By JESSICA A. BOTELHO
From singing and writing music, placing among the Top 16 on season five of American Idol, serving as a correspondent for The Early Show on CBS, to being a former hotshot basketball player, Ayla Brown seems to excel at everything.
This summer, Brown also did a bit of acting, as she took part in the movie, Cowboy Spirit, playing the role of Molly. The full-length film premieres Nov. 29th at the Orpheum Theatre in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
In the past, she finished high school as one of the top female basketball players in Massachusetts’ history, scoring 2,358 career points before playing for Boston College. She even found a way to combine singing and basketball, as last season she was asked to perform the National Anthem for the Philadelphia 76ers at every home game.
“It was such an honor, so I said yes,” said Brown, who will again take on the duty this season. “They also wanted me to set up a merchandise table and sell CDs.”
The problem, she said, was she was yet to record an album at that point. But that didn’t stop her. As a result, she ended up forming her own record label, Ambient Entertainment, for which she’s released the self-titled Ayla Brown in January.
“I kind of used it as a kick jump and motivator to put out an album – I didn’t want to have to wait for any sort of big guns to get involved,” Brown said. “It’s super easy to start your own label and that’s exactly what I did to make sure that I had content available at every game.”
Brown is grateful for the experience. Founding her own label, she said, has given her more freedom and flexibility as an artist.
“I’m really, really lucky to have put together a CD on my own label because creatively I get to choose all the songs,” she said. “I’m doing everything a major or a larger independent record would do. The only difference is that person is me, not someone else.”
As was mentioned earlier, Brown, who splits her time living in Massachusetts, Philadelphia, PA, and Nashville, TN, released her most recent CD, a self-titled album, through the label. It was recorded in Nashville at the studio of legendary country star, Ronnie Milsap. She hired Jeff King, who has played with country sensation Reba McEntire, to help with the recording process.
“I asked him if he wanted to band lead my session and surprisingly he was excited about it, which made me excited,” Brown said. “He is just absolutely incredible and one of the best session guys in town. And the players on the album have played with Kelly Clarkson, Sara Evens, [and] Jason Aldean. It’s not everyday that you get the best of the best.”
Adding to her long list of accomplishments is the fact that she co-wrote seven out of the nine tracks on the disc, as well as produced the album. She had an engineer handle the technical side of the process.
“As the producer, you’re in the studio with them the whole time and you tell them, ‘Hey, can you redo that solo? Can you make it sound more like this instead of that?’” Brown said. “It was great.”
The album is currently charting on Billboard in the Northeast, which pleases her to no end.
“I got an email from Billboard a few months ago saying, ‘Urgent: Ayla Brown is charting,’” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. The hard work is paying off.’”
Her next effort will be a patriotic album, Heroes and Hometowns, set to be mastered later this month. She said her goal is to release it by Veteran’s Day, but if not, it will be available in time for holiday shopping.
Part of the proceeds of each CD sale will be donated to Hugs for Heroes, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting military troops overseas through shipments of care packages. Since it was established in 2004, more than 10 tons of goods have been delivered.
“A friend of mine started [it] in 2004 after someone came to her school and talked about how not many soldiers get care packages from the people they love,” said Brown. “Two out of the 10 guys would be getting care packages and the rest of the guys felt really left out. She thought that was a shame. Every person in the unit should get a care package.”
Another non-profit organization Brown is affiliated with is the Songs of Love Foundation, which is dedicated to providing free, personalized songs for children and teens facing tough medical, physical or emotional challenges. She serves as spokesperson and has written 10 songs for the effort.
“I was on The Early Show as a national correspondent for a two years and it was the first story that I pitched,” she said. “The producer I was working with at the time had written many songs for the organization and he told me about it. It was the beginning of a great relationship with Songs of Love. It’s so rewarding. It helps them get through whatever treatment and tough times they are going through.”
Helping children is something she holds close to her heart. While she doesn’t play basketball as much as she used to, coaching kids in the future would be ideal.
“If I were to ever coach I would love it to be for a middle school or an elementary school where it’s still fun and you get to teach the kids and have a good time doing it,” said Brown. “At the college, and even high school level, there’s too much pressure to excel and succeed.”
So, where does Brown find her inspiration to succeed? Her parents are former WCVB-TV Channel 5 reporter Gail Huff and Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown.
“They’ve been so supportive,” she said.
In turn, she also supports them, as her father, a Republican, is facing Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren in Tuesday’s election. During his campaign, Brown has performed at many of his functions and participated in several events.
“I do everything I can to support him and that means going out and holding signs, doing different video messages on YouTube and being in commercials,” she said. “My dad is not only a great father, but he’s a wonderful senator. He’s doing such a great job for Massachusetts. There’s no one else as bipartisan as he is. I want someone like that as my senator. There are a lot of people who complain about the way this country is run and then they don’t even vote. I would say to those people, ‘Get out there and make a difference.’”
To learn more about Ayla Brown visit aylabrown.com.
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: JKB Management & Booking/Limelight Magazine does not endorse political candidates, platforms, or parties. However, we support ALL local musicians from New England regardless of their political affiliation or involvement.