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Cautious Clay Sits Down With Vocalo at Lollapalooza 2021

Written by on August 13, 2021

Singer-songwriter, guitarist, saxophonist and producer Josh Karpeh, professionally known as Cautious Clay, made waves with his debut album — just over a month before performing at Lollapalooza.

Brooklyn based singer-songwriter Cautious Clay has been making his mark on the music scene for years — collaborating with artists all over the board, from John Mayer to Saba to Petit Biscuit, since 2017, and earning features on soundtracks for hit TV shows like Insecure and 13 Reasons Why.

On June 25, following the release of many singles, he debuted his highly-anticipated full-length album, Deadpan Love. The album details love in a digital age, synthesizing personal experiences and musical stylings into a smooth R&B blend integral to his artistic identity.

Prior to Deadpan Love‘s formal announcement, Cautious Clay’s January 2020 in-studio performance at Vocalo’s Studio 10 gave listeners a deeper insight into his music, with subdued acoustic renditions of singles “Crowned” and “Something From Nothing.”

We caught up with Cautious Clay before his 2021 Lollapalooza set on Saturday, July 31 to hear about his album, performing live, his oat milk opinions and what he looks for in potential collaborators. Watch and read the full interview below.

Morgan Ciocca: It’s nice to see you, it’s been a while since you performed at Studio 10 at the Vocalo studios, it’s kind of crazy.

Cautious Clay: Definitely. Yeah, it’s been a while since we’ve performed in general. I mean, I guess we did last night. But you know, not at a consistent basis.

MC: And how was last night? I saw I was sold out it. It must have been crazy.

It was really crazy. It was a good time. I saw a lot of people who were really into everything. I felt the love in the room for sure.

MC: Playing to a sold-out crowd must be incredible.

CC: Definitely.

MC: When was the last time you performed before then?

CC: Well, we did a super random small show. That was sort of like a promo thing. I wouldn’t really count that, you know, it was kind of like, “Oh, we’re doing this thing for Twitch.” It was cool, but it was one of these half in-person, half online type of shows. And we have a whole different set setup right now. We’ve added a new member to the band, a percussionist and keys player. And I think it’s added a lot to to the show.

MC: How are you feeling about your set today?

CC: Pretty great. Just need to get a little bit of caffeine, and I’ll be just right.

MC: What’s your go-to coffee order?

CC: Just like regular coffee with oat milk. Black, dark roast coffee, with oat milk, or I’ll usually do a chai with a shot of espresso.

MC: Oat milk is the best.

CC: I do love it. I don’t know if I like drinking it straight, but I love it as a milk supplement.

MC: I think it’s the best milk substitute in coffee for sure.

CC: I totally feel that.

MC: I also wanted to ask you about your new album that just came out a little over a month ago. How are you feeling about that?

CC: Great. I mean, it’s been really awesome responses from my fans, and always new people who are hearing about it. I’m just going with it, and it’s been a lot of fun, so I’m excited to continue to push that and obviously perform that music, but I’m just keeping that rolling too. There’s other things I’m working on and excited about.

I think that my biggest part of the album is reflection. Not necessarily judgement, just reflection.

MC: Where did you draw inspiration from on that album? I guess it’s kind of a broad question to ask because there were so many songs.

CC: I think it’s really just from my life, my life experiences and the outlook that I have about my interpersonal relationships, but then also myself, and who I am as a person. So — not generic — but pretty broad influences. Just my daily life, frustrations about society and the feelings of embracing elements of toxic behavior that I’ve had, or people that I know have had, and realizing that that’s a part of all of our experiences in some ways. And just kind of reflecting on things. I think that my biggest part of the album is reflection. Not necessarily judgment, just reflection.

MC: It seems like a lot of self-analysis too. Do you feel like it was, like, a personal growth experience, going through creating this album?

CC: Definitely. Yeah, I think I continue to grow as an artist the more I make music and even perform. I think performing wasn’t something that came super naturally to me at first because I wasn’t always a front-person, so it just took a lot of time for me to realize what I needed to do when I was on stage to feel okay. A lot of it’s preparation. So, yeah, I’m naturally just more of a musician and not not as keen on the performative aspects of it. But it’s all coming together.

Cautious Clay at Lollapalooza on Saturday, July 31 by Morgan Ciocca

MC: How do you prepare for performances, usually?

CC: I guess rehearsal. A lot of rehearsal and getting to know the material and then just being in my own space.

MC: Yeah, makes sense. I feel like there’s no set way to get ready to perform in front of a crowd of people. It’s kind of a unique experience.

CC: Definitely.

MC: You also have collaborated with a lot of people, which is awesome. What do you usually look for in a collaborator?

CC: I usually just try to find people who I think are doing something interesting and unique. I think that’s really what I love about collaborating. I try to find that in whoever I’m working with. It just kind of comes together. I don’t know always how, but it just does.

MC: Yeah, it just works out.

CC: Yeah, it’s usually just like if I like the music, and I want to collaborate, I will. I definitely have a better meter for people I don’t want to work with.

MC: What would really turn you off from working with someone?

CC: I don’t know, sometimes attitude. Certain people who I meet who are just kind of like, “eh,” or if their music isn’t something that makes sense to me. That’s usually my own way of determining that. So, I don’t know. It’s hard though, ‘cuz so much music is listenable today. It’s always different for me, depending on what they’re even looking to do, because I don’t think I have a rulebook. But I’m also like, “If it makes sense, then we’ll see.” I just suss it out, usually.

MC: I think that’s a good way to do things, to not have a hard and fast rule. I also saw Taylor Swift sampled one of your songs. That is crazy. How did that happen? How do you feel about that?

CC: Well, I found out recently, because I had met Jack Antonoff for the second time. We’d met one other time, but it was super brief, but we were both in a rehearsal studio a couple days ago, and I asked him, “Yo, man. So like, do you know how that all happened?” Because, at first, I haven’t known for some time. And I guess Taylor just really loved the song, and she wanted to sample it. It’s that simple. So she obviously had been paying attention to what I was doing to certain extent.

MC: How do you feel about that? Knowing that she, like, listens to your music?

CC: It’s cool. There’s a lot of silent listeners out there. I know I’ve heard through a lot of people that Shawn Mendes is a fan and all these people who are just like, I’m cool with, but I guess it’s just flattering.

MC: Do you have any guilty pleasure artist or artists that you listen to that people might not know you listen to or not expect you to listen to?

CC: I don’t know. I mean, there’s there’s definitely music I used to listen to a lot that I don’t anymore. If I heard it, I’d be like, “Oh, yeah!” but I don’t actively listen to it. I guess I really, really love the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They just hit me at a certain time in my life where I just love them, and then like, as a kid I was really into Green Day and Creed. Oh, who else? What’s that one band? They do that Superman song, [3 Doors Down]? A lot of that style of music. Like the grunge, early ’90s, mid ’90s kind of stuff. Limp Bizkit.

MC: It’s fun. It’s nostalgic.

CC: Yeah, for sure. Maybe people wouldn’t expect me to listen to that, I don’t know. I’m a huge jazz head. I definitely love Ornette Coleman and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Eric Dolphy is one of my favorites.

MC: I feel like in your music, too, you draw influence from a lot of different musicians and genres, but you organize it and absorb that influence into your own music to make a very unique sound that’s very your own. How does that work out in your brain, your creative process?

CC: It’s always just like a push and pull and an analysis of what I’m trying to accomplish in the song. And so it’s become a lot easier to determine that for myself, determine what what will feel right for me. I’ve gotten a better sense of that, and making this album was certainly helpful in finding that out for myself.

MC: This is changing pace because this is a little bit of a silly question, but I think it’s fun to ask people. If you could make a cover band, who would it be for and why?

CC: I would never make a cover band, so that’s my first answer. That’s just not something I’d like to do. But, I mean, covering songs is fun. Remixing songs is fun. I don’t know if I have an answer for that one.

MC: That’s okay. What have you been working on lately that fans should know about?

CC: Working on a couple of live renditions of some songs on the album we’re going to release on YouTube pretty soon. It’s gonna be like a really cool reinterpretation of my own songs. That’s something cool. I’m working on a little project before my tour too which i’m doing. I’m touring in the winter, the Karma & Friends tour.

MC: Well, that’s awesome. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today, and I hope your set goes amazingly and that you have a great rest of your time in the city.

CC: Thanks for having me.

Check out Cautious Clay‘s performances of “Crowned” and “Something From Nothing” live from Vocalo Studio 10 and our last interview with the artist, and stream Deadpan Love below.

Subscribe to Vocalo’s Youtube Channel to stay up to date with all of our interviews and studio sessions.

Edited for length and clarity by Erik Anderson & Morgan Ciocca

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