The past few years have seen a huge contingent of Aussie beatmakers and producers making the move to sunny Los Angeles to take advantage of America’s current love of the genre known as EDM. Havana Brown is one of these, and says the secrets to making it are an upbeat attitude and a strong work ethic – two things she definitely has in spades.
“I really love it here,” she says. “It feels like I’m at the heart of the entertainment industry. Everyone here is either a singer or an actor or is in music, but they’re all creative, and so in a way we can all relate.”
For Brown, the city is all good vibes and positive affirmations, photo shoots and Oscar pre-parties. “Everyone in Los Angeles is here to work, and I love the fact that I can get into the studio with different people every day. I find the attitude here very inspiring.”
Havana Brown has always had big dreams. In the early years of her career, most Aussies probably knew her best for playing DJ sets in support of big-name pop artists. Chances are that if Rihanna or Lady Gaga happened to be playing at your local entertainment centre, Brown would be there too, playing booming hip hop and house tunes in between sets. That era gave her a taste of the kind of success she desired.
“I think that those support slots were definitely an inspiration for me,” she says. “I was around people at the top of their game, touring the country and the world, and obviously I was a DJ, but when I was touring with someone like Lady Gaga and seeing her every night, in my mind, that’s where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do.”
Those early experiences would inspire Brown’s own transition from DJ to pop performer. “For me, it was just all about getting ideas for what I could do with my shows and performances,” she says. “It was inspiring in the sense that Rihanna and people like that all put on very big shows, and I got to see how that was possible. It was great for me at the time, because in Australia you can feel a bit isolated, you can feel a little distant, and that level of show can feel unattainable. Touring with an artist like Lady Gaga makes you realise that she’s actually just a person like you and me, and achieving that level of success is really just about being determined and diligent and working hard for it.”
It would be fair to say, though, that your typical Havana Brown track is a little heavier and a little more club-oriented than many of her pop contemporaries’ work. “I think I’m just naturally attracted to something that’s got a little bit of darkness to it,” she says. “Even growing up, the pop music I liked was never the squeaky-clean stuff – I really loved listening to Aaliyah and Janet Jackson because their music was often just that little bit darker, it had a bit more of an edge. Don’t get me wrong, I love pop; there’s nothing wrong with it, and it’s what I do, but I love the club element, I love making it a bit grimier.”
The aim of tracks like ‘Warrior’, Brown says, is to bring the rougher and harder side of present-day club music to pop melodies. “That’s something I feel is my own.”
Brown will soon be returning to Australia, with shows including an engagement at Marquee’s anniversary celebration. Reflecting on the club music landscape in the country, she says it has changed significantly since her earliest forays into DJing.
“Very early on, when I first moved back to Australia after living in the UK for a while, the biggest thing I noticed is that there was no crossover of genres whatsoever. If you were a house DJ, you did not play in R&B clubs, and if you were an R&B DJ, you did not play in house clubs. The two worlds just didn’t meet. In the years that followed, that began to change – there were a lot of big-name producers who had huge crossover hits that mixed those two worlds.”
People like Pitbull and David Guetta, Brown says, were the ones behind this change. “Even someone like Akon made an impact with ‘Sexy Bitch’,” she says. “People were suddenly putting rap artists on top of dance tracks. That confused people at first, but then I think more people became open to listening to different things. In London, I was playing R&B and hip hop as well as dance, and really loving it, and I tried to do that in my sets when I came back here, and it didn’t go down very well. I’d try and keep it easy for the audience and play some commercial house tunes in an R&B set, but people really didn’t like it. I’m glad that’s changed, because now you can play in all sorts of clubs and everyone knows the music.”
With this in mind, what can fans expect from Brown’s upcoming set at Marquee? “I definitely want to drop my new single,” she says. “That one will be coming out very soon. I just want people to have fun. The aim is for people to have fun, to forget about what’s happening in their lives and enjoy the moment, feel the music and just feel sexy.”