Photo: John Daniel Powers
Cautious Clay and Charlotte Day Wilson have a lot in common.
They’re both up-and-coming R&B artists who will be in town, performing and promoting their debut albums—”Deadpan Love” for Clay, “ALPHA” for Wilson—from last year. They are both multi-instrumentalists, known for playing guitar, keyboards, and even saxophone during a show.
For a few independent artists, they have also made major changes lately. Auditory inventive Clay, who plays the secret band March 12, managed to get Swifties in his corner when Taylor Swift sampled her 2018 song “Cold War” for her track “London Boy,” from her album “Lover ” of 2019.
“Hats off to her for obviously wanting to credit me in this process, because I guess she was just a fan,” says Cleveland-born Clay (government name: Joshua Karpeh), 29. know she wanted to sample my song, you know… It was really just, like, a scenario where her team reached out and said, ‘She wants to use this song for her album and we’ll credit you for it.’ I approved it, and the rest is history.
And, just a week ago, Toronto-born Wilson was nominated for three Juno Awards (aka the Grammys of the Great White North), including Songwriter of the Year.
When: 8 p.m. on March 12
Or: The Secret Group, 2101 Polk St.
Details: $22.50 ($25 the day of the show); (832) 898-1088; thesecretgrouphtx.com
When: 7 p.m. March 13
Or: House of Blues Houston, 1204 Caroline St.
Details: $25; (888) 402-5837; houseofblues.com/houston
“Yeah, that’s awesome,” says Wilson, also 29, who was nominated for a Juno Award last year for her song “Take Care of You” featuring The Internet’s Syd. Coming from the same Toronto alt-R&B community as Daniel Caesar and the instrumental collective BADBADNOTGOOD (both of which also appear on “ALPHA”), Wilson greatly appreciates that his brand of blue-eyed, downtempo soul is considered worthy of a price. “I mean, maybe the Junos didn’t mean as much as they used to. But, you know, there are so many amazing artists coming out of Canada and making waves internationally. Some of the greatest artists in the world now come from Canada. So that really means a lot now.
But Clay and Wilson aren’t just using their music to build a fanbase; they also have some interesting products for sale. Clay has the most peculiar objects. If you go to his website, with your standard t-shirts, hoodies, and bucket hats, you can get his own brand of coffee, called Cautious Joe (he also sells Cautious Joe coffee mugs), as well as coffee. police tape. with the word “cautious” on it.
For Clay, who also has an exclusive line of t-shirts and sweatshirts that he only sells on tour, selling distinctive merchandise is just as vital to an indie artist as playing music. “I think it’s super vital,” he says. “I think that’s a huge part of my results as an artist, just because I’m growing in a way where I think, like, I have a team and I hire people to be part of it. team, so they slowly move the show forward. I invest a lot in that process. I’m an unsigned artist, so every dollar counts that way. So merchandising is a huge part. So, I spend a lot of time with its appearance and operation.
As for Wilson, who plays the House of Blues on March 13, she has t-shirts, sweatshirts, skulls and even totebags on her site — all bearing the name of her album. “I mean, it’s just kind of a fun thing to do,” she said. “Like, it’s another mode of expression in some ways, being able to design clothes and make things that I would like to buy myself, as someone who is interested in fashion and clothes. But, yeah, it’s just okay, you know. It’s another source of income. In this industry, you kind of have to bring together all the different ways of generating income. And that’s like one of the flow which is pretty crucial I guess.
Ultimately, Clay and Wilson hope that all of the products, collaborations, and award nominations will attract listeners who form a bond with the personal music they create. Clay says, “I feel like I’m making music for myself and for others, and I feel like I’m making music to connect with people, to perform, and to change as a human being. . So it always changes.
Wilson puts it succinctly, “I think I just want people to feel seen or comforted by the music.”
Craig Lindsey is a Houston-based writer.