Meet Havana Seoul [pronounced soul]. She’s originally from the West Coast, but has called DMV her home for most of her life. If you’re wondering how she got her name, it’s a tribute to her heritage –her mom is from South Korea, Seoul.
She’s a very dope artist to say the least, with a refreshing…yet classic flow. Since she released her first EP last month, This Is NOT A Cigar Club, it was only right that we talked about that. Havana also dished on her inspirations, balancing music and school, and what her next move is. Check out the interview below.
First things first, how’d you get started with music?
“I was always interested in music. I played in school bands 4th-10th grade. I started writing music in probably 5th grade out of a hobby, and began incorporating my poetry into raps by 11th grade. It was always something I kind of sought out, it was always around and always something I was interested in. The beginning of college is when I really saw it as something to pursue and even if it never amounts to much it will probably always be a hobby.”
How would you describe your sound as an artist?
“My sound is a mix of a lot of things, but I think it’s soulful meets trippy. It’s laidback, introspective, and light all at the same time. I think it’s very eclectic & I don’t intend any two projects to sound the same.”
What inspires you the most to create?
“What inspires me the most is what’s going on around me at any given moment. There isn’t really anything specific, sometimes I think I’m just more receptive to creation. Like sometimes I’ll write 5 songs in a night and other times I’ll go a couple weeks without writing.”
Seoul is a Journalism major at the University of Maryland. So I could only imagine how hard it is to find balance between creating music and getting school work done.
How do you balance between music and school work?
“I balance between music and school by filling all of my free time with music. I’m a journalism major so I’m always learning new things and meeting people. I’m super busy. If I’m not at school, I’m at work. I’m everywhere. Sometimes I really have to find time to write.”
Now let’s get to the music. As mentioned earlier, she dropped her first EP This Is Not A Cigar Club last month via DatPiff. You can stream and download the entire thing here. The 5-track body of work is also her first released project.
Check out the opening track, “Nagasaki Nuke.”
How did you come up with the name “This Is Not A Cigar Club?”
“The name comes from the notion of irony. This Is Not A Cigar Club has to do with my name being Havana Seoul, Havana as in the capital of Cuba. The best cigars come from Cuba. The second reason is because a cigar club is a place where rich white men go to talk and smoke. As a college student, it’s basically the opposite. We kick it on balconies and apartments smoking weed, talking life.”
What was the writing process like?
“I wrote all the songs close together, I can’t even remember the exact order. I just knew the songs I wanted on the project as soon as I wrote them. However, NRO & Mavericks went through a couple drafts. The producer that did NRO & Nagasaki Nuke was Canis Major. He’s a producer I’ve been consistently listening to for over a year. I love his work and he’s one of my favorites.”
What’s your favorite track from the project?
“My favorite track is NRO. It stands for Niggas Rule Only. The inspiration for it originally came from a hat in my room. I got it at a thrift store and it had the initials NRO embroidered in silver across the front. I always tried to come up with an acronym for it, eventually I landed on “niggas rule only”. When I heard the instrumental for the song I just knew that had to be the title.”
“It was my favorite song before I even penned a line to it. It’s soulful, which is my favorite, and it’s content driven too. Content was one thing I somewhat abandoned for this project. I didn’t want to hit anyone with anything too heavy. But NRO has the quintessential elements of what I think makes me an artist. I wrote NRO for my city, for the DMV. It’s just what it felt like growing up around here. Like I didn’t grow up in a rough area, but I was never too far from it. It was always something I was aware of & experienced in bits. Having Nando on the track gives it even more of a local feel, an authenticity.”
“What’s up next is a visual to ‘Nagasaki Nuke.’ Maybe another EP style project too. I’m not quite sure to be honest, but I’m going to be working a lot. Experimenting a lot. I want the next thing you hear from me to be nothing like this past project.”
Of course I always ask artists what they want people to take away from their music. Seoul replied,
“I want listeners to just be open minded I guess. To be available to experience something new with music and not take it too seriously. To let it make you feel good.”
You can also check back here for any of her latest releases.
Havana, thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing more from you.