INTERVIEW: Havana Brown (2013)
Havana Brown is being embraced by clubland as “Flashing Lights” tops the club chart – following both “Big Banana” and “We Run the Night,” which both did the same. The Aussie DJ got her start spinning clubs, and though she was fearful of singing live, once she started she never looked back. Discovered by RedOne, who signed her to his label 2101 after recommendations from Enrique Iglesias, amongst others, her debut artist album is set for release later this year.
RS: Not even during the last half hour?
Havana Brown: No, why would I feel like a model?
RS: Everyone wants your picture and you are so beautiful.
Havana Brown: Oh sometimes. I have kind of mastered modeling for the iPhone, but I never feel like a model, in fact I always feel very awkward.
RS: Was it difficult moving from behind the decks to in front of the microphone?
Havana Brown: Initially it was very scary, but once I did it- that was it. I can’t imagine doing a DJ set without performing anymore, and in fact I don’t do it. That’s my act.
RS: Do you live more in Australia or the US? Are you touring the US a lot?
Havana Brown: I tour the US more, but I go back to Australia every couple months and do a tour there. Australia is much smaller than America, so I can go over there for a couple of weeks and touch all of the bases. I spend most of my time here in the States though.
RS: When you tour do you DJ an hour set and then sing over a few of the tracks?
Havana Brown: I just sing my tracks, it would be weird if I sang over other peoples’ tracks.
RS: Were you in the studio with R3hab when you did “You’ll Be Mine” and “Big Banana”?
Havana Brown: Yes, I was in the studio for both of them. “Big Banana” was one of my favorite studio sessions that we’ve had. It was so much fun and I loved the process and writing of that song.
RS: You co-wrote several of the songs on the album right?
Havana Brown: Yes, of course.
RS: I love that about you. Do you actually produce the tracks yourself also?
Havana Brown: Yes, I co-produce and work with other producers.
RS: When you went in to do “Big Banana,” did he have a track which you wrote over or did you build the track together?
Havana Brown: He introduced the beginnings of an idea which is the beat and the squeaky sound that you hear in there. I don’t think he actually thought that I would like it and thought it would be too left of center for me, but I was obsessed and loved the track. From that moment on we worked together to build it up and put some chords in there so that it would be more of a pop song and as commercial as I wanted it to be.
RS: Which other producers have you worked with for the album?
Havana Brown: RedOne, Rodney Jerkins, a producer called Carl, and two guys named Jonas. I have never met a Jonas in my life and now I am working with 2 different producers with that name.
RS: That’s awesome. Is it going to be an album or an EP and when is it coming?
Havana Brown: The album is going to be released in October in Australia, but there is a new single coming to the states.
RS: I love the new single “Flashing Lights.” Tell us the story about that song?
Havana Brown: I was in the studio with RedOne, who had just come back from Miami and played me a riff that was very funky.That day I was feeling different, a little bit more carefree, and didn’t want to really think about things too much. He had a melody that he hummed to me and I loved it. From that moment on we started working on the lyrics, wrote the song that night, recorded it, and it was finished. It turned out so good that I had to make it my next single.
RS: As a DJ do you have any say in the people who remix your records?
Havana Brown: Absolutely.
RS: Who are some of the remixers that you have chosen and have wanted on your records?
Havana Brown: Dave Aude did the most amazing mix of “Big Banana,” and it will forever be my favorite mix. Obviously I always use Australian remixers and I change it up every song.
RS: Which Australian remixers have you worked with?
Havana Brown: Bombs Away, J-Trick, and Redial. Sometimes you just don’t even know they are Australian, they are that good.
RS: Speaking of Aussies, have you ever worked with one of the Minogue sisters?
Havana Brown: I haven’t worked with either one of them but I would like to. I am good friends with Dannii, she is such an awesome girl.
RS: Are you close with Zoë Badwi at all?
Havana Brown: Yeah I am. We hang out every now and then when we can, we both tour a lot.
RS: I got a little confused because it seemed like there were 2 or 3 singles out at the same time, there was an audio of “Big Banana,” and a video for “You’ll Be Mine,” were they both Australian singles?
Havana Brown: Yes, I haven’t released anything in the US since “We Run the Night.” Those songs were all for Australia.
RS: Why were there 2 different version of “We Run the Night” video?
Havana Brown: When it got redone by RedOne, it was a new version and Pitbull was involved. The US label thought that we needed to redo the video clip to accommodate all of that since it was a brand new song. It was vital for the US audience.
RS: You are signed to 2101 Records which is RedOne’s label, how did you get involved with them?
Havana Brown: RedOne had actually heard about me through DJing. I had been touring with a lot of acts and a lot of people kept talking about me to him. He told me that Enrique Iglesias, who I had been touring and DJing with, told him about me and thought that I was interesting. He heard “We Run the Night” and messaged me on Twitter, then called me. He asked who produced it, wrote it, and sang it. He didn’t even know that I sang on it since he only knew me as a DJ. We have been working together ever since. He is one of the best people to be around, I love his attitude and he is so inspiring and works really hard. He is so talented, especially with great melodies and production, it’s very much an honor to be part of the 2101 crew.
RS: Outside of your own personal songs, what are you two biggest DJ records on your DJ sets right now?
Havana Brown: It would be Zedd’s “Clarity” and an oldie but a goodie, Feenixpawl’s “In my Mind.” For some reason “In My Mind” has been around for a very long time and everyone knows it and loves it. When they hear it they go off and I am very proud to play it.
RS: How would you describe your sound in DJ sets?
Havana Brown: I think my sound is fun and sexy and I play a lot of different sounds. I don’t play one particular genre and like to mix it up, it is what has propelled me and made me different from everyone else. I would just say that it’s all just about having fun and my set is about making you dance and feel sexy and feel like going crazy without having any inhibitions.
RS: So it’s basically a reflection of you.
Havana Brown: Yeah kind of, that is how I want to feel when I am in a club.
RS: What would you like to say to all of your fans out there?
Havana Brown: I would like to say hello and thank you so much for all of your support. I have the best fans in the world and I love them so much. I am looking forward to a long future with my fans and having fun with them, making new music and partying with them.
Interview conducted during in August 2013 during Promo Only Summer Sessions. Special thanks to Bobby Shaw and the staff at 2101 records for arranging this interview. Images from Havana Brown facebook.