Music remains a top priority for singer/songwriter Ryan Cabrera

Allison Corneau

Ryan Cabrera wants America to get one thing straight about him. Although his strategically tousled hair and goofy sense of humor make him reminiscent of the typical boy next door, this singer/songwriter is his own person on the verge of hitting it big in the music industry.

Realizing that his reputation often precedes him, he urges fans and critics not to judge him superficially, but rather give his music a listen before forming an opinion.

The 22-year-old was at Hartford’s Webster Theater over the weekend to perform in support of his debut disc “Take It All Away.” Prior to his performance, Cabrera sat down with The Chronicle to explain what it is like being young in Hollywood and what he has had to adapt to in order to pursue his dream.

“I’m on the road so much that I haven’t really had time to do anything yet,” the Texas native says, reflecting on his newfound celebrity status. Rather than remain in Los Angeles to work on his music, Cabrera prefers to take his act on the road to make his name known. “(The touring lifestyle) is all you ever really need to get adjusted to. You’ve got to get adjusted to a different lifestyle of living on the road and waking up in a new city every day.

“You give up a lot of things for a while, relationships or personal things that in day to day life you don’t have. (This is especially true for me) since I chose to tour so much because I think that the live show is the most important part of everything,” he said.

The relationships and personal things he speaks of include his on-again, off-again relationship with singer Ashlee Simpson, the daughter of Cabrera’s manager, Joe, and sister of pop star Jessica Simpson. After the couple’s young romance was chronicled on the younger Simpson’s MTV reality show, Cabrera says firmly that he has had his fill of cameras recording his every move.

Rather than become jaded following his experience, he has welcomed the opportunity to attach his name to a different form of programming for MTV. The singer has filmed the early episodes of “Score,” a reality-based dating show teaming male contestants with Cabrera and his band to create a song in order to win a date.

For Cabrera, this type of television program is much more his speed. “It’s all about music,” he said, explaining the show’s premise, “it’s just going to be fun to have my own show, that’s exciting. It’s reality, but it’s not follow(ing) me around. I couldn’t do that. I had enough of that already, that’s a hard thing to live with. I would definitely not want to do that.”

Whether on television or on the stage, the performer works hard to keep music his first priority. Cabrera realizes that with his singer/songwriter title often comes a preconceived perception of his material. He does not worry about having to compete for airplay with the likes of, for example, local singer/songwriter John Mayer. He understands that comparisons are going to be made, regardless of the artist.

“I think singer/songwriters always get lumped in that genre and people compare them to whoever they know (currently on the radio), but I think each (artist) that’s coming out now kind of has their own sound. John’s a little more mellow and my music’s more like singer/songwriter with an edge, kind of an edgy rock/pop kind of vibe that’s influenced by John or the Beatles, Paul Simon or Dave Matthews. I like to have a really positive message with my music and just have a lot fun especially on stage,” he said.

When advising college musicians, Cabrera is reminded of his recent two month stint touring college fraternity houses to promote his material. Opting to forego college to pursue his career, Cabrera says he certainly got his fill when returning to play for students. “That’s enough for me, I got (more) college experience out of those two months than I’ll ever need,” he said. “I definitely got the college lifestyle out of the way and that two months was like four years.”

He learned through the college tour that as a performer, it is necessary to take advantage of every opportunity afforded to you. “Play every show you can no matter what it is. You’ve got to play the crappy gigs because those are the ones that make you good,” Cabrera said.

No more crappy gigs are necessary for Cabrera, however, as he continues his nationwide headlining tour through March with supporting act Bonnie McKee.