Even in the political maelstrom, the new senator is actively overseeing daughter Ayla's post- American Idol career. Richard Rushfield spoke with both Browns about their relationship.
It was 11 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday night, a mere two days after Scott Brown’s election to the United States Senate had thrown national politics into chaos, and President Obama’s health-care dreams into question. I received an email from an unknown address, only to gape in disbelief after opening it—I had gotten a note directly from the man at the center of the political maelstrom.
In 2006, Ayla Brown, the daughter of Senator-elect Scott Brown, had been a Season 5 semifinalist on American Idol. Though she didn’t make the Top 12, she had been an early favorite, and we learned quite a bit about her: Then 17, she was from Wrentham, Mass., was going to Boston College, and was a basketball star. And she had a father in the Massachusetts state Senate: Republican Scott Brown.
Will Ayla’s father still be her manager when he is Senator Brown? Ayla said that remains undecided, but indicates that he has been reluctant to give up the job.
After Brown’s election to higher office last week, it seemed like a good moment to touch base with the young woman who was suddenly—and for unexpected reasons—one of the show’s most prominent alumni. Her dad had even embarrassed Ayla, now 21, during his victory speech by announcing that while her sister is in a relationship, she is currently single. So I sent an email to the Webmaster of her site requesting an interview.
Little could I have imagined that Scott Brown, whom Ayla had mentioned in the past was the de facto manager of her singing career, would still be holding firmly onto the reins, despite his ascent to the national stage.
“Ayla is available,” Brown wrote to me. “After all, I said so on international TV. (ouch). Dad being dad.”
The next morning I found myself talking on the phone with the soon-to-be-senator so he could personally screen his daughter’s interview request. He brushed aside my queries about his busy schedule to kvell about Ayla’s singing career, filling me in on the following she’d built up as a performer across New England, how dedicated she was to it, and how she’d managed to earn enough to “own her own condo and start a retirement account.”
Like her father, Ayla is a multitasker, as I found out after I made it through the vetting process. While finishing up her senior year at Boston College, she is not only releasing a new album of pop songs Tuesday, but is a starting player on BC’s women’s basketball team as it makes a run for the NCAA tournament. And then there were those campaign appearances for her father.
“It got really crazy,” she said of those months. “But I’m trying to keep it all in perspective. My main goal is to graduate school and finish the basketball season on a high note.”
Time, however, will not stand still for Brown fille. It’s been four years since her Idol stint, which took her to a heartbreaking and, widely considered by commentators, premature dismissal from the historic Idol class that included Chris Daughtry, Katharine McPhee, and Kellie Pickler.
Post- Idol, Ayla put out a first album, Forward, in 2006. This second collection, Circles, contains several songs written by Ayla herself—Taylor Swift-like grapplings with coming-of-age issues, including lyrics about her childhood crushes, her first night out at a nightclub, and a recent ugly breakup.
While Ayla is playing college basketball, NCAA regulations forbid her from actively promoting herself or any of her endeavors. She can’t, for instance, tell where the album is for sale. (But you can find it on iTunes.) Because of this rule, Ayla had planned to release the album in April after the basketball season ended.
But the media spotlight like the one shining on the Brown family in the past week doesn’t come along every day, so the Browns decided to put the album out now, whether she could actively promote it or not.
Of course, her father announcing she’s “available” brought a different sort of attention. Ayla said she has received “hundreds and thousands” of notes from men wanting to meet her. “Like any daughter would have been at that moment, I, of course, felt completely embarrassed.”
She continued. “He embarrasses my sister and me all the time. Let’s just say he's no standup comedian. But we all laughed about it afterward.”
Will Ayla’s father still be her manager when he is Senator Brown? Ayla said that remains undecided, but indicates that he has been reluctant to give up the job. “Since the campaign, we’ve been trying to deal with stuff without him, but whenever he hears about an interview or anything he says, ‘Why wasn’t I filled in on this?’”
For his part, asked whether his time under the Idol tent taught him any lessons about politics, the senator-elect demurred, saying Idol is entertainment and politics is about grapping with real issues. (Brown apparently has never met Adam Lambert’s fanbase.)
Getting back on message, Brown said, “The constant for [Ayla] and me, is we like people.
“After the speech, I stayed and thanked every person there for coming because I wanted to talk to them,” he continued. “And so did Ayla, she stayed, too, and she wanted to talk to everyone.”
As pundits grapple with the meaning of Scott Brown’s victory, they would do well to study the lessons father and daughter learned on a little TV program four years ago.
Richard Rushfield is a four-year veteran of the American Idol beat and the author of a recent memoir, Don't Follow Me, I'm Lost.