets Sights On Album, Sorority Tour"). The 2004 LP, which hit #8 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, is fast approaching platinum status.
Cabrera has been on the road since April, but he isn't ready to hop off the tour bus just yet. "The second I get done, I'm going back out. To be performing onstage is why I play music," he said. "Kelly Clarkson and I were talking about maybe going on the road — or me and 50 Cent, maybe!"
Kidding aside, the singer is also branching out with his own TV show. This fall, Cabrera will host a dating show called "Score," in which two lovelorn contestants compete over the girl of their dreams. Each contestant will have one day to pen an original song to serenade their woman with, and the winner will be rewarded with a coveted date. Cabrera will assist the producers with songwriting advice and perform at the end of every show.
"It's a little bit of everything," he said, "and you get to hear my new record before it even comes out."
In a couple of weeks, the singer will relive his high school days when he escorts Ashley Stokes, winner of JCPenney's "Rock Your Prom" Sweepstakes, to her Whitehall High School prom in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
"I'm going to sing her 'True' because that's my love song," Cabrera said. The singer, who will perform at the dance, isn't above letting loose after his set is over.
"I [may be] performing, but after that I'm gonna rock out!"