Whether you’re listening to her music, scrolling through her Instagram feed, or talking to her in person, it seems impossible not to connect with the positive pop vibes given off by 20-year-old singer-songwriter Haven.
Haven grew up in a small town in Iowa where country music was a fixture. “I grew up listening to Shania Twain, Martina McBride, Faith Hill, all the women of country,” she says. “When I started doing music, that’s all I really knew to do.” And she did it well. (But not before a brief bluegrass phase “I got into bluegrass as like my first ‘type’ of music,” she laughs. “Then I went into country.”) Writing her own songs, Haven would be touring with some of country’s biggest names like Thomas Rhett, Lady Antebellum, Toby Keith and Hunter Hayes by the time she was 15.
Before that, though, music was just one of her many passions. Haven grew up in what she calls, a “sports-oriented” family. Super involved in everything from competitive gymnastics to volleyball, there isn’t a field, court, or gym setting that she isn’t familiar with. When she was 9 years old, she used her birthday money to buy a guitar. Around a year later, Haven got sick, and spending time in the hospital made it hard for her to play sports, so she spent time writing songs. Her passion for music held on even after she began feeling better.
“I just started playing anywhere anyone would let me.”
“I just started playing anywhere anyone would let me,” she tells us. This might sound like simple beginnings for the would-be pop star, but she was doing around 100 gigs a year, taking her guitar and her songs to audiences that would eventually share videos of her performances on YouTube that led to her being discovered by a talent manager. He flew to Iowa to see her play, and the rest is history. Haven was being booked to play with major country acts.
“Looking back on it, I’m so thankful for that,” she says. Those first big bookings introduced Haven to the music industry and gave her the exposure to pop music she’d been missing in her hometown. At age 12, Haven was flying from Iowa to Nashville for meetings and writing songs every day. By 15, she was traveling so much that she and her mom decided to move into a small trailer in the Nashville countryside that Haven remembers, laughing, as half small living space, half band equipment storage.
Moving to Nashville to chase her career as a country singer is actually what brought Haven closer to pop music. “It sounds crazy since it’s the country music capital or whatever,” she laughs about her first steps into the pop music scene. “There’s just so much more I could be doing with my music, like sonically there are different drum sounds I could use and on the production end it opened up a whole new world,” she says about how she fell in love with the production of pop music on every level.
“I’m very melodically driven,
as a writer.”
“I’m very melodically driven, in general, as a writer,” she says. At 18 when Haven was exploring pop music, she found that the new melodies she was writing weren’t fitting in with the country songs she had been performing before. “It was too pop for country and too country for pop, and it was just this weird mix that wasn’t going to work on either end.” Not long after this discovery, Haven was on her way to Los Angeles, CA for studio sessions she had only been able to dream about in Nashville.
For Haven, performing as a country artist meant playing with a band and walking around on stage, but the main difference she notices as a performer is the difference in performance styles between the two genres. “I got ready to do my first set in LA as a pop act, my first pop, like, show, and there’s just a lot more that goes into it for pop,” she says. “We had choreography, and I feel like imaging and branding and style are a lot more important in the pop world, the LA world. At the show, I felt like I got to bring it to a whole other level.”
Her focus on pop music hasn’t exactly shut the door on country music for Haven, she says she wouldn’t be opposed to working on more country music in the future. For now, though, she’s focused on her current project, starting with the release of her debut single “Swimming in Your Feelings”.
“Honestly, that song probably came in, like, a few hours,” Haven says about the process of bringing “Swimming in Your Feelings” from concept to the track she’s been performing around LA and sharing clips of on her Instagram. “The whole song is really just about when you’re in a relationship with somebody or you’re in love with somebody and you care about them and they know that, and maybe they’re not as into it as you are, and they kind of take advantage of that and lead you on.”
“I would say it’s based off of a true story,” she tells us about the real-life inspiration behind the feelings she sings about. “I think I wrote that right after I broke up with him, so I listen to the verses and I’m like ‘oh, those are really kind of aggressive.’” She says she doesn’t feel as strongly about the situation as she did when she wrote the song, but she’s happy that the energy behind it brought her to a song that has an upbeat vibe even if it is a breakup song.
Between her country and pop catalogs, Haven guesses that she’s written around 500 songs. “It’s insane,” she says. For her current project alone, she has accumulated 100 pop songs over the last year. “In a perfect world, I would get to release all of them,” she tells us. “We’re releasing five or six songs in 20—oh, in 2020, that sounds weird.” And while those songs make their way to Haven’s fans, she’ll be having even more studio sessions that will turn into 100 more songs that she will have to pick from for future projects. “That’s something that’s just going to keep [happening].”
Picking those songs wasn’t easy. Haven and her manager eventually had to listen to her music separately and make lists of their tops 7 songs to see what would end up in the final project. “Oh my gosh, it’s so hard,” she says about the process. They ended up matching on 5 songs, including “Swimming in Your Feelings”.
“Swimming in Your Feelings” is out now (and already topping the Radio Disney charts), but Haven fans won’t have to wait long to hear more from her. More tracks from the project will be coming in early 2020. “Next year, knowing that I’m going to be releasing music is, like, super exciting for me.”