Years before moving to Nashville, singer-songwriter Ayla Brown was a star on the Boston College women's basketball team. They called her "Downtown" Ayla Brown for her impeccable ability to shoot the three-pointer. Now, she's only able to play pick-up games between songwriting sessions and performances, and she's regularly underestimated.

"None of the guys wanna cover you right? And then you start shooting threes, open 3's, and everyone on the other team starts saying 'Who has the girl? I though you had her,'" Brown quips. The 23-year-old, who's just released a self-funded album full of emotional love songs and feisty country rockers, seems very comfortable in proving her worth. It's a resilience that she'll need to rise from the bottom of Music City's deep pool of talent.

"I'm a proud, struggling musician," the season five 'American Idol' contestant tells Taste of Country with a hearty laugh. The Massachusetts-raised daughter of U.S. Senator Scott Brown is the first from her family to leave the Bay State. It took mom and dad a little while to understand why she wanted to put her journalism degree aside to go play dive bars and empty honky-tonks along Broadway.

"It wasn't until I got an opening slot doing the National Anthem with the Nashville Orchestra two years ago that my mom came down for the show, and she loved Nashville," Brown shares. "She loved the city, she understood it."

Brown has a regular gig singing the National Anthem for the Philadelphia 76ers -- an executive fell in love with her voice on YouTube and offered to pay all her travel -- and with the help of William Morris Agency she has booked shows with stars like Josh Turner. In fact, it's Turner that she challenged to a game of hoops earlier this year. She was told he was doing "weight training."

"So then I saw Josh and he was like, 'So are you the basketball player?' And of course, I'm wearing 4-inch heels and I'm already 6-feet tall. I'm like, 'Yes I am, and I heard you were scared to play me.'" According to her official website, Brown has two more shows booked with Turner this summer. Sounds like he'd better star working on his defense.

You can preview Brown's entire album on iTunes or find it on Spotify. You can also follower her on Facebook and Twitter -- and if you want our advice, it's that you should check her out, as she's on her way to taking Nashville by storm.

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