Jay Madera Discusses Standout Tracks From Debut Solo LP Anxious Armada

Jay Madera / Anxious Armada
Jay Madera / Anxious Armada
Photo courtesy of Jay Madera

Jay Madera has unleashed his debut solo album, Anxious Armada. The 12-track LP was fronted by the Cincinnati singer-songwriter’s singles “Curb Appeal,” “OH-126” and his political anthem, “A House Divided.” 

“The whole point of the record is to not be so autobiographical, but more try to understand myself through my music and share some of that with the world,” he tells Audiofemme. “The hardest thing to do is put it out there, so anybody taking the time out of their hectic lives to listen to my music is a treat.” 

The record ranges in sonic inspiration, from the soul and funk-infused “A House Divided” to the psychedelic “Screensaver.” Most of the instrumentation – guitar, piano, organ and more – was also produced by Jay himself.

“I’ve been writing music for a while and I’ve been involved with various projects, but this full-length solo album is about trying to understand the world and deal with its contrasts and not really look for my own place in it, but put music out there,” he explains. 

We spoke with Jay about the inspiration and meaning behind a few of the album’s standout tracks.

“A House Divided”

“To me, it’s definitely an album opener,” says Jay.

The rousing track was released ahead of Election Day and tackles subjects like voting, racial injustice, corporatism, American history and more, many of which were at the forefront of our minds last November. 

“That’s kind of one of the concepts that I gathered from a lot of this music; that we are living in a time where we can’t separate ourselves from politics and we ourselves have kind of inhabited a political space,” Jay says. “Even though that song that is overtly political, it’s still… brought really close to home, and even the more intimate songs [on the album] have commentary on society in general, so I guess I’m trying to blur the lines.”

“The Next Great American Novel”

In the bitingly ironic “The Next Great American Novel,” Jay describes the contrast between the lofty ideals we set for ourselves and our reality. Over a slow-tempo guitar, he sings, “I got high, to sit down and write my first novel/And I couldn’t even name my protagonist.”

“That’s me kind of taking a step back – it’s after three very charged, dense songs that start the record,” he explains. “This is the first slower song; it’s a little sparser, and it was me trying to write a song that’s a little less serious and show my lighter side.”

“It’s about a specific scenario, but it’s more about the ability for me to laugh at myself,” Jay continues. “We’ve all had different failures in our lives and learning to kind of laugh at the concept of, and coming to terms with, the things we said we were gonna do. It’s supposed to be a little bit cheeky, a little bit off-the-cuff, but then also hit you with some realness.”

“Half Staff”

The piano-laced “Half Staff” is another song with an anthemic feel to it. The track addresses mass shootings in the U.S. and Jay’s hesitancy to bring a child into the world.

“I was in college when I wrote that song and it was the day after the mass shooting in Orlando in 2016 at the nightclub,” he explains. “I had a lot of LGBTQ friends who were hit hard by it and I just went to a piano the next day and started writing this song.”

Though the song was written five years ago, it’s still, tragically, extremely relevant today.

“I have played that song in probably almost every gig that I’ve done, and I feel the need to keep playing it,” he says. “Each time I play it, I have to remind the audience that it’s about a specific event, because there’s been another several shootings since then. So, it can be easily misunderstood to be about another mass shooting, but that’s also kind of the point.” 

“It’s also about kind of how we handle these things that are pretty hard to handle, and we’re expected to go about our day when we shouldn’t be,” he adds. 

“A Faithful Foil” / “Janus-Faced”

The album climaxes at the cinematic “A Faithful Foil” and “Janus-Faced.” The two songs seamlessly blend into one another and validate needing others when we have trouble loving ourselves.

“It’s kind of a settling back in to some of the more serious tracks on the record,” Jay says. “Those songs were written as an ode to needing others even when we think we don’t need others. Needing others to show us the best part of ourselves and being okay with that.”

He continues, “There’s this idea that we’re supposed to love ourselves and not need other people for that love. The self-love movement is a very big thing right now; there’s a lot of reclaiming of the self. I personally struggle with that, and so this song is about seeing yourself through the eyes of other people and letting that go.”


Anxious Armada ends with a 58-second outro called “Sertraline.” Named after the anti-depressant, the track pieces together different recordings from Jay’s daily life, audio from the album’s recording sessions and more. 

“It’s a combination of a few different things, but it’s meant to be a perception of how I hear the world sometimes,” Jay explains. “There’s some recording sessions talk-back, there’s also some embedded audio from my day job and just some of the mundane sounds of life.”

After 39 minutes of analyzing the world through Jay’s eyes, the singer uses “Sertraline” to snap the listeners back into their own reality.

“It’s meant to summate the whole album in a way that makes you almost question the narrator a little bit,” he says. “You get little snippets from each song, and they’re not complete, but at the end you’re hearing little snippets of these songs and you’re reminded that this all just how one person sees the world.” 

Follow Jay Madera on Instagram for ongoing updates.

Jay Madera Gets Out The Vote With Charged New Video “A House Divided”

A House Divided
A House Divided
Photo Courtesy of Jay Madera

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. 

A House Divided
Photo Courtesy of Jay 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.” 

Follow Jay Madera on Instagram for ongoing updates; find your polling place here to make your voice heard in 2020.

PLAYING CINCY: Jay Madera Picks Himself Up in “Curb Appeal” Video

Curb Appeal

Last month, Jay Madera arrived on the Cincinnati indie-rock scene, releasing his debut single, “Curb Appeal.” Taking influence from Cincinnati mainstay band The National, Madera blends an indie-rock feel with pop and folk nods over a diverse instrumental display.

Catchy in a gloriously moody way, “Curb Appeal” tells the story of a breakup: the initial crushing blow, the post-breakup blues, and the defining moment where you shake yourself off and realize the power of moving on.

“Met a girl from the flyover states/She laid out the line and I dove onto the bait/ Oh I know, why I dive/She wasn’t lovely and she wasn’t bold/She could cure my cancers then give me the common cold/Oh I know, she’s not benign,” he sings.

Friday, November 1, Madera returned to his debut effort to drop visual for the Mia Carruthers-produced single, in which he shares his own cinematic breakup story.

Directed by Alok Karnik, the clip opens up on Madera walking along Cincinnati‘s rooftops. The indie artist looks disheveled and contemplative, holding a cup of coffee and wearing a bathrobe. His initial appearance seems to mark the first blow of gloom and disorientation. However, Madera keeps moving, as the camera changes to find him biking through the city, appearing as though it’s almost out of desperation.

Throughout the visual, we see Madera making subtle positive changes. Flashes of the video find the singer-songwriter shaving his beard, opening a window, and putting on a new shirt. At the end of the clip, a clean-shaven and smartly dressed Madera hits the open road on his bicycle, looking triumphant.

“You can guess that it’s (an) archetypal breakup song,” Madera says of the single in a press release. “There’s the self-doubt, the isolation, the resentment. But there’s also the watershed of catharsis, the reunion with the self, and the magic of moving on. ‘Curb Appeal’ is the story of a love lost and a groove found; it is as much of a toe-tapper as it is a testament to the power of moving on.”

Madera is set to perform live this Veterans Day, November 11, at Cincinnati’s MOTR Pub. The free show will also feature Kaitlyn Peace & The Electric Generals, beginning at 9:30 p.m.

Watch Jay Madera’s new video for “Curb Appeal” below.