The singer-songwriter, athlete, and TV personality experienced early recognition in 2006 as a Season 5 semi-finalist on the Fox-TV phenomenon, American Idol. The singing competition has launched the recording careers of superstars Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry, Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson and many more. Reflecting on her high-profile Idol experience, Ayla noted, “The moment I sang with a band for the first time was the moment I knew I was supposed to do this for the rest of my life. American Idol gave me an opportunity that I will always respect and appreciate. I never take my time on the show for granted, but I also know that being on Idol at a young age forced me to mature quicker on stage than other performers my age. I was excited for the challenge.”
At the time, the Idol contestant was a student at the Franklin School for the Performing Arts (FSPA), where she studied voice with Hallie Wetzell, guitar and jazz dance. “FSPA was incredibly helpful in my developmental stages of being a singer, dancer, and performer,” Ayla said. “When I was getting ready for my American Idol tryouts there were many people at FSPA who took me under their wings and helped me give an audition of a lifetime.”
Since then, Ayla’s career has taken her to the legendary stages of the Grand Ole Opry and Ryman Auditorium. She has opened for numerous country music stars, including Jason Aldean, Clint Black, Charlie Daniels, Sara Evans, Tracy Lawrence, Loretta Lynn, Craig Morgan, Darius Rucker, Josh Turner and Chris Young. Ayla has also made multiple CMA Music Festival appearances and was a national news correspondent for The Early Show on CBS.
Of her 2013 Grand Ole Opry debut, the rising country artist says, ““Performing on the Grand Ole Opry stage was something I will never forget for the rest of my life. I was so nervous walking on that stage for the first time, but the minute I started singing I knew I was right at home.”
Ayla’s transition from her pop roots to the country music genre began while at Boston College, where the multi-talented student was an All-American Division I basketball player and two-time Gatorade Player of the Year. Her performing sets increasingly featured more of others’ country songs than her own pop music. A visit to Nashville for weeks of writing led to an opportunity to sing with the Nashville Symphony for the orchestra’s July 4th celebration. “It was at the moment that I knew I had to move to Nashville,” Ayla recalled.
She recorded her self-titled country music album, Ayla Brown, at Ronnie’s Place, the Nashville studio of legendary country music star Ronnie Milsap. Ayla produced the album from her own record label, Ambient Entertainment, and wrote seven of the CD’s nine tracks. Her 2012 sophomore release, a patriotic-inspired album titled Heroes & Hometowns, peaked at #1 on Amazon MP3 and reached #51 on iTunes. Ayla performed two singles from the album, “Pride of America” and “Hero in her Hometown,” with the Boston Pops during the 2013 July 4th Fireworks Spectacular on the Esplanade. A portion of every CD sale of Heroes & Hometowns benefits Hugs for Heroes, Inc., a Massachusetts-based, military nonprofit, and Ayla has entertained American troops overseas in Afghanistan, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Egypt.
“Since I never had the opportunity to put on a uniform and serve our country, giving back musically and financially is the closest thing I've found to connect with our troops,” Ayla said in describing her connection with military causes and how those initiatives resonate with her. “I feel very blessed that I've been able to help wonderful charities throughout the years and Hugs for Heroes is definitely one of them. For Let Love In, my album sponsor, Texas Roadhouse, and I will be making a donation to another great military non-profit, Homes for Our Troops, and I am really excited about that!”
Let Love In, Ayla’s latest album, debuts next month. “Music has always been the closest thing to my heart and I feel very lucky that my lyrics and sounds have developed with age and experience,” she noted. “I can confidently say my upcoming album, Let Love In, is my best album in the nine years I've been singing professionally. There are so many songs on this record that I am extremely proud of and, since this is a spring/summer release, I can't wait for people to roll down their windows and blast these songs!”
Tickets to Ayla Brown’s April 10 show at THE BLACK BOX, with opening act Brendan Kelley, are $24 for adults and $18 for students. For tickets and more information, visit www.THEBLACKBOXonline.com or call (508) 528-3370.
THE BLACK BOX, the home of the Franklin Performing Arts Company (FPAC), is located at 15 West Central Street in downtown Franklin.