Cautious Clay Explores Purpose and Happiness in ‘Table of Context’ [Q&A]

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Listening to Cautious Clay’s music feels like experiencing history in the making. The up-and-coming R&B artist creates lush soundscapes and pushes both his limits as an artist and the confines of the genre with every release. His melodic work is nothing short of brilliance, and the warmth in his voice feels inexplicably familiar. 

Since we first discovered Clay in 2017, his career has exploded. In the span of two years, Clay has hit the stage hard, playing a sold-out tour in the process, and released the highly acclaimed EPs RESONANCE and Blood Type. Not one to disappoint, Clay is back with another EP titled Table of Context, and it is arguably his best yet. Did we mention that lo-fi R&B songstress UMI makes a guest appearance? Needless to say, you are going to want to clear your schedule for this one.

Check out our interview with Clay below as he talks purpose versus happiness, meeting John Mayer, and putting things into context with his new EP.

OTW: You just got back from Europe! How was it?

Cautious Clay: It was really great. It’s been really cool.

OTW: Let’s start with the title, how did you come up with Table of Context as the title for your EP?

Cautious Clay: Yeah, at one point I thought “REASONS” was going to be the title of the project, but “Table of Context” ended up fitting more appropriately. I feel like in a lot of choices in life, there is always context and it’s not necessarily a right or wrong thing. I felt like “Table of Context” was the most appropriate for what I was talking about in this project.

OTW: Is there a song on the project that you feel is best representative of the work as a whole?

Cautious Clay: Funny enough, lyrically and sentiment-wise, “REASONS” is probably the one that works the most as a representation of the project. I also think “Something For Nothing” embodies the idea. All of these songs have a strata on whether or not they relate to happiness or purpose, and I think that one feels like it’s mostly related to happiness and feeling something.

OTW: How was creating Table of Context different than the process for Blood Type or Resonance?

Cautious Clay: It was a little bit. I had to be a little bit more selective about what songs I wanted and the process of producing it out was also a lot more time consuming since I’ve been on the road so much. So, finishing it has taken a little more time than anticipated, but, other than that, the process hasn’t been dramatically different.

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OTW: What do you hope to communicate with Table of Context, both musically and lyrically?

Cautious Clay: In general, I really wanted to communicate that purpose and happiness are related but they’re not. You don’t necessarily have one if you have the other. I think it’s important in life to do things for fun that enrich your life and not necessarily have some grandiose purpose.

OTW: You went from playing your first show a year ago to recently wrapping a sold-out tour. What was your favorite part about being on the road?

Cautious Clay: I mean, with the New York show I was playing to like 1,200 people in my home city. That was so crazy. But I feel like there’s a couple other. like the one in San Francisco, where I played with my uncle, who is a legendary jazz bass player. That was a really cool moment.

OTW: Did you get to see some places you hadn’t been while hitting shows?

Cautious Clay: Yeah, we stopped in this place called Ashland in Oregon, which is like this really cool hippy town.

OTW: Could you tell us about your fans?

Cautious Clay: I would say they’re divided into thirds. One third is just kind of curious and interested, and there’s another third that likes my music and wants to take a photo after shows. The other third is super intense and engaged and tells me their life story. It’s very much those three kinds of fans.

OTW: 2018 was huge for you, from performing with John Mayer to doing a Tiny Desk concert to releasing Blood Type. What were a few of your favorite moments?

Cautious Clay: I mean, filling up the Bowery Ballroom was a big moment for sure. I would also just say getting to go on tour and playing for people I didn’t know. That was crazy. Meeting John Mayer was also kind of a crazy thing, because it was like really unexpected. Also, my song was featured on Insecure which was a big moment for me. It’s been a trip.

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OTW: Were you a little starstruck when you met John Mayer for the first time or did it feel natural?

Cautious Clay: It felt very natural to be honest with you. I knew who he was, and I always respected him and knew he was extremely talented. That being said, I wasn’t a huge fan to begin with so I think that kind of helped. Once I became an artist, I have been able to look past the idea of fame. If you’re nice, then you’re nice. If you’re an asshole, then you’re an asshole.

OTW: Since first featuring you in 2017, things have certainly taken. What do you hope to see in the near future for yourself?

Cautious Clay: Oh man, that’s hard to say. I want to put out some incredible music videos and culture pieces, just expanding on the music.

OTW: Who are your Ones to Watch?

Cautious Clay: Probably Dijon and Aries. They’re both sick.

Can’t get enough of Cautious Clay? Check out his All Eyes On performance and accompanying interview with yours truly below. 

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