by A.J. Wachtel
If there is ever a time when you need inspiration, look no further. From high school NCAA basketball record holder to a current record label owner. From singing on American Idol to releasing her third C&W album, Ayla Brown is a true talent. Listen to what this skilled singer has to say.
Noise: You recently released your third full album Let Love In. How has the feedback been so far and care to share a story about writing the songs on it?
Ayla Brown: I believe that the Let Love In album is the best project I’ve ever released and I think my fans feel the same. In general I absolutely loved writing for this album because there were a number of songs that I wrote years ago and I’m happy they found a home on his record.
Noise: “Goodbye For Good” from your debut album and “Pride of America“ from your second were the hits and the songs I really dug from those releases. What is your favorite song onLet Love In?
Ayla: I have a lot of favorites, but I really love “Let Love In,” “Matches and Gasoline,” and “That Morning Never Came.”
Noise: How is your latest release different from 2011’s Ayla Brown and 2012’s Heroes & Hometowns?
Ayla: I produced my first two country albums and on my most recent project I hired Gus Berry to produce all of the songs. He is incredibly talented and I put a lot of trust in him and the direction he wanted to go.
Noise: You founded and own your own record company, Ambient Entertainment. What are the pros and cons of being in charge?
Ayla: There are a lot of pros to owning your own business. I love the fact that I can make creative choices, keep all of the money I make, and pay my bills. The cons however mean that I don’t have the backing support of a record label, a radio promotions team, and a team in general to help get my music out there. All of the pressure rides on my shoulders and I have to rely on the fans to really support me.
Noise: You are the spokesperson for The Songs of Love Foundation that creates free personalized original songs to uplift children and teens who are facing tough medical, physical or emotional challenges. You’ve personally written songs for a six-year-old cancer patient Hannah, and another young man named Collin. What a wonderful commitment. How did you get involved and what is your process for specifically writing a song to make someone happier?
Ayla: I was introduced to this wonderful organization years ago and since then I’ve written about ten songs for ill-stricken children. It absolutely fills my heart up knowing that these songs bring a smile to their faces.
Noise: You are from Wrentham. What bands did you like growing up? Any local artists? And what music did your parents (Senator Scott Brown and T.V Newscaster Gail Huff) play around the house?
Ayla: I was crazy about the Outfield growing up! I remember my sister and I would beg my father to put in the cassette tape every time we got into the car. But I really loved songs from musicals and more of the adult contemporary type of music. My parents listened to all types of music, my dad mostly listened to rock ’n’ roll! We loved Elvis.
Noise: You are a former NCAA basketball player and went to Boston College on a full basketball scholarship. In fact, you are the sixth leading scorer in Massachusetts basketball history, male OR female! Is there anything similar in preparing for a big sports game and a huge concert? Anything different?
Ayla: Nothing different in terms of preparing for a concert, but I would definitely say there are similarities when dealing with musical competition, especially while competing on a show like American Idol. I am very grateful to get my competitive spirit from my dad!
Noise: You’ve sang the anthem on July 4 with the Boston Pops and at Fenway Park. Do you sing it exactly like Key wrote it or do you make it your own in any way?
Ayla: When I sang the national anthem with the Boston Pops Orchestra they had a special arrangement that they wanted me to sing, and I loved that version so much that I recorded a similar version on my Heroes & Hometowns patriotic album.
Noise: You auditioned for American Idol at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro and went pretty far on the show in the fifth season, 2006. Care to share a short story about this experience, and looking back would you have done anything differently?
Ayla: If I could do it all over again I would’ve expanded my knowledge of music and would have listened to a lot of different musical styles and types of artists growing up. Now I am a fan of all types of musical genres, but I wish I knew that growing up.
Noise: Early in your career your style was more pop and now it is increasingly country. Why the change in direction? You’ve also moved to Nashville to pursue your career. What are the similarities and differences between playing for a New England and a Southern audience?
Ayla: I never wanted to be the type of artist that young girls couldn’t respect and look up to. I didn’t like the direction that pop music was going. Country lyrics spoke to my heart more. The style of music I do is definitely a crossover between country and pop.
Noise: In 2010 you went to Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan and performed in front of 15,000 troops. What was that like and what will you remember most about this performance?
Ayla: I will never forget that experience. If only I could do it all over again!
Noise: What’s in the future for Ayla Brown?
Ayla: I am going to continue to work as hard as I possibly can to connect with as many people as possible. Success comes in many different forms, and I want to be remembered as someone who put their heart and soul into every lyric, every melody, and every show.
Noise: Any advice you can give to artists struggling to get their music heard in these tough times?
Ayla: It’s a really difficult but rewarding career. If you can make a living doing what you love, I suggest doing it for as long as you possibly can.