• Emma Barsky

Artist Spotlight: Cautious Clay

Joshua Karpeh was working as a leasing agent in New York City in 2017. He quit his day job to focus on his music, and by September, he released his debut single, Cold War,” on SoundCloud under the name Cautious Clay. 

That track was the first I’d heard of him, and I fell in love with it in the summer of 2018. 

After doing some digging, I realized “Cold War” wasn't his first claim to fame. Clay had been producing for six years before he released that single, mostly making beats and remixes.

He did a remix of Billie Eilish’s “Ocean Eyes,” and Billie and Finneas hit him up when they were just on SoundCloud. They loved his funky remix and included it on Billie’s first “Ocean Eyes” remix package. 

He eventually lost interest in making obscure beats and got into songwriting. People didn't even know he sang - he'd kept that part of him unpublicized for awhile. Clay also

Cautious Clay Live at Union Transfer in Philadelphia

plays a ton of instruments including the keyboard, bass, guitar and the saxophone. He started with the flute when he was just 7 years old. 

Cautious Clay released his debut album Blood Type, a statement about his identity, in 2018, and an EP a year later, Table of Context

His music is influenced by the soul, R&B and folk music his parents exposed him to growing up, as well as hip hop, his experimentation on SoundCloud and his classical background. Some major influences include OutKast, Moby, Frank Ocean and Glen Campbell.

He is inspired by a broad range of music and he’s not trying to sound like anyone else. This artist is unapologetically himself and he’s absolutely killing it. 

When Clay first started to gain a lot of attention, he stated that he didn't want to jump the gun and sign a record deal he’d end up regretting. Clay has grown a lot from writing and producing on his own, and he found a manager who understands his vision and that he can trust.

To this day, Cautious Clay is unsigned and continuing independently, despite offers from nearly every label in the industry.

Some of Clay's notable accomplishments so far include landing the soundtrack for the third season of 13 Reasons Why with “Swim Home,” a collaboration with John Mayer, being listed as a co-songwriter on Taylor Swift’s “London Boy,” making festival lineups like Govoners Ball, going on tour in the US and Europe, and hitting 2 million monthly listeners on Spotify.

I actually saw Cautious Clay live in Philadelphia in December at an intimate venue. He played numerous intruments and it was all pretty incredible.

Remi Wolf opened for him on this tour and the duo just released a fun single, “Cheesin',” this week. The track is packed with features including Still Woozy, and they're donating 100% of the net proceeds from every stream/download to @musicares COV-19 Relief Fund.

Clearly, this is just the beginning for Cautious Clay.


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