Havana: Drawing Pain

Southern-Cali soul singer Havana has been making strides along the music scene since her debut release, ‘L.I.F.E.’ in 2005. With a straightforward honesty that is reminiscent of a young Mary J. Blige, Havana draws from past emotional pain and experiences as inspiration for her music. When asked about the name, she laments, “I used to wear this shirt that read ‘South America by way of Havana’ and everyone would ask if I was from Cuba. A few people started to call me Havana and the name just stuck.” She has worked with producers such as Nicolay, Waajeed of Platinum Pied Pipers, and Symbolic One just to name a few. Currently working on her second release, ‘Entervention’, which includes producers like Trackademics, Brook D’Leau, and GB (Gifted & Blessed), Havana tells us all about how music has been her therapy in helping to deal with her past family issues.

Singersroom: So, how did you get your start in the music business?
Havana: I started in church; someone took an interest in me and kind of nurtured my singing from there. I was really inspired by Mary J. Blige’s “What’s the 411?” When that came out, I decided that this (music) is what I want to do.

Singersroom: Do you write your own music and if so, where do you draw inspiration from?
Havana: I do write my own music, I wrote everything on the first album. I do all of my arrangements myself. I draw inspiration pretty much from the things I’ve gone through, and what I’m feeling at the time.

Singersroom: How do you feel about R&B and the direction it’s headed in today?
Havana: Oh wow, right now I’m not too happy with the music industry and R&B music. I feel that everyone sounds the same and the record labels have a formula that they’re looking for, and if you fit that mode then they want you. I don’t think they’re really in it for the artistic side of it. It’s just a formula to make money.

Singersroom: Do you think R&B is dead?
Havana: No, I don’t think it’s dead. I think this is just a period that we’re going through. What’s going to happen is someone like Little Dragon is going to come along and the record labels are going to see that there’s money in the underground scene as well. Digital sales are now taking over and it’s not really about CD’s anymore. Some underground artist is going to change it for everyone else and break through.

Singersroom: Who were some of your favorite artists growing up?
Havana: Wow, there were so many. You know, we have Michael and Janet (Jackson), Sade, and Lalah Hathaway, especially when she came out with “Baby, Baby Don’t Cry”. I really loved her back then and I knew all of her songs.

Singersroom: What about greats like Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan?
Havana: You know, I really love Chaka Khan but I was raised by my grandmother, who was a lot older. So, for me it wasn’t even Aretha or Chaka, we were into like the really old jazz artists. I’m talking Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, and Nancy Wilson. I also recently did a lot of jazz work with our local community college here (in San Diego).

Singersroom: What other hobbies or interests do you have besides music?
Havana: I also do musical theater. Last year I did ‘Dreamgirls’ and ‘Ragtime’. Basically, anything that involves me singing and being onstage, I’m there.

Singersroom: Tell me about your latest project, ‘Entervention’.
Havana: This album is a little more upbeat than the first one, more of a concept album. It’s pretty much based on how I deal with my past and the relationship I have and had with my parents. My mother had me when she was really young (15 years old) and she also had a drug problem. My grandmother raised me, my father’s adopted mother, and my Dad ended up in jail for twenty years. So, I dealt with a lot of rejection and just a lot of drama when it comes to my parents. It’s so funny because I felt that after I became an adult it would go away. But, ‘Entervention’ is here to show that I have to just intervene and realize that this is just going to be my life. Just because I had it hard as a child doesn’t mean that I’ll have it easy as an adult. So, I’m basically writing songs that are helping me vent my issues and the pain that I had with my parents, and what I went through without them there, and what I’m going through now with my Mom still having bipolar issues from using drugs for so long. My Dad has gotten out of jail now and we’re trying to establish a relationship after him being gone (for what seems like) forever. The great thing about the album is that it doesn’t sound so sad though. It sounds really upbeat, and it kind of sounds like someone who is really comfortable with their past.

Singersroom: What would be the ultimate musical collaboration for you?
Havana: I would definitely have to say Rafael Saadiq. I like his earlier stuff more so but he’s just so talented. Almost all of the songs that people like today, he has written. I opened for him once and I was so nervous! I just love his sound and his music. I also plan on working with Nicolay again, just for old time’s sake.

Singersroom: Where can people buy your music?
Havana: First and foremost, iTunes, the first album is there and also the new album will be there as well. You can also buy it from Amazon, Rhapsody, and all of the other digital music outlets. The new album will also be available in stores.
—— By: Interview By Tiffany Haggerty


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