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Cautious Clay reflects on the making of Deadpan Love

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Cautious Clay
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Cautious Clay continues touring on his latest release Deadpan Love. The tour included a performance at the WonderBus Music and Arts Festival. Here on Music Journeys, he'll tell us all about the record and how he wanted it to reveal his mental side a bit more. He also delivers a fly-themed Fast Five. Thanks for listening.

Roots plays...

Joshua Karpeh performs as Cautious Clay

"I ended up using that because it's never been easy to express my emotions except for music," Karpeh said. "I can bring myself out in a real way with that. I also only used to make beats. I felt like Cautious Clay had this dual meaning for me. Emotionally, I'm very cautious but production-wise I was very particular. Particular Clay didn't sound as good as Cautious Clay."

Whoa plays...

Karpeh grew up in Cleveland with a number of influences.

"Some of my earliest memories are of my mom playing records, especially this song by Patricia Rushen called Forget Me Nots."

Forget Me Nots plays...

"I started playing flute at the age of about 7, and I took classical lessons," Karpeh continued. "I started to form my own interests and loved the Space Jam soundtrack, Creed, Lil Bow Wow, and a phase with Jazz. It slowly progressed into different sounds and pallets. But I always had this incessant love for finding new sounds and different ways of expressing music always appealed to me."

Wildfire (with strings) plays...

"In general, I wanted this album (Deadpan Love) to be a reflection of my identity but a little more of my mental side," Karpeh said. "I put out this EP when I first started putting out music as Cautious Clay called Blood Type."

Cold War plays...

"That was my physical identity," Karpeh continued. "But I wanted Deadpan Love to reflect the two sides to who I am. Deadpan is a word that's used in the context of comedy - a harsh witty way of speaking about things. That's how I feel in my head. But then love is the compassion and empathy I have inside of me and I wanted this duality between this wit and cynicism to protect my compassion and empathy. Overall, it's an album about relationships, misguidance, and trying to find value in those relationships as well."

Box of Bones plays...

"I wrote that one as a reaction to my girlfriend who's in medical school and brought home a box of bones for her lab," Karpeh said. "I was thinking about that and how much we are just boxes of bones. I wanted to reflect the human experience in this raw and emotional way. Sometimes we're happy, sometimes we're frustrated. I wanted intimacy but also to feel big and bright. I was experimenting a lot with that and had a lot of fun making that song."

The song Spinner reflects his thoughts on what it's like to be an artist or any type of creator.

Spinner plays...

"Whether you're an architect, a painter or a musician, I just wanted to make a song reflecting on the world you can sometimes fall into based on what you do and how you interact with other people," Karpeh recalled. "It's sort of a reflection on how I navigated the world as an artist, and how I feel about it. My intuition is to be super musical but my priority hasn't always been the external elements of what I do."

Karma and Friends plays...

"I wanted to have strings on the album," Karpeh said. "Karma and Friends was the title of the album originally. We're only as good as our relationships and the people we surround ourselves with. Sonically, it took a lot of different turns. I enlisted this string arranger named Johan Lenox, and I was super grateful to have him involved. I mixed out the rest of it. I made that song probably three years, and it took some time to get it to where it ended up."

He wanted a more simple, stripped back vibe with the song Wildfire

Wildfire plays...

"I wanted to reflect that people's intentions even if they're good don't always prevent people from feeling unheard and unseen and we have to consider that," Karpeh said. "That's the idea behind it. Hope it's what you want not just what you do. That's such a clear feeling for a lot of people and certainly for myself."

Agreeable plays...

"When I initially put things out, it feels kind of nerve-racking because I am expressing a part of myself," Karpeh admitted. "I do enjoy it too. I enjoy the process of making and sitting with the music. But it also is a little nerve-racking. I still get that same anxious feeling before a song comes out."

He's also been involved in several big projects and collaborations, including co-writing the song Bigger Love with John Legend.

Bigger Love plays...

"He approached my team and me to get involved," Karpeh said. "It felt really special because there was that interest there to begin with. He's really talented, so it was really cool to bring out some of my talents as well."

And he collaborates and checks in frequently with John Mayer.

"We actually worked on a song I put out called Swim Home," Karpeh noted.

Swim Home plays...

"We co-wrote and produced that together. I put it out in 2019. After that, I worked on a song with him that he ended up putting up called Carry Me Away. My voice was at the end of the song."

Carry Me Away plays...

"He's a real killer on guitar," Karpeh said of Mayer. "It was awesome to collaborate with him as a guitar player. His writing skills and perspective on writing is something I've learned a lot from. We certanly chat semi-regularly."

Joshua Karpeh who performs as Cautious Clay from our conversation last summer just before his Deadpan Love release. He's been busy since then touring this year and also releasing a deluxe version of Deadpan Love and a few new singles.

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Mike Foley joined WCBE in February 2000, coming from WUFT in Gainesville, Florida. Foley has worked in various roles, from producing news and feature stories to engineering Live From Studio A sessions. A series of music features Foley started in 2018 called Music Journeys has grown into a podcast and radio show. He also assists in developing other programs in WCBE's Podcast Experience.