Havana Brown is a modern-day renaissance woman; perfect for the #dreamchaser generation. Since she went supernova with her first single as a pop artist, the already phenomenally successful DJ has steadily taken over the charts as well as the dance floors.
Havana’s first full-length album isn’t out until the end of 2013, yet already she’s played everywhere from Korea’s ABU TV Song Festival (where she represented Australia), the Spring Groove Festival in Tokyo, France’s Fun Radio concert in front of a capacity crowd at Palais Onisports de Paris-Bercy, and for millions of viewers on America’s Got Talent performing her debut single ‘We Run the Night’. Her image towered New York City’s Times Square in March 2013, placed on the largest billboard on the site, courtesy of her association with American Eagle Outfitters for whose 930 stores she supplied an exclusive soundtrack. “I’m a pretty neutral person and I don’t get overly excited very often,” she casually admits of this last home run, “but on this occasion, I was squealing.”
If Havana didn’t keep such a level head in this cutthroat industry, she would have burned out by now. Instead, she’s in possession of a laser-beam focus, chipping away at her list of goals. As a Melbourne schoolgirl, born Angelique Meunier to Rodriguen parents, she grew up an enthusiastic mixture of pop, techno and grunge. Convinced from a young age that she wanted to be a performer, she bypassed university to go to London and front a band.
Her R&B/dance act, Fishbowl, was stirring up interest before in-fighting between the guys marked their demise. It was a low point for Havana, stuck in London with no money, but it marked a major turning point in her life. After having the dance-floor epiphany that the DJ has the best job in the house, she persuaded Panos Liassi of Fishbowl and Supafly Inc. to show her the ropes – and found she had a natural aptitude.
Learning to DJ felt like destiny, but Havana wasn’t about to accept a club residency and become part of the furniture. Instead, her ceaseless energy, talent and glamour looks got her booked as a guest DJ. She took her decks on tour with Britney Spears, Rihanna and Lady Gaga, and to events such as Singapore’s F1 Grand Prix (alongside Beyonce and The Black Eyed Peas), and the 2010 Grammy Awards After Party, at which she partied with Gaga and Dr Dre.
“I do get nervous,” the seemingly unflappable performer insists. “The day I don’t get nervous will be a sad day because that would mean I don’t care.”
On tour with Chris Brown in Australia in 2011, Havana started to drop some of her own songs into her DJ set; songs that nobody had heard before. “It was very nerve-racking, because if people didn’t like it, it would mean they didn’t like me,” she laughs. “I don’t think anyone knew I was working on my original music and developing my sound for two years prior.”
Fortunately for Havana the recording artist, the crowds loved her. ‘We Run the night’ was released a month later in May 2011. It skilfully fused pop with anthemic club sounds, soaring through the music market, reaching Triple Platinum in Australia and debuting on the ARIA Singles Chart at #7. Shortly after, Havana reached out to super producer RedOne, for a newly produced version featuring world-wide iconic rapper Pitbull. The single went on to sell over 1 million units in the US, and hit the Top 30 on iTunes in over 30 countries across the globe.
Follow-up EP When the Lights Go Out in July 2012 produced the smash hit singles ‘You’ll Be Mine’, a fast approaching double platinum and the risqué ‘Big Banana’, also Platinum and reaching #1 on the Billboard Club Dance Chart. Video clips made the most of Havana’s exotic appeal, always with a darkly mysterious and sexy undercurrent. Audiences got an early taste of When the Lights Go Out in July 2012, when Havana supported Pitbull in concert in the US, and then later in August 2012 for the Australian leg of his tour.
The latest single off the EP, ‘Spread a Little Love’, was released on June 7, 2013. The song differs thematically from Havana’s previous releases, steering away from fun and playful lyrics, and sending a message of peace in the world. “Today, with all the social media we have, we’re more exposed to negativity,” Havana points out. “We put our lives on the internet and it makes us so vulnerable. This song is about making a small positive gesture that could change someone’s day, week, or even life. It can be as simple as a smile – you don’t know what affect that might have on someone.”
Now considering herself to be fifty percent DJ, fifty percent recording artist, Havana has amassed more than 400,000 loyal Facebook fans, and sold over 2.5 million singles worldwide.
She continues to make groundbreaking Crave remix CDs; now onto the tenth compilation that fans can pick up in stores to throw their own club-style party, as well as long standing weekly radio mixes for ‘Party People’, mixes for Fun Radio Paris, and mixes for J WAVE Japan. She’s a tastemaker and trendhunter, sharing the wealth of her knowledge, channelling the world.
“When you’re so involved in music as a DJ every single day, you get more sensitive to what is trending and what people are reacting to,” Havana explains. “As long as your mind is open, it becomes a sixth sense.”
For Havana, the job is about being open, and always evolving. The forthcoming album, recorded with RedOne and a handful of other select producers, is indicative of that. “It feels like I am completing this era,” she says appraisingly. “I’m feeling really confident that it will make people feel happy and want to dance, and then it will be time to try something different”.
Now living in LA, with regular trips back to Melbourne, she’s working harder than ever, getting by on four hours of sleep to hit the studio. Combine that with playing shows across Europe with Afrojack and R3hab, US tours with Pitbull, as well as her own shows, and a feature on Pitbull’s track ‘Last night’, there is seemingly nothing Havana can’t tackle.
“When it comes to the concept of taking it easy,” she says, “I think, well, what am I taking it easy from? I have a great life. I’m working, doing what I love to do.”