Photo Credit: John Daniel Powers
We sat down with Cautious Clay a.k.a Joshua Karpeh to chat about his influences, music, the road ahead and the journey so far.
Let’s start with the name. How did you come about such an interesting artist name? Does it denote anything to who you are personally?
I came up with my artist name from the perspective that I had about my music, I’m very particular about my music so everything I’m creating is particular, so to speak. And, Cautious Clay sounds better than ‘Particular Clay.’
As an artist and songwriter, what themes do you find yourself going back to with your music?
I find myself going back to a lot of music I grew up listening to but then also just, kind of like, exploring Youtube. Some friends will show me stuff that I really like and a lot of times, I’d just look for music that just makes me feel that I’m not a musician, that I’m not actually making music myself, that I’m enjoying it for the sake of enjoying it. I always gravitate towards that; sometimes you forget why you’re making music in the first place.
The themes you find yourself going back to as a songwriter and writing about in your music.
Yeah, I would definitely say self worth, relationships is an obvious one and then, just feelings, self-awareness and finding purpose and also, I would say like, friendships, interpersonal identity as well.
How did growing up in Cleveland influence your musical style? Are there any regions in the US or the world that you derive from musically?
I grew up listening to a lot of flute, saxophone, there’s a lot of good classical and jazz music in Cleveland. That was a big part of my experiences from a learning, academic perspective but then my parents, specifically my mom, she brought me up on a lot of classic R&B and soul records and more like, ‘90s hip hop, Moby or somebody like Joni Mitchell, Sinead O’Connor – she had a lot of different records I started listening to very early.
These records have influenced me. Especially in Cleveland, there’s this mentality where you take from what you find and there wasn’t really a huge culture around ‘Oh, this is the type of music in Cleveland.’ There’s a lot of stuff you can take from/find inspiration in but not like there was a huge culture around it.
Any regions in the world or US you’re influenced by musically?
I was in DC for a while – Washington DC, I had a lot of friends who were DJs/Producers and informally, Washington DC has influenced my sound.
A collaboration that stands out in your memory? An artist you’d love to collaborate with?
That’s a hard one. There are so many people I’d really like making music with. There’s this producer called Oak who I really like working with. I also really enjoy working with John Mayer whenever I can. He’s a great collaborator.
What’s the touring version of Cautious Clay?
Yeah so, my touring rituals are based around drinking a lot of hot tea and um, eating, maybe twice a day. I don’t like to eat a lot when I’m on tour because when I’m singing, it kind of weighs me down. I eat regularly but don’t get super full. I like to go exploring a lot in whatever city we end up in.
What are the artistic, musical and narrative influences for ‘Table Of Context?’
Table Of Context really kind of stemmed from my wanting to understand the difference between happiness and purpose and especially, now that I’m doing music full time, it’s constantly been on my mind. I check in with myself often – Is this something I’m enjoying and how does it relate to my identity as a whole. A lot of songs like ‘Reasons,’ ‘Sidewinder,’ ‘Something for nothing’ are all very representative of this. These songs deal with the emotion you have when you’re with somebody you care about or somebody you don’t care about, if there’s the drama in your life, something you’re stemming all of your energy from, is it helping in your happiness? Are you finding purpose in it and if you’re happy with that? It’s kind of cerebral in that way and it’s all contextual too.
How would you say your sound changed between ‘Resonance’ – EP 2018 and ‘Blood Type’ – 2018
Oh yeah, I was working on similar songs around the same time. I would say that ‘Resonance’ was just, sort of a smaller, kind of in-between idea and I wanted to just kind of expand my sonic palette. Sonic palette was more metallic, more electronic, slightly less warmer sound. I would say, sonically, they’re slightly different but at the same time, the subject matter is very identity-driven, having strong self worth and understanding your self worth, being yourself and knowing what that means for your happiness.
Artists you’re currently listening to.
I really like this old-school band called The Crusaders. I was in Iceland the other day, there was this really interesting new artist named Moses Hightower and there’s also this other artist called Chop Chop and Karriem Riggins.
Do you have an idea of the kind of feeling you want to leave people with when they listen to your music?
I guess I want people to feel refreshed after they leave. Through my music, I want them to feel like they’ve reset a little bit from whatever situation they’re going through and yeah, really, that’s probably it.
Do you plan on signing with a label anytime soon? Any particular reason why you choose to remain independent?
I guess, I wanted to remain independent. Also, it’s a lot more controlled. I feel right now, I’m not opposed to a recording deal but it’s not really presented itself in a way that I’m looking to accomplish. I’m not opposed to it; it’s just a matter of time and its specific terms.
Thank you for speaking with us, Josh
Words by Alina Gufran