“Ever since I started playing music, it was always about the feel,” says Josh Karpeh, AKA Cautious Clay. “There are a lot of things in art that you can learn by practicing or studying, but feel’s not one of them. It’s something you’ve just got to have.”
It’s that feel, that deep emotional intuition that fuels Cautious Clay’s sound. Blending R&B, hip-hop, and experimental indie, his productions are dark and engrossing, built upon a unique combination of organic instruments, digital programming, and soulful vocals. He writes with unflinching honesty, engaging in deeply personal self-reflection with boldly vulnerable and vividly poetic lyrics. At times recalling contemporaries like James Blake or Sampha, Cautious is a profoundly modern songwriter and a forward- thinking producer, but he’s also steeped in the past, quick to cite Burt Bacharach as an idol and credit Stevie Wonder and Quincy Jones as ever-present influences in his artful arrangements.
“I used to think about songwriting and production as completely separate,” he explains, “but when I learned how to merge those two things, that’s when I was able to start creating music that really connected with people.”
Originally from Cleveland, OH, Cautious began his artistic journey at the age of seven when he picked up classical flute. His studies led him deep into the worlds of blues and jazz, and by the time he hit college in Washington, D.C., he’d added a number of other instruments to his repertoire in addition to songwriting and production. Now based in Brooklyn, Cautious is consistently working on music for both his own project and for others.
Photo: Daniel Powers