It was just five short years ago that Havana Brown came home from London with her dreams of pop music stardom all but shattered. The group she’d been signed to crashed and burned before it had the chance to get off the ground. But the DJ, producer and singer never gave up on her dreams and with a heck of a lot of hard work and just a sprinkling of luck, those dreams ever so slowly started to come true.
We caught up with the woman behind the top five smash ‘We Run The Night’ and the mega-successful ‘Crave’ compilation series and discover a young lady filled with passion, creativity and a deep-seated drive for more.
“I wanted to have my own compilation, I wanted to release my own music, I wanted to have my own radio show,” she admits. “I had all these goals, but I had no idea how I was going to make it happen for myself. Coming home was like starting all over again, because I’d gotten to a point where I’d signed in the UK and finished an album.”
The album she speaks of was with a four piece group called Fishbowl – who had a club hit here in Australia with ‘Let’s Get Down’ (Superfly vs Fishbowl) back in 2005. Though full complete, according to Havana, that album will “never” see the light of day.
“I think getting my compilation deal with Universal was a big stepping stone for me, because that was one of my goals. I wanted to be like Tim Westwood in the UK – he’s a big DJ and he has his own compilations series over there too.
“Getting the Britney Spears support and flying over to Paris to start the tour with her. That was another pretty incredible opportunity,” she continues.
“Then signing as an artist to Universal. And getting my radio show too,” she adds, telling us how the latter came about.
“I’d met Kyle (Sandilands) briefly backstage at the Pussycat Dolls. He said he listened to the compilations all the time and that they needed a mix on the radio. I said, ‘I’m there!’ Literally within a week, I was on the radio.”
As a DJ, Havana has been the woman behind the smash ‘Crave’ compilation series (Volume 5, pictured), a sixth volume of which is forthcoming late next month. Her success behind the decks has seen her travel the world playing for some of the biggest stars and at some of the biggest events. Her favourite of all her DJ gigs, it turns out, was one wild night in Singapore for the Formula 1 Grand Prix.
“That was incredibly fun. It was so hot, I couldn’t step out of an air conditioned room without my hair just going afro style,” she laughs. “I step out on stage, the curls have dropped, my hair’s an afro and I’m sweating so much that I was dripping. But it got to the point where I thought ‘F this – I don’t give a crap what I look like, I’m going to go nuts.’
“It was just that free moment of not worrying about anything. The crowd was so energetic. I loved the freedom that I felt when I went up there and let loose,” she says. There was, however, a downside to exerting all that energy.
“I actually cut loose so hard that I put my back out. For three weeks after that, I had a cramped back,” she admits.
“I guess one of the things that I’d been dying to do for a very long time was play my own song in my set,” she says. “I remember I was on the Chris Brown tour and I was playing ‘We Run The Night’ for the very first time. I’d been looking forward to the moment, but I was so nervous I was almost sick.
“I dropped it in at the end. I introduced it and the reaction that it got from people not knowing it, I was pretty ecstatic. I was blown away. That was something I’ve been dreaming about for years, so getting to that point was amazing,” she beams.
Despite the fans seemingly loving it on the Chris Brown tour, Havana still admits to being surprised by the success of the single on the ARIA singles chart.
“Absolutely. I wanted it to do well, but I never expected it to go double platinum and top five. Countries all over the world were going nuts for it and now it’s being released in the States at the end of this month through Universal Republic,” she enthuses, adding that the US will get a slightly different version to ours – with a rather big name behind the mix.
“RedOne has done his remix and it’s featuring Pitbull, so it’s been amazing,” she says.
Havana’s latest project is her second single ‘Get It’. Released just a week and a half ago, it’s already making its presence felt in the ARIA singles chart (No.38 on debut last week). It’s a song that has Havana incredibly excited.
“I consider that song to be the ultimate party song. It’s so energetic. It’s vibrant, it’s happy as well,” she bubbles. “I feel like when I first started DJing. I remember Pitbull so vividly, because his music was always happy and even though people didn’t necessarily know the song, they would be happy to dance. I hope that ‘Get It’ does that and I think that it will.”
Havana also admits that being a dance artist presents its own set of challenges – coming up with music that will make an impact commercially, as well as satiating the seasoned club-goers. She’s says it’s a fine line to tread.
“It’s an extremely fine line and it’s something that I’ve been working on for the last couple of years,” she tells us. “When I signed to Universal, I started working with all these different producers and different DJs. It was either too pop or too club and it wasn’t me. I play on the radio and I play in the clubs, so I want a mixture of both.
“More Mega, the producers that I’ve been working with, absolutely get me. They understand pop, but they also understand the club world as well.”
After ‘Get It’, there’s the aforementioned sixth installment in the ‘Crave’ series. And beyond that, Havana is currently putting all the pieces in place for her debut artist album.
“I’m working with RedOne,” she admits frankly. It’s a big name to drop. We pick it up off the floor for her. She laughs.
“I’ve been speaking to him for a long time, just via social networks. But then when I released ‘We Run The Night’, he thought I was doing a David Guetta type thing where there was another female singing on the track. He called me up and said, ‘So who’s the singer on this track?’ and I said, ‘It’s me’. And he laughed. He said it was the most awesome thing he’d ever heard.
“So we’re working on more songs together. It’s not just going to be him – I’ll be working with different people on it including More Mega.”
While most people would wake up each morning and pinch themselves over all this incredible success, Havana remains extraordinarily grounded – and hungry for more.
“I wake up in the morning and I stress. There’s so much that I want to do and I feel bad that I feel that way.”
That’s not to say she doesn’t feel thankful for everything she’s achieved, especially since arriving home.
“It’s been an amazing five years,” Havana admits. “When I think about it, all the things that I’ve done and all the steps and the process and all the hard work. Just seeing how I’ve gotten to this point is pretty incredible. It’s been great.”
Havana Brown’s new single ‘Get It’ and her smash hit ‘We Run The Night’ are available digitally now.
The next volume in the popular ‘Crave’ series will be released on Friday October 28.
Havana’s own artist album is forthcoming.