Ayla Brown Profile
“Of course I was robotic!” she says. “I was 17 and never sang in front of people before!” Two little girls appear at the door of the Caché fitting room to ask if Ayla will sign their glossy pictures of the singer; the salesmoms shoo them away, but not before Ayla obliges. As a performer, she has found her niche as an idol to six- to fifteen-year-old girls and their moms, a fan base she expects will easily follow her over to country. (“They don’t really care,” she says, adding that moms like her because she’s both an athlete and a singer.) “The best feeling is when I bring kids up onstage and they go to their mom and dad and say, ‘I really want a CD, because I got to dance onstage with Ayla!’ They have fun, I have fun, and then they buy music afterward.”
Ayla — who isn’t self-conscious even when self-conscious might be a good thing — says the song she should have performed in those early rounds of Idol — not that she’s dwelling — is the Oleta Adams power ballad “Get Here (If You Can).” She then proceeds to demo an impromptu few verses of the song under Caché’s bright fluorescent light. It’s an awkward moment. While pretty and photogenic, Ayla is still a bit of a tomboy, and not particularly sexy. On Idol, her shimmies often looked more like squats. Playing coy is complicated when you’re 6 feet tall. As Mickel Picco, a BC teammate, says, “Ayla might look a certain way, but she’s really just a big dork.”
Country, on the other hand — where a singer can get away with a stool, a microphone, and some down-home earnestness — suits her. Not that any of that factored into her decision to leave pop. If she has limitations, she’s not aware of them (or doesn’t want you to be).
She spent last fall commuting to Nashville, where she worked with veteran songwriters who’ve penned tunes for Christina Aguilera, Taylor Dayne, and Rascal Flatts. An album is due out this spring, followed by a tour. The first single is scheduled to hit iTunes next month. But Ayla has yet to land a record deal, so Jim McGregor, a New York State–based manager and producer who has worked with her since she was 17, will shop the record around to major labels in Nashville and New York.