American Idol season 5 alum Ayla Brown will take the stage at the Republican National Convention on Thursday night (July 21) in Cleveland. Brown — who performed at the Republican debates this past December — will step into the national spotlight as she sings the national anthem at 7:45 p.m. ET.
Brown is no stranger to the political spotlight: Her father, Scott Brown, was a Republican U.S. senator and is currently a contributor for Fox. On Tuesday, the Wrentham, Massachusetts, native opened for Big & Rich at an invite-only party for the Make Housing Great Again event, supporting the nonprofit organization Make Room, primarily focusing on rental affordability. It was a family affair, as her father co-hosted the benefit concert.
“Everyone is very psyched,” Ayla Brown tells Billboard about her RNC anthem performance. “Both my mom and my dad are here in town. I’m going to soak it all in with the family.”
Brown said she was honored to sing at the debates last winter and is looking forward to the convention’s finale in Cleveland. “I sang for one of the debates in December, and it was on CNN,” she said. “The RNC thought I did a really great job, so I kept in touch with them and asked them if I could be involved in the convention.”
When they got back to Brown, they asked which night she would like to perform. Not missing a beat, the 27-year-old former NCAA basketball player went for the gold. “I said, ‘The big night, please?’” she laughed. “’Could you give me Thursday night if that’s possible?’”
In a column penned for the Boston Herald, Brown called the RNC the “biggest event of my singing career.” “Since my time on American Idol 10 years ago, I’ve had some unforgettable performance opportunities. From my Grand Ole Opry debut, my many tours overseas singing for our troops, numerous national anthem performances before sporting and political events, and, of course, singing with the Boston Pops Orchestra, I feel as though all of those moments have led me to this: singing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ at the Republican National Convention on Thursday,” she wrote.
Brown — who is currently at the convention — said she has been taking everything in, including the “absurd” merchandise with GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s likeness on it. “It’s really fun to walk around and soak it all in,” she said. “You might as well take advantage of every second.”
Asked about the mood of the convention, Brown said it’s mostly upbeat. “Everyone seems to be really positive about what’s happening here, and there’s still people who don’t believe that Trump should be the nominee, but it’s like, ‘What are we going to do now?’” she said. “Are we going to continue to battle that or are we going to unify and stick together on this?”
Brown — who now calls Nashville home — tours regularly, performing throughout the year in the United States with Concerned Veterans for America. She recently wrapped up a tour in the Middle East, where she performed for U.S. troops.
“After the convention, I am going on my fifth overseas tour for the troops with a group called Armed Forces Entertainment,” she said. “We give these men and women a taste of home while they are so far away,” she said. “I just got back from a two-week tour of the Middle East. I’ll be going on another one to Europe in August through September.”
Brown’s latest record, Let Love In, was released last year through a sponsorship deal with Texas Roadhouse, she said. “If you actually go into any Texas Roadhouse, you can see two of my songs in all of their jukeboxes, which is pretty cool,” she said.