Getting The Dinah Down (under) with Havana Brown
When T.S. Eliot opened his magnum opus, “Wasteland,” with the words, “April is the Cruelest month” he had no idea how false his words would ring decades later when thousands of women from many parts of the world would come to Palm Springs, California for the Dinah Shore Weekend.
Held annually every April, “The Dinah” features a wild gathering of women, artists, parties and other events celebrating the lesbian life. It is the largest gathering of its kind in the world.
As far as parties go, nothing at The Dinah is as highly anticipated as the “White Party.” This year the event will be held on April 5 at the Hotel Zoso and its top act is none other than the Australian sensation, Havana Brown.
Having turned 27 on Valentine’s Day, Brown has been making a name for herself ever since her DJ days, touring with the likes of Britney Spears, Rihana, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. However, not content with playing other people’s music behind the turntables, Brown came around to center stage, singing her way to the top of the charts with such hits as “When the Lights Go Out” and “We Run the Night.”
With festival goers anticipating a fun-filled night for those lucky enough to score tickets, Lesbian News thought it would be a good idea to catch up with Brown to get her thoughts about music, America, Australia, gay rights and other revealing aspects of the life of this rising star.
LN: I understand you have some new projects coming up. What are you currently working on?
Havana Brown: I’ve been in the studio for the last month and I’ve been just working on my music and just starting off the New Year with concentrating on my music. But now I’m back into touring. I’m touring every weekend now. Thursday, Friday, Saturday – the usual – Djing and getting out there. That’s what I’m working on. That’s what I love doing.
LN: How does your new content compare to your previous efforts?
HB: I guess you grow and you change and trends change as well. I see things changing in the music scene. I’m a DJ and I’m always researching music and I’m trying new things now, for me. Maybe you will hear me do a little more hip hop as well as jazz music. Personally, everything that I have ever wanted to do is make people dance. Whether it is hip hop or dance music, pop – anything – I just want to make people move. That’s ultimately my goal in this year. I don’t think that will ever change really. That’s just entwined into me and that’s just the kind of artist I’ve always wanted to be.
LN: I understand you have been traveling a lot lately, especially between the US and Australia. What kind of toll does that take on you?
HB: Well, it’s not just Australia. I haven’t been back to Australia since November last year. I spend a lot of time here in the States. I do a lot of traveling here. In the last few months I’ve been all over Asia – Korea, Japan – and then France… I’m trying to remember all of the countries I’ve been to. It’s just crazy! When you travel so much you feel like two weeks is like two months sometimes, because you feel like you’ve done so much work. It can be tiring and sometimes that can play on you a little bit but at the same time I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love traveling. I love seeing other cities. I feel kind of blessed that I am able to do that and that it’s part of my job. I think a lot of people would love to do that themselves. I love it!
LN: Is there something that you like about America that you do not find in Australia? And conversely, what do you like about Australia that you do not see in America?
HB: What I love about America is that you can go to different cities and it’s like being in a totally different country, like cultural-wise, music-wise. It’s amazing how huge America is and I love that. I love being able to be in LA and going to New York, which is completely different. Being in Texas over the weekend, which is different in itself. Being in Dallas or being in Oklahoma with cowboys. It’s just surreal just how vastly different every city is. I appreciate that. I love that. I love the desert as well. I love traveling to Las Vegas and Palm Springs and I love Tucson. I have a thing for the desert. While in Australia we have desert over there but there is no major city in the desert, in the Outback. I like big cities. That is what Australia probably lacks. But Australia has my family and my friends who I love so much. And Australia is my home. I’m always going to miss it but the way I see it is that it’s only a flight away, if I really miss it that much I can always fly back. I’m going back in a couple of weeks for two weeks to tour over there. I love the freedom of being able to travel anywhere I want to and to see whatever I want to. My job doesn’t require me to stay in one city for long periods of time which I feel very blessed about.
LN: You started out DJing. How was it coming out from behind the turntables where you were playing other people’s music to playing your own?
HB: At first, what I was releasing my first single and I wanted to play my shit. I was touring at the time. It was honestly much scarier that I thought it ever would be. I couldn’t wait for people to hear it but then a couple of days before I was going to play it on tour, I’m starting to realize, “hang on, this is scary.” I was thinking, “Is it any good?” I didn’t know any more. What If I was playing it and everyone was like, “What the hell is this?” and everyone hated it. I was very confident about it but I started to question it. And I started to worry because it’s much more personal now — it’s me. I am much more involved in the process – this is what I believe is great music and I hope everyone else feels the same way. And if they don’t I guess it’s going to hurt a little bit more. [Laughs.] It’s scary but I live off the fear. I love the feeling of fear but I love conquering it. The only way to conquer it is to have the fear. It’s the best feeling playing [my music] the first time and seeing the reaction and seeing the song sell and do so well and sell so many records and come here to the States and [having the record] go platinum. That fear that I had, I definitely conquered that. I’ve overcome that now. I play a lot of stuff in my sets now that I’ve just done working on. I love doing that! You get to experiment and play and see, ah I really like that, or maybe we need to change this, maybe it needs more bass. You’re able to showcase things and feel the reaction from the crowd, which is a real blessing to be able to do. Every artist wants to know what it feels like when they are being played in the clubs and I get to do that. I’m vulnerable when I’m up on stage playing my music, so I will definitely feel any negative reaction more than anyone else. [Laughs.] I think it’s great to be able to do that.
LN: Where do you find inspiration to write your songs?
HB: I guess every single day I have inspiration. I’m always listening to music and when I see something that inspired me. I’m inspired every single day. Especially when I find something new and I think, “Ah, I can’t wait to play this in the club!” I would think that track is inspiring me and what is it? What type of music is it? What is it about that track that is making it so amazing that it makes me want to dance? Sometimes I’m just about to fall asleep and all of a sudden something will come to me in my head. I’m always thinking about my music! [Laughs.] Mostly I get inspired by other artists and other music, hearing new things. I love hearing something different but that could be commercialized and make people dance.
LN: As you continue to record and advance your career, what are the biggest pressures or challenges you encounter?
HB: There is always pressure in any job but it obviously depends on what you do, right? I don’t think there is any job that wouldn’t have any pressure, especially if you are passionate about it. My pressure is that I want to be the best that I can be and I want to make sure that I am working hard. Every day I want to make sure that I’m working toward getting better and being the best that I can be. That’s my pressure. That’s pressure I have on myself. [Laughs.]
LN: How did you get involved in the Dinah Shore Show 2013?
HB: Someone called my manager and asked if I was interested in being part of the show. Funny enough, one of my friends, Luciana, had seen the show last year; so I had heard a lot about it from her and she said it was insane! She loved it! She had so much fun doing it. It sounded amazing and I was like, I want to do this! As soon as my manager mentioned that I had the opportunity to [perform] at Dinah Shore, I was like, “Hell, yes, I’m there!” And it’s in Palm Springs as well! I feel like the craziness comes out in the desert. There is something about the desert.
LN: What can audiences expect from your concert at Dinah?
HB: There could be dancing and some sexy having fun. It’s going to be energetic. I’m quite energetic onstage. I’m a different person onstage, mind you. Onstage I’m a little bit different. I’m very energetic. My music is energetic. It’s all about making you move and I want to make everyone happy.
LN: Stepping back, what was your childhood like?
HB: I had a great childhood. My parents come from a small island called Rodrigues. And they moved from Rodrigues to Australia and I was born in Australia. Australia is a great place to grow up. I guess there is something very simple about it. My parents worked extremely hard and I guess I didn’t realize it. I knew that they were working hard but they were working hard for their children to give them what they needed or what they wanted in their life. They knew I was really passionate about music and they gave me every opportunity. Even though they didn’t necessarily have a lot of money back then they worked extremely hard to give me everything that I needed. I was well. I was very comfortable. My parents are well off now because of their hard work. I guess seeing my parents work so hard inspired me to work as hard as I possibly can, as well in life. I had a group of girlfriends and it was just us. It was fun. I really had a good group of friends that I could trust and I could be myself. Even if other people were being mean to us it didn’t really matter because I had my girlfriends and that’s all that mattered. They knew exactly how I was. They knew my bad traits, as well as my good traits but they knew my bad traits and they still loved me and that’s probably the best kind of childhood you could have, you know, have friends that you trust.
LN: When did you know you wanted to be a professional entertainer?
HB: I’ve always been into music. I guess when I was younger it seemed so far away, I didn’t know how I would possibly do it. How do you become an accessible pop star and DJ? It just seemed so far away. I didn’t know anyone in the industry. I didn’t know anyone else who was even pursuing what I wanted to pursue. When I was younger I actually thought I was going to become a business woman. I thought I was going to be someone working on Wall Street. [Laughs] A stockbroker. I guess I thought that was what I had to do because that is what people do.
When I finished high school, I realized that I really did not want to do anything other than music and entertainment. I said to myself, “I will take a year off before I go to university to pursue it and see what happens. Just give it a go.” And the year turned in to two and I ended up moving to the UK. I actually moved to the UK not long after high school and started to pursue my music there and continued on, even to the point of signing to a record label in the UK. I started a group and that fell apart and that’s when I started DJing. There were multiple times when I thought, “Okay, it’s time for me to go back to school” and I would sign up and something always pulled me back in. I’ve always been passionate about music. It’s what I love. So, any type of possible excuse to keep pursuing it, I was there. I just never gave up. I was really persistent. Right after high school when I realized that I am going to have to go to university and learn something that I really am not interested in, that scared me half to death. I decided that there is no point in living life and spending every day doing something that you hate, or don’t love. So I thought, might as well live my life struggling to make it as an artist. I’d rather do that.
LN: I understand that Janet Jackson is your idol. What is it about her that stands out more than other performers?
HB: She was the first person I really saw perform and I was just instantly attracted to her. I don’t feel like there are many artists like her. She is really strong and bold and very masculine but then sexy at the same time. All of her performances are very strong. She is such a strong woman. When I was younger I just found her very sexy and appealing to me and I loved it. That inspired me. I wanted to be a performer like her. Her music was amazing but it wasn’t just that. She was a great performer and I love performers. I’m very much into those who put effort into their performances. There is a lot of dance and choreography in her work. I love all of that. That’s what I’ve always been attracted to and I guess that’s why I am the way I am and I love music that makes people dance. She just clicks with me. I guess with millions of other people, too! [Laughs] There is something about her that really inspired me and I wanted to do what she was doing.
LN: Prior to your success, did you work any menial jobs and if so what were some of the worst ones?
HB: Oh, yes. I worked retail, which I hated. I hated everything other than what I do now, [Laughs] I worked as a promo girl but I also worked as a bartender. I was bad at the bartending and the only reason they kept me on was because I would get a lot of tips for the whole crew. [Laughs] But I don’t know even how to make a screwdriver. I didn’t know much about alcohol when I was younger, so when I was working as a bartender I had no idea what was going on. I was working as a receptionist at an appliance store in Australia. That was probably my most frustrating [job] because I was very into my DJing every weekend and then going to work three days a week, sitting in one spot all day and someone telling me when I can go for lunch. And if you’re one minute late getting back from lunch they get mad at you. That freaks me out – feeling like you’re in high school and someone telling me when I can eat and when I have to be back at work and telling me when I can leave. That sort of thing plays on me and I had major anxiety. That was probably the worst because I got to a stage where I knew exactly what I wanted to do, that I wanted to DJ, and being at the store felt like I was wasting my life. It felt sort of meaningless. But it taught me a lot because every single time that I’m tired and I’m working my ass off, or even just a plane delay and I’m getting angry about that — because you go through a lot of those when you travel a lot — and I get really frustrated, I think, “You know what? I’d rather be sitting here in this airport and being able to work on my music on my laptop then being stuck on reception in an appliance store and feeling anxiety and feeling like I’m working a lie.” I just think about that time and I just get happy. I really felt the pain of sitting down and not doing what you love.
LN: What do you do when you are not working on your music?
HB: I like to go out for lunches and dinners and meet up with friends. I also love getting into a television series. I’ll watch an episode or two just to kind of get away from music and be in someone else’s life for an hour. [Laughs] Even if it’s fake and very dramatic, I love it. Last night I watched a little bit of drama. I love doing that sort of thing. I’m always so far away from home, so just being “home” and being able to watch TV for an hour is gold to me.
LN: What is the most important thing you look for in a mate?
HB: They need to know who they are. They need to be comfortable with themselves. They need to work hard. I do not like laziness. I mean, look, everyone is lazy every now and then but I like someone that works hard. I can’t be around someone that’s negative. I want to be around people that thrive on life and that are happy. That’s probably the main things I look for in a mate.
LN: What is the best pick up line you have ever heard?
HB: I don’t know because I don’t hear them all that often — to tell you the truth. I don’t feel like people try to pick me up all too often. [Laughs] I’m not sure why that is because I am in the clubs every night. What’s going on there?
LN: Are you involved in any social causes?
HB: When I retire what I want to do is have my own dog pound. I am very much looking forward to that time because I just want to take in every dog. I want to have a big block of land, possibly in the desert somewhere in the States and I just want to take in every single dog and no dog will be put down. I just want to look after them and have a crew, a vet, everything. I just want to have a rescue center and that’s what I want to do when I retire. When I’ve finished traveling and I’m ready to just chill out, I want to chill out with dogs and keep a whole dog zoo. That’s what I want to do and that’s what I feel really passionate about as well.
LN: How do you feel about the way gay rights are heading in Australia?
HB: I feel like it’s going really well. I spend a lot of time here mostly at the moment but I feel like people are very accepting. I feel like it’s not really a thing anymore. It’s not really a thing if someone is gay. I feel like it’s very much equal. I really don’t hang out with anyone or know anyone, that has a problem with gay people or feel like they shouldn’t have the same rights. As far as marriage, I don’t think that will probably happen any time soon in Australia and that’s a shame. But as far as every day, I think it’s very much equal. I think everyone is really accepting and no one points their fingers any more.
LN: How do you feel that gay rights are going in America?
HB: To be honest, I feel the same way. I do not feel that I know anyone that feels any different from us. Most of my friends and people that I work with are gay, so I feel very surrounded by the community. They never really tell me that they are feeling any problems. I don’t know whether it’s just ignorance but I’m not surrounded by people that hate. It’s hard for me to answer because I’m not in that situation. It’s something that I care about but it’s not me that feels the pain. It’s hard for me to really answer that properly.
LN: How do you feel about interviews where you talk about yourself and your work? Do you feel they serve your music or should the music just speak for itself?
HB: The music should always speak for itself, absolutely. Personally, I love the idea of an artist being mysterious and I love the idea
that you don’t know too much about them personally but you know about their music. That’s very important to me. I don’t feel like you need to know who I’m dating or know anything else other than my music. If it could be that way for me, that’s exactly how I would want it to be. I want you to come to my show and experience my DJing with my music playing and enjoy that feeling, rather than knowing exactly every single detail about myself. Personally I find that that is boring. I’m like everyone else. And every other artists are like everyone else. You should just be all about the music. That’s the most important thing.