Jacob Abello has come a long way.
Ten years ago, he was on the verge of signing a recording deal with a Christian music label as a singer-songwriter.
Five years ago, he debuted pop-leaning alternative rock tunes that delved into his own identity and religious struggles. Largely unaware that he was even working on an album, he debuted in a stoic, sold-out show at Opolis in Norman, wearing an unassuming gray shirt.
These days, Abello often wears little more onstage than a sparkling gold spandex singlet and works the crowd like David Bowie, firing songs from his pop radio cannon.
Abello knows now what he wants to be — a pop star. His music now reflects that to the same degree his shows have. He has adopted the name Prettyboy, helping signify the sonic shift to an ’80s-era sound of suave vocals blended with synth-enhanced beats.
“I needed a name to signify the transition,” Abello said. “I like that it’s something that is used in a negative way, but I’m treating it as a positive thing … which is what I do with pop songs, in a way.
“Coming out has played a big part in it, going from Christian singer to touching my crotch and dressing in drag,” Abello said with a laugh. “It felt natural. The more I was comfortable with myself and my sexuality, the more I was able to be confident with myself as an artist … and I have to be comfortable in my own skin, because that’s pretty much all I’ve been wearing lately.”
The type of music Abello has produced evolved enormously over the last decade, but the role it plays has stayed the same: A way to deal with life and the world at large. It was especially powerful and necessary in his full-length debut, Nothing But Gold, which helped him transition from his old self to the one we see today.
“It was how I dealt with any questions I had about life and myself. I figured it out through writing songs,” Abello said. “That record was very much about growing up and coming into your own. Performing those songs live really helped me figure out who I was as an artist.”
Abello is also discovering a bigger audience. He auditioned and received a callback for American Idol earlier this year and took advantage of the momentum to release Dejvická, a two-song EP recorded in Prague, Czech Republic. The release debuted a more radio-friendly sound that he’s further exploring and refining in his upcoming sophomore album, to be produced by longtime friend and collaborator Jarod Evans at Blackwatch Studios in Norman. It’s planned for release later this fall — four years after his debut.
Abello also is in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to help finance the album, offering prizes like tattoos of donors initials on his body, his signature gold leotard and a spa day. It runs through September.
“I’m unabashedly a pop singer wanting to be a pop star, and I’m fine with that,” Abello said. “It’s what I want to do, and even if it never happens, I can live that dream out on the stage every time I perform.”
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• Prettyboy — Dejvická review