For singer/songwriter Jesse Lynn Madera and her husband, American-Dominican actor Hemky Madara, recording “¡Hola Papi!” has been a dream collaboration a few years in the making. Jesse was inspired to write the song from Hemky’s time on the television show Weeds as Ignacio.
“The song was one hundred percent inspired by the show, in particular the seasons set in Mexico,” shared Jesse. “It was a fun experience because I didn’t feel any responsibility to any kind of personal truth the way I normally do when I’m songwriting. I created a character and she’s got a whole style and demented viewpoint of her own. It was like writing a tiny film, and because of that, the video actually turned into a short film.”
It was only natural that since Jesse was writing and singing to a Spanish-speaking guy, that she brought in her husband Hemky to write and record the bridge. He delivers his Spanish monologue in his distinctive speaking style, and the story he’s telling about the first time he ever saw death is actually true. In the context of the song, he’s telling you he’s afraid for his life without telling you he’s afraid for his life. The juxtaposition between the music and Jesse’s exquisite vocals and his speech is delightfully hair-raising.
“This is my first project in music,” said Hemky. “Jesse made it really fun and comfortable for me, so I would definitely love to do more. What I said on the bridge in Spanish was from when I was five years old. My favorite part of recording the song was just seeing Jesse in her world. It’s amazing how she takes control over what she is doing; she’s just got a God-given talent.”
The song was produced by Andrew Bush (Bob Dylan, Mike Seeger) and mixed by Grammy award-winning engineer Ryan Hewitt (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Sheryl Crow, The Avett Brothers). “The best part of recording was inviting our friends in LA into the studio and having them do the cheering section on the bridge and sing at the end of the song,” mentioned Jesse.
“In addition to writing the song, I wrote a script for the music video that my dear friend and producer, Nell Teare, rewrote to match my vision and polished it so it was much more budget-friendly. I needed it to be a short film on an indie budget,” added Jesse.
The accompanying music video was directed by the renowned Eduardo Sánchez (The Blair Witch Project, Queen of the South, American Horror Story) and features Jesse, Hemky, and actor/producer Ryan O’Nan.
“We met Eduardo Sánchez on the set of Queen of the South, the USA Network series Hemky was on for five seasons. Ed directed several episodes of the show. He is a great guy and just as great of a director. His film, The Blair Witch Project, was monumental. I knew I had to work with him on this video. Ed made cinematic history with next to no budget before with Blair Witch, so I knew he could help us do something exceptional. He’s a creative genius. The best part of shooting was getting to act with my husband and Ryan O’Nan, two of my favorite actors, and being directed by Ed,” mentioned Jesse.
Hemky shared, “making the music video with Jesse for “¡Hola Papi!” was just phenomenal. Our kids seeing mommy work was something that I will never forget. It was just beautiful!”
Jesse added, “I knew I wanted the video to be a commentary on fandom, and that is really where Ryan’s cameo comes in. When Hemky’s character gets away, suddenly there’s Ryan, and she is like ‘Hemky who?’ – it’s a little inside joke and a gift for Queen of the South fans who are missing the show.”
“I’ll tell you one thing, in the scene where I’m reading a script, I was actually reading the pilot script for Queen of the South,” Hemky concluded. “I went where I have all my scripts, and I just grabbed one without even seeing what it was. I realized that it was the pilot for Queen of the South. So for those Queen of the South fans, that was the actual script for the pilot. Also, I worked with Ed for four seasons on that show, so it was great working with him again. The producer, Nell, introduced me to Jesse several years ago. She and Jesse have known each other since seventh grade, so she’s family. And of course, working with Jesse was just a beautiful experience. I cannot wait to do it more and more.”
Jesse is currently working on her next album with GRAMMY award-winning producer, Matt Rollings. In January, she is set to perform at Mile-0 Fest, in Key West and begins a monthly residency at Rockwood Music Hall in New York City in March. She will join Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The Zombies on tour in April.
Hemky, up for doing more music projects in the future, is currently filming an undisclosed, new project for Netflix.