We spoke with the muti-talented NPR Slingshot artist Cautious Clay before his performance at Boston Calling about his musical journey and why he would love a flute collaboration with Lizzo.

This interview was conducted on May 26, 2019 by Tori Bedford for WGBH, at the Boston Calling Music Festival.

Can you tell me about what role music has played in your life so far — has it always played a role?

Cautious Clay: Yeah… it has in some fashion. I was really casually doing it for most of my life, but it's always been the first thing I felt the most comfortable with, whether it be just playing music or, just being creative, you know? I've always just had a real comfort level with that since I was really young.

So, you grew up around a lot of music.

Cautious Clay: Yeah… I was seven when I first started playing the flute actually. And that was huge…. I eventually just kind of got more into it and had periods where I hated it, where I loved it, but it just was always around.

You're a classically trained flautist. Does that play a role now in your music in a big way?

Cautious Clay: It definitely does for the live element. In production too but for the live…me and my band we all just kind of jam out and have fun and I think it allows us to kind of expand on a lot of the stuff that I'm doing production-wise. It’s less free form, and more straightforward in that way. But I think a live show is really where we get to branch out. And that's kind of why I wanted to have a band in the first place.

Cautious Clay — Boston Calling Music Festival
Cautious Clay
Mike Last
Cautious Clay — Boston Calling Music Festival
Cautious Clay
Mike Last
Cautious Clay — Boston Calling Music Festival
Cautious Clay
Mike Last
Cautious Clay — Boston Calling Music Festival
Cautious Clay
Mike Last
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I think with the flute, it's having a big moment culturally. Would you ever consider a flute collaboration with Lizzo?

Cautious Clay: I would definitely consider it. Of course, I would love to, actually. Totally. If she's down, I'm down. It's so cool because in many ways she can just do whatever and it's awesome. And she's very fearless so it's cool. I feel like we have very similar sentiments —we just do whatever we want.

Okay — Lizzo, if you're listening please contact Cautious Clay.

Cautious Clay: Yes please.

And in the new EP, does flute play a big role in that? Is it in there a little more sneakily?

Cautious Clay: Definitely, definitely snuck in there. It comes and goes. I just use it in parts, I don't really abuse it. Usually that's where I play in the live show. But it's definitely in background harmonies and lead lines.

You put your first single out last fall and now you've done a couple of EPs. What's it been like, that journey?

Cautious Clay: It's been really interesting because it's felt super gradual and I think that a lot of times it can feel overwhelming... I've just been kind of consistently making a lot of music over the last year and a half, two years and… I just keep going. I just stay inspired — that's really what it is.

And you recently quit your day job, or semi-recently?

Cautious Clay: About two years ago. It's been crazy to be in that situation and then grow from that.

I wonder if fame agrees with you in that way? I think the big thing that I've picked up in your music is kind of shaking off cloud-chasers or these people who feel they need to be followed or just get that notoriety. How do you maintain your authenticity?

Cautious Clay: In general I just speak my mind and whatever comes out, I just filter it and focus on that. And so maintaining that authenticity is really just listening to my own intuition and not feeling pressured by whatever's going on around me. I want to be who I want to be and, I'm super excited to grow, but also I'm not going to compromise.

Do you feel like it's a little bit surreal?

Cautious Clay: Yeah, I mean it's crazy. You never can predict how people are going to gravitate towards your music... I definitely would never have seen this happening in the way it's happening. At this point I feel like I'm not surprised…But there was definitely a period of time where I was unsure of that.

You mean in an imposter syndrome kind of way?

Cautious Clay: Yeah...working at a day job and being in that environment is so different. I felt out of place there. But then, as an artist… so much of that is just accepting yourself and it's hard to do that as a person and not just as an artist. I really felt that sort of that imposter syndrome for awhile when I was first starting out and trying to understand.

Do you still feel that sometimes?

Cautious Clay: I think everyone does. But I do have at my core, a pretty strong confidence and an ability to express what I feel very strongly.

What do you want people to take away from your music?

Cautious Clay: I want people just to feel accepted and also feel like they can have fun at the same time. And in some ways challenge people.

What can you tell me about your decision to remain independent and not signed?

Cautious Clay: In some ways, it’s been a business decision for me, because I've felt that so much of where I've garnered attention and my ability to grow has been through me and my team. We haven't necessarily seen a fit from a label perspective to where it would make sense for us to just sign away.

So, what's next for you?

Cautious Clay: I'm working on an album. I'm also working on some music videos for Table of Context. I released one a couple weeks ago and then I have another two that are coming. And then we're doing a bunch of festivals this summer, doing a headline tour and then Europe and the U.S. at the end of the year. And then probably at the top of the year I'll have an album.

Thanks so much for talking.

Cautious Clay: Thanks for having me.

(Transcribed and condensed for clarity by Audrey Wang and Meghan Smith)