She’s shuffled her career pack of cards effortlessly thus far. With a successful radio and DJ career already in the bag, along with an increasingly popular compilation series and massive success Stateside, Havana Brown is living her dreams. But she’s about to deal her ace card in the form of her debut album ‘Flashing Lights’. Naturally we couldn’t let the moment pass without having a natter, so we start by congratulating Havana on her extraordinary achievements in the US, especially with ‘We Run The Night’.
“Thankyou,” she begins. “It’s always the dream. I think that’s what we all work towards. As an artist, especially from Australia, I think it’s extremely difficult for us to achieve success in the States. But we all dream about it and obviously it’s the goal.”
Success in America doesn’t come easy, however. It requires the support of a mammoth number of radio stations across different states and genres and there are only a handful of Aussie acts who’ve been able to crack the world’s most lucrative market.
“I didn’t realise how small the group of Australians was that had reached a million sales in the United States,” Havana admits. “It’s only like five or six of us in the history of Australian music. I had no clue that the number was so small, so when I found that out, I thought ‘Oh damn! This is really big’. And it got me even more excited and really proud.
“It’s what I’ve always aimed for and to have that sort of success with your first single is a dream, an absolute dream. I knew it was difficult, so it’s not like I thought it was just going to happen – I knew that it was something I’d have to work hard for. I moved to the States and spent every day for four months in a different city. It was hard core. It was hard work.
“But at the same time, I had the opportunity and the opportunity is just as hard to get, so I wasn’t about to let it go. I was going to give it my best and if it worked, it worked and if it didn’t it didn’t. At least I know myself I’ve tried my very best and I’ve done everything I can so when I’m 50 years old, I can say ‘I tried’.”
With a little reworking by superstar producer RedOne and a guest vocal from Pitbull, ‘We Run The Night’ was a bonafide smash, hitting No.1 on the Billboard Dance/Club chart and notching up one million sales. But the story of ‘We Run The Night’ began months earlier back here in Australia.
“As soon as we released ‘We Run The Night’ here, we got attention from all over the world,” Havana tells us. “But the US, being the big market… we got attention there and they liked the song. It feels like the stars have to align. There was interest, I signed.
“But it’s not as simple as that. Even if you get the deal, you still need to get radio to like it and if they’re not paying that much attention, you just fall off the radar. I was fortunate enough that radio really liked it.
“I guess the point where it changed would be Tampa radio, actually. Before the record company had started pushing it at radio, Tampa – and I’ve got to give it up to Tampa – started playing it. Universal Republic said ‘we’re not going to radio with it yet’ but they loved it so much that they played it. And I think that gave the incentive for the label to push the song.
“So thankyou Tampa in Florida. That gave the label the indication that there was interest and that people really wanted to play the song. Then I started doing the rounds. I did the work, but you never really know. I mean, Tampa could have picked it up, but it doesn’t make it a hit in the States. It’s not like here where there are two main networks. You need all of them to pick it up and we were fortunate enough that people liked it.”
But with her music career now kicking into a higher gear, will the DJing side of Havana’s life have to take more of a back seat?
“Never!” she exclaims. “I get that question a lot and to me they go together. It works for me. I love DJing in general, but I’m always thinking about what’s next – and I hear what’s coming up and I hear the music changing and I like that little insight. So I think that might lack in my knowledge if I was to stop DJing. It’s not only that, though – I love to DJ!
“I started playing tracks from my album in my sets and it’s the best indicator of what’s going to work. It’s amazing to feel the crowd. They don’t even need to put their hands up – you just feel their energy whether there’s excitement or not. I’m blessed that I’m able to do that and I get to perform every weekend – Djing, performing my songs – it’s the best life.”
That album is now almost upon us. ‘Flashing Lights’ features ‘We Run The Night’, fellow US No.1 club hit ‘Big Banana’, plus recently released ‘Flashing Lights’ the single, ‘Ba*Bing’, as well as the new hit-in-waiting ‘Warrior’.
“You should expect a lot of club/pop tunes as well as some different sounds as well,” Havana tells us of the album’s contents. “It’s definitely along the lines of club/pop, but with some stuff that I’ve experimented with – different sounds, drum and bass.
“‘Flashing Lights’ is one of the favourites, because it is so different for me. Vocally I’ve sung differently and I love it. I love how I sound on it. I like all the harmonies and I love the ad-libs.”
But Havana puts paid to any suggestion we might see a ballad slipping in there.
“Could you really imagine me singing a ballad!? There is my version of a ballad. That’s how far I go!”
So nothing slower than 124 beats per minute, we suggest.
“Ha! Pretty much, but no, no full-on ballads,” she admits. “That’s due to the fact that ballads have never been my thing. Even when I was a young girl, I never listened to ballads. I just didn’t like them. Too emotional for me. Let’s just have fun, you know!?”
‘Flashing Lights’ also features a few big name collaborations, including with British dance diva Luciana and superstar Dutch DJ Afrojack. But Havana reveals that another of her collaboration dreams has come true on the LP.
“One of my dreams forever – even before I released music – was Rodney Jerkins. Darkchild,” she says. “He’s on the album – I’ve got a couple of tracks with him. We played him ‘Flashing Lights’, ‘Warrior’ and ‘Ba*Bing’ and he loved them.
“I wanted something different that I hadn’t done yet on the album. There’s a drum ‘n’ bass track on there, there’s a Chicago house-type track on there and I love his work.”
But with each of her dreams seemingly coming true one by one, it would be easy to assume that Havana’s fast running out of new ones. Wrong.
“You know what? The album coming out… I want to do my own concert. I’ve kind of put a halt to doing supports. I’ve done a whole heap of supports and I think it’s now time for me to branch out and do my own concert where it’s more performance-based. A little bit of DJing, but not too much, because I want to make it all about the performance. I want to do that off the back of the album.
“Whether it’s clubs or… that’s all to be sorted out, but I want to work on a proper concert show for myself and to continue working in the States and to have another hit there – that would be the dream.”
In addition to all this, an eighth edition of Havana’s ever-popular ‘Crave’ compilations is due for release early next month.
So that’s new single in ‘Warrior’, DJing and radio commitments, a new compilation, promotional opportunities, a new artist album and work beginning on a national tour. It’s a huge, exhausting commitment, but Ms Brown remains humble and philosophical.
“The sky’s the limit for everyone. It’s all about believing that you can,” she says. “The thought process should be, ‘why not you’? Why should it be someone else and not you? It can be you.”
And with such a positive outlook on life and her career, is it any wonder why Havana’s cards are all falling in the right direction.
Havana Brown’s single ‘Warrior’ is available digitally now.
A new edition of ‘Crave’ will be released on Friday November 01.
The album ‘Flashing Lights’ will be released physically and digitally this Friday.