If you’re fortunate enough to know or listen to Cautious Clay, you already know the smooth, sultry vibes this man embodies. Whether it’s your first time or your 100th time listening, there’s this level of authenticity he exudes in his vocals, lyrics, and overall sound — something listeners can’t pass up. Read more…
Born in Cleveland, attending college in DC for a year, then moving to Brooklyn 4 years ago, the producer turned singer-songwriter is a creative in all facets of his life. While real name Josh Karpeh has been making beats for 6 to 8 years, it’s crazy to think he only started recording a year and a half ago. The first song he released was “Cold War” in September 2017, and it was a wrap ever since.
Why should people fuck w/ you?
Because I do what I want. I give 100% myself throughout every part of my process. What you get is everything me authentically. I have my own style. I play a lot of instruments and do different things sonically. I do my own merch, directions, etc. It’s all been in-house.
What are all of the instruments that you do play?
Flute, saxophone, guitar, and drums. I produce all my own music.
I mix it.
You like that creative control I’m guessing?
Yeah I definitely do. I have a specific opinion about it. I’m open to having other people doing it, but it never really worked out. I did it myself until it made sense. People fuck with me ‘cause what you see is what you get. I’m out here doing what I want, that’s it.
You just started songwriting recently right?
I started off making beats and was on SoundCloud. I recently started songwriting more for other people. The first song it actually ended up happening for was with Alina Baraz and Khalid. “Floating” came out, that was cool. I produced for a bunch of random stuff coming out. Just random, it depends. I want to work with other artists who I can understand where they’re coming from.
What was the studio session for “Floating” like?
It was cool! Alina’s super shy but I really respect her and know what she’s about. We’re both randomly from Cleveland, had a lot of similar friend circles growing up but neither of us knew who each other were. It was funny. It was really great and organic. She’s doing her own thing and asked me to help produce. It ended up working out in the product. It was done in Westlake Studios.
Being born in Cleveland, how does that play into your life and career?
Being from the Midwest — a place I don’t really associate with anymore but grew up living there — has affected my creative process. Also my decision-making process, relating to how my mom raised me and the type of people I was surrounded with. I grew a thick skin. I learned to be okay with everyone not necessarily being cool with me and kept doing my own thing. I’ve always had this inner comfort and drive to continue doing me, which led me to be an artist in the first place.
“Cleveland Is The Reason” is one of my favorite Kid Cudi songs.
Omg, that’s crazy, It’s funny. Living in Cleveland, no one had an idea of how big Kid Cudi would be. Not average but because he was Cleveland, everyone was super into him. People were also heavy in Machine Gun Kelly and King Chip. Growing up, I had no idea who was bigger. I was just like “oh yeah, Kid Cudi.” Now, he’s obviously Kid Cudi.
You say “your mama raised you,” and today’s Mother’s Day.
Yes it is, I called her already. We had an hour-long conversation. We’re very close. She lives in Jamestown, New York, which is 2 hours east.
How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist?
To be in LA, not that important. You can make music wherever you’re at. Coming to LA is important, but I don’t think you have to live here. A lot of creatives here, a lot of stuff to work on here. It’s really great and I can totally see why people move here. But if you have a good group of people you feel comfortable working with and always keep an open mind about how you wanna create, you can do it anywhere.
What was the inspiration behind your name?
My name’s really inspired by my attitude about my music and how I create. I’m very particular about my music and what I wanna do. I love words so Cautious sounded better than Particular. Cautious Clay sounds better than Cautious Carter or Particular Clay, I just liked how it sounded.
I was watching “Reasons” video, bring us back to your time pole vaulting days.
I pole vaulted in high school. I got involved because I was good friends with my chemistry teacher. We clicked really well even though I didn’t like chemistry. He was really patient with me. He said “you should join pole vaulting.” I’m like “cool.” It was me and 3 other kids on the team. We started off in my sophomore year of high school and I kept with it. I wanted to challenge myself for this video, be like “maybe I’ll just try doing it again.”
How was it?
It was fun! I was glad there was another person there experienced enough to be able to show me a couple things. Almost like riding a bike, having a parent there to help you like “get on the wheel again!” I really enjoy it, it’s a fun sport. I don’t know anyone else in music who’s pole vaulted.
You said you made music at that desk for 8 years. 3 things you need to record?
1) It has to smell good. I don’t need bath soaps, I just need candles. A light candle scent. 2) Plants. 3) Sunlight.
You’re into nature, Do you get a lot of that in New York?
Yeah, I do. I’m really close to a park, it’s in my backyard. There’s a patio with green space all around it, I like it.
What is it you want fans to get from your story?
I want people to enjoy my music. Enjoy my message and hopefully gain something from it emotionally. If they want to feel good, they can do that too. I want to inspire people, that’s important for me. I want to have a paradigm shift in how people create.
Favorite person you’ve collaborated with?
I have a project I’ve been working on with an artist named Aries. He’s the homie, I’ve been fucking with him this week. I found him on Youtube. Kinda early, but not that early. We got in touch through a text message then started talking. He knew about me and randomly asked if I was interested in working.
Why is he your favorite so far?
I just enjoy the process. I’m really only talking about it because as an artist, it’s different from being a producer. There’s another producer I work with named Christoph Andersson, he’s great. But from an artist perspective, it’s been probably easiest to work with him. Every time, we come away with something. Even if it’s not finished or polished, our voices work very well together. I’m excited to have some records coming out with him in the next year or so.
At what point did you hear yourself and say “I want to be singer”?
Honestly, I didn’t even know wtf it was gonna look like 3 years ago. I didn’t know people would be like “oh, his voice!” I was a producer who started singing on records. A lot of producers like me started doing that, but that’s not what people associate them with. I was literally making beats for friends. I wasn’t doing anything crazy. I was making remixes, did a Billie Eilish remix 4 years ago. Been doing beats for a while but it was really just my voice and the fact that people liked it.
Were you working a day job too?
I was working in real estate. Doing advertising sales for a year, I got fired from that job. Did another job similar to that for another year, then I quit.
What’d you get fired for?
I wasn’t doing all the stuff they’re asking me to do. I’d been there for a year and made very little improvements from their perspective. I was still making sales but they’re like “oh, you didn’t check all these boxes. Well you’re fired.” I’m like “fine.”
What’d you study in college?
International Affairs, so not related to music. I was minoring in Music and always loved it. Music was always there, so it felt easy.
What does it mean for you to be part of this 12 Moods campaign with Skull Candy?
Man, it’s cool! The other artists they’re working with are interesting: Rico Nasty, Omar Apollo, EarthGang, Denzel Curry, Leikeli47. It’s interesting, I’ve never heard of a headphone company doing that. It gives different sentiments to the product. It’s cool they’re doing performances. They’re giving life into what Skull Candy is.
[12 Moods is a year-long campaign which showcases how music makes us feel. Each month includes: exclusive music artist content and limited-edition product drops tied to a themed mood and color. This month’s artist is Leikeli47, with the mood ‘Empowered’ and color pink. Next month’s featured artist is Tommy Genesis, alongside ‘Independent’ purple. Cautious will be August’s artist, with the mood ‘Deep’.]
How was the shoot today?
It was fun! Really easy. Got here at 11am, just finished. [now 6pm]
Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
Those stats aren’t accurate because every time my phone turns on, it starts this “ABC” cover by Michael Jackson. I don’t actually listen to that song, it just comes on my phone. As of late, it’s probably Roy Ayers. I also really like AJ Tracey.
He’s fire! A lot of people fuck with him from the States.
I don’t know what it is, I really fuck with AJ Tracey. He doesn’t sound like every other UK artist, there’s something about it. His hooks are really interesting, he has this really interesting flow. It’s good, he’s consistent to me.
What’s a normal day in the life? Walk us through.
I get up, probably make some coffee. Play a little guitar, probably go to the park then hang out with my girlfriend. Make music during the day, watch a movie.
Favorite song to perform in a set?
I haven’t played it in a while, but “Stolen Moments.”
What’s the best encounter you had with a fan?
It was really sweet, this woman and her husband came to my Philly show all the way from Minnesota. They were in tears! I’m like “omg, that’s crazy.” They’re telling me how before they weren’t married and my music was a soundtrack for their marriage. I’m like “damn that’s amazing.” I couldn’t believe it. I’m a new artist and you’re getting married to my music.
How’s it feel knowing people make love to your music?
It was very emotional for me to hear that. That’s wild. I was really blown by that to be honest. Another woman told me she put on my music when she was giving birth. I was like “DAMN.” She messaged me. I gotta save some of these messages.
What advice do you have for an aspiring Cautious Clay?
Follow your intuition, that’s what I do. Don’t get clouded by what other people say. Especially if you have a strong intuition, because a lot of people are gonna say stuff. If you have the intuition, follow it. But if you don’t have the intuition, stay open-minded.