Jay Madera’s rousing new single “A House Divided” will inspire you to get out and vote – if you haven’t already. The Cincinnati singer/songwriter offers a hopeful urgency as he sings about greed, corporatism, freedom and equality and begs the question, “What do we need?” as Americans head to the polls. Released late last month, Madera now follows up the single with a video.
“The day that we finished up editing the video, I went out and voted,” Madera said by phone. “It’s a kinetic song. It literally got my butt off the couch and off to the polls. So, that made it an emotional moment.”
For the clip, Madera pieced together archived, royalty-free footage and donated the money he would’ve spent on a music video to nonprofits When We All Vote and Rock The Vote. Madera also ran donation campaigns for the track, raising over $300 for both organizations.
“The goal is to help get them donations,” he said. “They’ve been doing a lot of cool stuff – especially right here in Hamilton County – for Election Day, and that’s been crucial.”
The video itself combines vintage clips, ranging from everyday scenes to the historic moments that championed voting and racial equality. Video from famous protests – like the Selma to Montgomery Marches – and the title’s nod to Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided Speech” further remembers the courageous movements that fought – and continue to fight – against voter suppression and racial injustice. After a summer full of similar demonstrations and persisting inequality, Madera connects past struggles to today’s, making his question of “What do we stand for?” ring even louder.
“The song is all about acknowledging our history and confronting our history, and using it to inform our current actions,” says Madera. “I wanted to connect that with our current-day struggle. Obviously, race is not our only issue, but it is a fundamental issue that is just as important today as it was back then.”
Another loud layer is Madera’s anti-corporate stance, as he belts verses about putting power in the hands of the people. Notably, the track was recorded in Cincinnati’s Gwynne Sound – housed in the historic headquarters of Proctor & Gamble.
“The very first lyric is, ‘We don’t need another strip mall/We don’t need another iPhone’… and here I was recording it in the headquarters of one of the largest corporations in the history of our modern society,” says Madera.
The clip and Madera’s style drive home a feeling of energetic nostalgia, heavily complimented with backing vocals from Cincinnati songstress Lauren Eylise and producer Mia Carruthers. For the instrumentals, Madera also stayed home-grown with University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music students.
“My song is rooted in the funk and soul tradition, and I was stylizing the song as more of a pop version of like a James Brown mixed with Elvis Costello. I was definitely taking inspiration from a Black art form, so I thought it was important to get Lauren’s voice on there,” he said. “She’s phenomenal – she has some of the best music coming out of the city. And my other backup singer was Mia, and their interplay on the song was incredible. The horns section was CCM students and one was a professor. So, it was very rooted in Cincinnati and the culture here.”
The song’s Cincinnati representation was also intentional, Madera says, as the city not only marks where he’s from and lives, but is also an important battleground area come Election Day.
“It’s a political song in a swing state,” he said. “People that hear my song and come to my shows are all, politically, across the spectrum. This is where the politicians come right before the election. So, that’s something that was really cool that I got to record it here – and also being from here.”