Posts

Photo: Shervin Lainez

Honest Enough: Cautious Clay’s Rise to Stardom

Every so often, a singer rises through the ranks of artistry, swiftly reaching heights of stardom earlier than their peers. Think of artists like Alessia Cara or The Weeknd.

Another significant rising artist to watch is Josh Karpeh, also known as Cautious Clay. In the first year of his career, he already has a accumulated a varied list of accomplishments and accolades.

For those blessed with an HBO subscription, watchers of the hit show Insecure, created and written by Issa Rae, may have already heard the budding star and not known it. Apart from its comedic genius, the series has had a penchant for uncovering musical hits and in August, Cautious Clay was included among the recent pop sensations with his debut song “Cold War.”

In October, he was featured on NPR’s “Tiny Desk,” passing through as other influential artists like Erykah Badu, Yo-Yo Ma, Wu-Tang Clan and Florence + the Machine had in past iterations, generating praise from a broad eclectic audience.

Staying loyal to his roots and the inspiration behind his sound, Cautious Clay also performed on stage at BET’s 2018 Soul Train Awards at the Orleans Arena in November, where he crossed paths again with Erykah Badu by sharing the same band. Continually marketing himself as a complex, multi-dimensional artist, not feeling a need to subscribe to one route or notion, Cautious Clay diverse abilities show no signs of slowing down.

Prior to the Cautious Clay moniker, Karpeh was working in real estate and advertising after graduating from George Washington University. Eventually, he took a huge leap of faith and quit his job to pursue a music career full-time.

“I never doubted [music] would be in my life. I never knew I could make a living out of it,” he says. “I never knew I would have a full functioning business model. That’s all very new and humbling and interesting for me.”

But stepping out on faith wasn’t a hard act for Cautious Clay.

“I’ve always felt confident in my abilities as an artist and a musician. I don’t feel like it was happens chance. But I feel like since a very young age, I’ve had a natural inclination for music, it’s kind of how I express myself in the most genuine way, it’s in my blood.”

His love of music is not only evident in his “genre-less” music, but in his dynamic skill set. Not only does he sing, write and produce music as an independent artist, but he also plays the saxophone, flute, and piano, among a long list of others.

Cautious Clay draws inspiration from all aspects of life. While he has a particular sound, which he characterizes as “melodic, percussive, thoughtful and ambitious.” He doesn’t allow himself to be boxed into one consistent narrative or style.

“I have songs that are more bright hard-hitting and I have more [acoustic] stuff. Melodies are probably the strongest aspect of my music, but then I also kind of reinforce it with the production, kind of fresh and different.”

Cautious Clay is a fascinating mix of humble and confident. His YouTube page displays a recent post, “Writers block doesn’t exist,” sparking users to urge him to elaborate in the comment section.

CautiousClay_YouTube_screenshot

 

Some asked if Cautious Clay was simply so talented that even writer’s block can’t slow him down? Quite the contrary.

“People don’t have writer’s block because writers’ block is just a fear of bad idea,” he explains. “People will have writer’s block because they don’t like their ideas. I don’t think a lack of ideas is necessarily possible. There’s always going to be something. It could be a terrible idea, it may not be a new idea but you could develop something.”

As an honest and self-aware artist, he pushes past the insecurities and swallows his pride to inspire fans.

“Being an artist is part being yourself and expressing that to your fans. [It’s] about being innovative in some ways; being creative and being an artist is synonymous.”

Cautious Clay will perform newly released single “Honest Enough” at a sold-out concert this Friday, February 1 at U Street Music Hall. For more information about Cautious Clay, click here.

U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; 202-588-1889; www.ustreetmusichall.com

Photo: Doug Van Sant

All Things Go Fall Classic Brings Music, Activism and More to Union Market

With a name like All Things Go Fall Classic, the festival’s attendees would likely expect a laid-back day of tunes enjoyed in the crisp autumn air. But those who joined the two-day celebration at Union Market in the infamous DC humidity experienced an energy and crowd that wouldn’t have been out of place at Coachella’s annual music festival.

Saturday’s sets featured an all-female lineup with acts ranging from Billie Eilish to festival curator Maggie Rogers. Sunday proved an equally as jam-packed schedule of various genres with everything from classic pop to R&B – check out our highlights below.

The Provo, Utah-based band The Aces brought their take on guitar-driven power pop early on Sunday. While the assumption could be made that many attended for bigger names, scores of Aces fans made their way to the front and sang along to every word of the songs the four-piece group played. Bandmates even brought a cake onstage for drummer Alisa Ramirez, who celebrated her 21st birthday, prompting fans to join a spirited “happy birthday” singalong.

Following the high-energy dance party that was The Aces, New York-born, DC-based R&B artist Cautious Clay mellowed out the crowd with his smooth lyrics and choir-layered choruses. “Cold War” was easily the crowd-pleaser with dreamy, electronic beats and truth-seeking lyrics asking “but if we spoke like we meant it/would you reference/this open part of me” had the crowd closing their eyes and swaying in time.

Up next was rising indie star Two Feet a.k.a. Bill Dess. The New York City native’s relatively quick rise in popularity started with a drunken online upload of seductive, electric guitar-heavy song “Go F*ck Yourself” that had the All Things Go crowd dancing. The bluesy, beachy “I Feel Like I’m Drowning” where Dess sings of a “suspicious” lover also proved a fan-favorite, including getting lots of radio love as of late. Talking to the crowd, Two Feet was both funny and perhaps a little unsure of himself, but one thing’s for certain – the guy can shred on guitar.

The fun wasn’t just in the music though; in between music acts, concert attendees could grab a pint of ice cream from Vice Cream while waiting in line for a photo booth or to sign their name on one of two giant globe-like balls. There was even a tent where hairstylists braided festival goers’ hair thanks to emBRAZEN – a wine brand that celebrates bold women from history with their selections, including a Celia Cruz chardonnay, Josephine Baker red blend and Nellie Bly cabernet sauvignon.

After hair braiding and stocking up on Vice Cream, a packed crowd started to form in front of the stage as everyone waited to experience the effervescent MisterWives. Singer Mandy Lee encouraged the audience to sing along to hits like “Drummer Boy” and “Our Own House.” Most songs were met with extended jam sessions via Lee and her bandmates, even incorporating Destiny’s Child’s hit “Survivor”at one point, as a dedication to survivors of sexual assault. The powerful stance was also, in Lee’s words, a reflection of the love and light she felt at the festival besides the tumultuous goings on in DC that weekend.

The aforementioned MisterWives joined the concert bill days before the festival began. They took the slot previously occupied by singer songwriter Garrett Borns, better known as BØRNS, after several people came forward stating the singer was responsible for sexual misconduct. The festival, which touted an all female lineup on Saturday had a choice to make – turn the other cheek or serve as an example to others in the music community by disallowing an alleged abuser a platform.

All Things Go issued a statement that Borns would no longer perform at the festival. By doing so they clearly and confidently sent the message that their festival was no place for misconduct and one that would amplify voices aiming to make the music world safer. Sunday was surely a celebration of that, and All Things Go provided a winning combination of hope, fun and progress. It’s like no other festival in DC, or perhaps the country, and we’re already counting down to the next one.

For  more information about All Things Go Fall Classic, click here.