Havana Brown’s always been a bit of a musical chameleon. Yes, she’s one of the country’s most sought-after EDM DJs, but she describes herself as a pop lover and has never truly shaken off her earlier loves; hip hop and R&B.
She’s ready to shake up the mainstream with her latest single ‘Battle Cry’, so we pressed the flesh with the now salmon-haired starlet to find out how the new track came to be.
Havana’s been a busy girl over the (almost) two years since the release of her debut album ‘Flashing Lights’ – also the last time we caught up with her. She tells us that while the DJ gig has kept her constantly busy, she’s never been too far away from the music side of things.
“I’m always working on music. I think I took a little bit of time to just really work out what I’m loving,” she admits. “I’m always in music. I’m always researching, playing music, DJing, touring and stuff like that, so it’s music, music, music.
“I just wanted to take a step back and listen to music from a different point of view. More as a listener. As a fan. Sometimes I think you can forget to do that and you start thinking too much. And I think that was the best thing I could possibly do, because I realised that I’m really enjoying lots of different sounds. It inspired me to get back into the studio and be excited again.
“Doing EDM music is great. I love what I play, I love that sort of stuff, but I’m also loving new sounds. And that’s inspiring me, so it’s even more exciting when I go into the studio and we’re trying something completely different. It’s a challenge.”
“Obviously most of my success has come from big EDM-sounding or club sounding tracks, so I guess you’re tempted to stick with what you know is working for you. But I don’t want to do that. I want to be able to do all sorts of stuff, so towards the end of making ‘Flashing Lights’ the album, I started experimenting with different sounds.”
And, we remark, she doesn’t strike us as the type of artist who likes to rest on her laurels.
“It’d be so easy to do that. But who wants it to be easy? It gets boring. I want to keep challenging myself,” she says.
“I’m a pop girl. I love my pop music. I believe – I don’t know if anybody else feels this way – but I believe my EDM tracks were still pop influenced. So now, I’ve just changed it up a little bit. I want to be able to change with the times. I don’t want to be stuck just in one genre.”
Naturally, given Havana’s grown to be such a big artist in the EDM community, she’s also ever-mindful of not alienating those who’ve helped her get to where she is today.
“I was very nervous to release ‘Battle Cry’,” she admits. “My main concern was thinking about my fans that have come to all my shows, my DJ performances and wondering, ‘are they going to like this?’ and hoping that I’m not going to lose half my fanbase.
“But surprisingly, they’re the ones who are saying, ‘thank goodness you’re doing this – it’s amazing’. They’ve been so supportive and loving. I guess It’s not just me changing – they’re changing and liking new things too. It’s almost like we’re on the same path somehow.
“I’m still going to release club records – including some that I’m going to release real soon – but I’ve got other stuff; hip hop and R&B-influenced too. It’s really going back to my roots.
“When I first started DJing, I was playing R&B and hip hop. Then it morphed into open-format DJing where I’d play lots of different styles and genres. And then it turned into EDM, because that was the craze and I loved it and was enjoying it. Now it’s going back again and I’m really loving that. I’ve always been influenced by all sorts of sounds.”
‘Battle Cry’ is a new sound for Havana. Co-penned alongside Bebe Rexha (“and a couple of other writers”), there are still elements of dance contained within it, but it’s a decidedly more pop/R&B beast than its predecessors. As such, it’s seemingly perfect for radio stations playlists across the country and was the third most added song to radio a couple of weeks back.
She tells us how the song came to be.
“The first time I heard the demo, it was bare,” she admits. “It was very acoustic. But the production wasn’t quite right, so we spent most of the time working on where we should go with it stylistically. At first I was thinking, ‘can we do a trap thing? Can we do a tropical thing?’.
“We tried all sorts of different styles, but the version you hear now is after about six or eight months of experimentation. Working on other music at the same time, obviously, but trying different things. I really love the lyrics of it. The metaphors. I relate to it and I think a lot of other people will too.”
A lot of people are also loving its video. Shot in a little hamlet called Pioneertown, about three hours’ drive east of Los Angeles, it’s a heavily stylised piece, produced by the boys of Squared Division. Havana says it’s the best video she’s ever done.
“I didn’t think that any of my videos in the past have really been able to capture my personality,” she reveals. “I feel like the directors or whoever’s editing it have a tendency to pick the prettiest shot or perhaps the one that people would assume is the most coordinated, rather than choosing one that shows my personality.
“So the Squared Division boys kept my personality in this one. There are shots where I’m dancing around doing stupid stuff – that’s me. That’s my personality. I do stupid stuff like that all the time. I love that they know me that well.”
And she’s quick to point out that no hunky men were injured in its filming.
“I really felt sorry for the ones who were unfortunate enough to be in the scenes that were outside in the sun. I was outside in the sun too, but obviously it’s my video clip, so I can endure the pain. But they had to lie in the sun on the hot sand. It was about 43º out there. They hurt a little bit. Imagine getting dragged on sand! They were good sports.
“But there are so many amazing things about the little scenes we had there. That little silver caravan when I’m doing the barbequing? There’s a lady who actually lived in that caravan. That wasn’t part of the set. It was just off-set.”
“She let you borrow it?” we enquire. Havana pauses.
“She was out trekking.”
As for what comes next, it’d be natural to assume that Havana would be hard at work on her sophomore album. But, she tells us, that might not necessarily be the case.
“I guess that’s the next step, right? But I don’t really think about those things. I just want to do music. So when I’m going into the studio, I don’t really think about ‘album’. I just think, ‘let’s make a song’. So that’s my process. I think that’s the DJ in me. Just put out songs.
“Even going back to ‘We Run The Night’. My whole idea was just to have singles – or even EPs. Just to keep rolling out the music. But I think it was a good idea to finish that era with the album, to officially put a stamp on it and close it. I was then able to stop, sit back, think and start again.”
More music will come before the end of the year and Havana confirms that a tenth anniversary edition of her ever-popular ‘Crave’ compilation series will also drop before year’s end. Add in a constant stream of DJ commitments across the planet and it’s clear that there’s going to be no stopping Havana Brown any time soon.
Havana Brown’s single ‘Battle Cry’ is out now.
Look for the tenth anniversary edition of ‘Crave’ later this year.