Australian DJ, singer, and stunner Havana Brown knew from an early age that the traditional life just wasn’t for her. “I’ve always been interested in music, but I didn’t really take it seriously until after I finished school, because I realized that was my opportunity to pursue what I actually loved doing.” That’s precisely what she did, deciding that when it came to following her passion, it was now or never. “I was very adamant that I wanted to give it a good shot at pursuing a career that I actually love.”
The blonde bombshell moved to the UK and jumped headfirst in the music scene. She fully embraced her inclinations towards nightlife, performance and entertainment. “I was out partying every single night, because the party scene in London is quite crazy, and that’s when I sort of looked at the DJ and I was like ‘Hang on, that would be the dream job! You get to come out here, you get to play, perform, entertain a crowd and play music?’ I really thought “This is something I think I would be amazing at!” Soon after, Brown approached a friend of hers, and asked him to show her the ropes of DJing, and that’s when she fell in love with the art. “It really did flow for me from that point on.”
For the next few years, the artist dedicated her time to DJing rather than creating her own music. When she did return to creating music, it was with significantly more focus and confidence. “I just wanted to get back in the studio and get creative, and I had so many ideas, and probably knew what I wanted to do more than before I started DJing,” she explains. “I knew what sound I wanted, and I was very confident with myself, and I think that was where everything really took off.”
Her stint as a DJ served as a catalyst for greater things to come, as Havana used the medium to discover the type of vibe and sound that she wanted to produce with her own music. “I wanted pop melody, but with a club-sounding track.” It was with this newfound clarity that Havana Brown approached the creation of what would become her breakthrough radio hit single “We Run the Night,” a song she collaborated on with veteran hit machine, Pitbull. “This is before there was lots of drops on the radio, so it was definitely a time where radio was a little bit like ‘We don’t know if we can play this!’” she remembers. Eventually, the radio had to catch up to the growing tastes of the public, namely their desire for Brown’s music. “It just became so popular. That was such a good feeling, and it comes from a true place. I just love it.”
Havana Brown is no stranger to playing major gigs for huge audiences. In a relatively short career, she has already opened for musical powerhouses such as Britney Spears, Rihanna, The Pussycat Dolls, Chris Brown and Enrique Iglesias, and is currently supporting Bruno Mars in Las Vegas. However, she’s now focusing on creating her own sound and fanbase, and moving forward as a solo artist in her own right. Between her back-to-back touring schedule and the release of her debut album, Flashing Lights, she found time to get into the studio and make a brand new track, “Whatever We Want,” which came out this March. Feedback has been nothing but positive. More recently, she’s released a single called “Warrior,” which is her fourth consecutive number one single on the US Billboard Club chart. “If people like the club sound, and they love to dance, and they love to sing along to tracks, then I definitely think that they’re going to like what I’m doing!” The main difference between DJing and making her own music, she says, is that “This is a little bit closer to my heart. I feel like I’m showing more of myself and exposing more of myself.” Havana Brown says she’s ready to “take risks with my own music,” and the world should certainly take heed, as she is making major waves.
Catch Havana on one of her Australian tour stops this coming month. In the meantime check out our Q&A with the Australian beauty below and make sure to pick up a copy of the “Legendary” Issue 7 for more or download the free “Legendary” Issue App on iTunes now!
Indira Cesarine: Tell us about the early days – how did you get started in the music industry?
Havana Brown: Well, it’s a long story. I’ve always been interested in music, but I didn’t really take it seriously until after I finished school, because I realized that was my opportunity to pursue what I actually loved doing, rather than just doing what was the typical idea of, you go to a college, you do school, and you do something maybe a bit boring. I was very adamant that I wanted to give it a good shot at pursuing a career that I actually love, and that I’m very passionate about. So I started working in the studio and working in original music. I moved to the UK, and I got signed there, and that’s where I discovered DJing. That’s really what took over, and I fell in love with it. That was my way of being able to perform and entertain a crowd, which is what I love to do, and be able to do that on a weekly basis, even though I did have music out as well. I loved doing that so much that DJing really took over, and making music kind of fell in the background. DJing really became my number one. But after quite a few years of DJing, I just wanted to get back in the studio and get creative, and I had so many ideas. In fact, I probably knew more of what I wanted to do than before I started DJing. I knew what sound I wanted, and I was very confident with myself, and I think that was where everything really took off. And that was it! That was pretty much the beginning.
IC: What inspired you to start DJing?
HB: Actually, I had signed with Toledo Records in the UK. I was part of a group; there were three guys and me. I hadn’t really thought about DJing at all growing up, or even at that time, but when the group kind of fell apart I was out partying every single night, because the party scene in London is quite crazy, (it was a great distraction and I had a really good time dancing all the time) that’s where I sort of looked at the DJ and I was like, hang on, that would be the dream job. You get to come out here, you get to play, perform, entertain a crowd and play music, and I would be really good at it. I really thought this is something I think I would be amazing at! And so, the next morning after the thought, I went to see one of the guys in the group I was in and I said, ‘Hey, I want to start DJing, what do you think?’ and he was like ‘Oh I think you’d be amazing!’ Straight away that day, he started teaching me a few things on his decks. That’s where I fell in love with it right away. And it really did flow for me from that point on.
IC: Is that when you decided to make an album?
HB: Yeah, absolutely. A couple of years back, I released “We Run the Night” and that was after a few years of working in the studio with different producers. I really wanted the pop sound, I wanted a pop melody, but with a club sounding track. This is before there were lots of drops on the radio, so it was definitely a time where radio was a little bit like ‘We don’t know if we can play this!’ but I loved that feeling of creating a song and the radio saying ‘It’s a bit too hard for us.’ And then having to have to play it because it just became so popular. That was such a good feeling, and it comes from a true place. I just love it.
IC: You have a forthcoming album, Flashing Lights?
HB: Actually, it will most likely be called something else, and there’s going to be new music on the American release, but I released a song called “Warrior” in Australia, and it’s almost three times platinum! We’re just about to release it here, and in the States, and then I’ve got so much new music coming out. I’m coming out with new songs soon as well, so it’s going really well. I can’t wait to have people hear the music, and I think if they like the club sound, and they love to dance, and they love to sing along to tracks, then I definitely think that they’re going to like what I’m doing.
IC: Do you feel like you’ve had a breakthrough moment in your career?
HB: There have been so many highlights. To tell you the truth, every time I get asked this question I say a different moment, because I guess what strikes me at that time. But, what comes to mind is the first time I played “We Run the Night” in front of a live audience. Previously I had always been playing somebody else’s music, and this time I was on tour with Chris Brown, and I was going to debut my first single. I hadn’t really told anyone that I was singing or in the studio. It kind of came out of the blue. On the tour I did my DJ set and I said, ‘Hey I’ve got a brand new song coming out, it’s my first single,’ and I was so nervous! I was so excited to release it, and then on the day of, I was like, ‘Is this good? I don’t know if I like this anymore!’ I realized that this is a little bit closer to my heart, and I feel like I’m showing more of myself and exposing more of myself. I’m so nervous, and then I play it. It was just an instant energy that I got from the crowd when I first played it on the Chris Brown tour, and I was just like ‘Wow.’
IC: What musicians inspire your work? Do you have any favorites right now?
HB: Absolutely! I love looking at DJs. I’m inspired by the guys that create new sounds. It inspires me to take risks with my own music, and maybe introduce a commercial world to it, and a little bit more of a club world at the same time. I love Avicii.
IC: What would you say has been the most difficult performance in your career?
HB: I think probably my first performance with Britney Spears. It was in Paris, and I just remember being so nervous, I couldn’t eat! I remember just thinking ‘I can’t believe I’m on tour with Britney Spears!’ On top of that, there’s 43,000 people out there in the audience, and her dad actually came to the dressing room and introduced himself. He was really sweet, and then he said ‘By the way, it’s really really quiet out there! I don’t know what it is, it’s a full house, but its dead silent. I need you to really pump them up!’ And I was like **gasp** I mean I want to do that, but having her dad say that…I was already nervous and it just made me extremely nervous! Then in my ear, they’re saying ‘thirty seconds to go, 10, 9, 8, 7….’ and I pressed play on my first track, and the energy of the crowd just lifted. I got this insane energy. It was just the most amazing feeling I could ever get from a crowd! The French, you just don’t expect it from them, but they get so excited and the 30 minutes I was playing for them, it felt like two minutes. When I came off, it was the best feeling, and her father came to us and was like, ‘That was amazing, can you please join us on the rest of the tour?’ I just had that nerve and adrenaline running through me.
Interview by Indira Cesarine
Photography by Geoff Moore for The Untitled Magazine
Stylist: Beau Barela @ Opus Beauty
Shot 1: Havana wears a top by Celeb Boutique and rings by Nissa Jewelry.
Shot 2: Havana wears a bathing suit by We Are Handsome, hat by Gladys Tamez and shoes by Boohoo.
Shot 3: Havana wears a skirt by LaQuan Smith, top by Carmella, jewelry by Lillian Shalom and sunglasses by Mykita + Beth Ditto.