Havana Brown always planned on being a singer - it’s just becoming a world-famous DJ kind of got in the way.
The Melbourne glamour has just released her sizzling debut single ‘We Run The Night’, but she first started singing at the modest age of six. Admittedly though, her ‘performances’ back then were a little different…
“I’d put together shows at family dinners and drag along my poor cousins, who didn’t know how to dance or sing. I don’t know how entertained everyone was,” Brown recalls with a laugh. “I was really into R&B, like Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation and Bobby Brown.”
After countless years of singing lessons, performing in dance troupes and cheerleading for her hometown Aussie Rules and basketball teams, Brown got serious about making her own music right after leaving high school.
She started working with Panos Liassi, a Melbourne-based London DJ/producer and one half of R&B/reggae partystarters, Supafly Inc. Such was their musical connection, she ended up following him to the UK to form a Fugees-style group called Fishbowl with two other members. They got signed to the Polydor UK label almost instantly, but sadly, in-fighting saw the act split before they even got to release a single.
“When I look back, it was a pretty dark time,” says Brown. “Getting signed is a big deal for a new artist. You think, woah, this is it! But it wasn’t…”
Like anyone suffering a break up, Brown threw herself into the party scene and one night, she had a dancefloor epiphany of her own: the DJ had the best job in the room and she wanted in.
After learning the basics from Panos, she scraped together enough money from her four-quid-an-hour job to buy her first pair of decks and started hitting up bars with her demo.
Her persistence finally paid off when she scored her first residency at London’s exclusive Kabaret nightclub. “I told the promoters I’d play my first gig for free and they could throw me off after the first song. I don’t think they even thought I’d turn up the next night. When I did, they were like ‘oh, you were serious?’ I ended up playing for an hour and they loved it.”
Arriving back in Australia at the end of 2006, Brown - in her own words - “worked her little tush off” to keep her DJ dream alive. After working the club circuit, she became the first female DJ in Australia to sign a major label record deal with Universal Music in 2008, released her first mix CD, Crave, and topped the year off opening for the Pussycat Dolls on their promo tour.
The Dolls’ management were so impressed with her DJ-with-dancers show, they asked her back for their full tour in 2009. And as word spread, Brown found herself supporting the cream of the pop crop, including Rihanna, Chris Brown, Lady Gaga and Britney Spears, with the latter inviting her on her European tour a year later.
Since then, Brown’s star has only gotten brighter. These days, she boasts weekly radio mixup shows in Australia and abroad (on the popular Radio FG France dance network), has sold over 150,000 copies of her Crave series (now up to Volume 5) and played events as dazzling and diverse as the official Grammy's After Party and the Singapore F1 Grand Prix alongside Beyonce and the Black Eyed Peas. Along the way, she’s also clocked up more than 100,000 loyal Facebook fans.
Now, twenty years since that first giddy singing lesson, she’s ready to retake the mic and launch that long-overdue singing career. And she’s not afraid to say she’s a little bit nervous…
“It’s exciting, nerve-wracking and intimidating all at the same time,” she says. “I’ve been working on this for a while and I didn’t want to release anything until I was completely satisfied with it. I can’t wait for people to hear this song.”
Written and produced by dance duo More Mega, first single ‘We Run The Night’ is the perfect introduction to the talents and tastes of Havana Brown. A certified dancefloor detonator, the song’s as epic as it is euphoric with an insanely infectious breakdown that’s guaranteed to throw the crowd into overdrive.
“It’s created for both the clubs and the radio,” she reveals. “That was really important for me and it was very difficult to pull off. As for the track, it’s about how music makes me feel.”
Brown says her vast experience as a DJ playing other people’s tunes has also had a huge impact on how she approaches her own.
“In the past, I wasn’t quite sure what type of artist I want to be. But now, after DJing and Fishbowl falling apart, which has been a blessing in disguise, now I’m very confident about what I want.”
At the same time, she realises that some people can be just as dismissive of female pop singers as they are of female DJs. But that, she says, only motivates her more.
“It actually drives me more when people say bad things,” she confesses. “It doesn’t make me angry, it’s more ‘I’m just going to annoy you even more by going out there even harder.’”
“I know I’m putting myself out there in a different way,” she adds. “Originally I was behind the console playing other people’s music but now I’m up front performing my own. I’m revealing myself - it’s like being naked.”
So far, Havana’s career as a jet-setting DJ has been nothing short of dazzling, but now she's ready to shine in a whole new light. Ladies and gentlemen, introducing Havana Brown the artist.