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He went into the studio with three songs he had written, and the studio engineer was so impressed he offered to produce an entire album for Cabrera for free.
The nineteen-year-old musician jumped at the chance, gathered up two years' worth of songs, and holed up at Deep Ellum Studios to create his first album, the independently produced Elm Street (2001).
With the help of his older brother, the band began playing gigs in and around Dallas, quickly becoming a favorite with audiences.
According to Cabrera they played anywhere and everywhere, from restaurants to fraternity houses to birthday parties.
It seemed that his music career would be short-lived, but then the budding singer had a kind of awakening after hearing the music of the Dave Matthews Band.
As a boy he spent summers and holidays with his father's family in Miami, Florida, and listened to salsa musicians like Grupo Niche and Jerry Rivera (1973–).
No one in his immediate family, however, was a musician and it was by chance that Cabrera learned how to play guitar.
The lessons included exercises to strengthen his abdominal muscles by lifting and holding chairs while he sang scales.
Cabrera continued studying for months, both with his coach and on his own, sometimes singing for four or five hours a day.
"I started playing guitar kind of by accident," he admitted on the Ryan Cabrera Web site.