Cautious Clay’s sincerity felt by audience

Jonah Golder, Contributing Writer

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Before his concert at The Parish at House of Blues, a bundled-up Cautious Clay strolled down Decatur Street. And after a quick conversation with him, it was evident that the artist, wearing a few sweatshirts and sipping an Izze, was not caught up in the fame. 

Cautious Clay, born Joshua Karpeh, is originally from Cleveland, but currently resides in Brooklyn where he was once a leasing agent. While working in New York trying to get by, Karpeh started writing and producing music on the side. He started to upload some of his songs to SoundCloud and for several years continued to live separate lives as a realtor and musician. Eventually, he quit the real estate business and released his first original single “Cold War”, which gained traction on SoundCloud, quickly igniting a fan base that allowed him to go all in on his musical career. 

Now with multiple hits including “Cold War” and “Stolen Moments,” recent album “Table of Context” and a John Mayer collaboration, “Swim Home”, which appears on the “13 Reasons Why” soundtrack, Karpeh has vaulted himself into an international spotlight.  

Cori Shalit︱Senior Staff Photographer

Clay’s sound is characterized by a mix of soulful vocals combined with a modern and raw electronic backing blended with reverberated lows. The ambiance of the modern drums coupled with the guitar, along with flares of instruments such as the flute and saxophone, allow for Karpeh’s floating vocals to resound throughout songs in an unprecedented way. 

On Wednesday, Karpeh, the front man, was accompanied by a bassist, drummer, guitarist and keyboard player. The hour-long performance featured some of Karpeh’s older, less popular tracks and transitioned into some of his more well-known ones, along with a handful of new pieces that were untitled and unreleased.

 The music played was predominantly acoustic, aside from a few samples for various songs. Contrasting with his previously recorded projects, this live take, showcasing a lack of electronic backing, sounded even more refreshing and rich. The echo of each instrument orchestrated a nuanced atmosphere which allowed Cautious Clay’s voice to take reign with a limited filter. His soulful voice was the centerpiece of the night, smoothly gliding atop the bassline while nimbly following the rhythm of the guitar and drums, to produce a sort of flow that highly resonated with the crowd.

If his vocals alone weren’t enough to impress the audience, Karpeh pulled out even more from his musical repertoire. 

When he was younger Karpeh was drawn to the flute, but he later picked up even more instruments, including the saxophone and guitar. Throughout the show he was continually swapping out the three to play for brief interludes during his performance, sometimes even switching off between more than one instrument in the same song, providing another layer of dexterity and elegance to an already astonishing display of talent.  

The Parish elevated the experience by providing what felt like a living room-style stage. With about a hundred people in attendance, the space was intimate, which made it fairly effortless to drift toward the front of the stage. A handful of multicolored lamps surrounded Karpeh’s band on the stage, syncing to specific songs, dimming and changing color for certain arrangements. 

Cori Shalit ︱Senior Staff Photographer

“I like venues like this, I feel like I can see everybody’s faces,” Cautious Clay said during the show, some of the few words that were not sung throughout the night.

From looking at concert posters outside of the Parish at House of Blues, it is evident that the smaller venue has served as a stepping stone to stardom for a multitude of artists who have since become internationally famous such as Kendrick Lamar, the Black Keys and Mac Miller

Karpeh may only be playing for hundreds now, but based on his pure and honest message articulated through his music, it is evident that he will be thrust into stardom soon. He epitomizes the essence of a true artist and will soon be selling out superdomes, however, the likelihood of him losing his realness is slim to none.

Now Clay, who is currently on his Context Tour, has just finished his stint in Europe and now has a plethora of upcoming tour dates across North America. You can listen to his newest project “Table of Context” and his latest single, “Erase”, streaming on all major platforms.