As watch parties cheered at Pearl River Community College’s Dobie Holden Stadium and in homes and bars across southern Mississippi, Chapel Hart did his hometown of Poplarville proud. The country trio performed one last time on America’s Got Talent ahead of the season 17 finale with their original song “American Pride” and a powerful message I believe we will make a difference one person at a time, which earned the country trio, consisting of sisters Danica and Devynn Hart and their cousin, Trea Swindle, a standing ovation.
Show up first on AGT with a humorous response to Dolly Parton’s 1974 classic “Jolene” with a song titled “You Can Have Him Jolene”, the group grabbed the Golden Buzzer of the four AGT judges and host Terry Crews and continued with the boisterous “The Girls Are Back in Town,” even gaining new fans, including country legends like Parton, Tanya Tucker and Loretta Lynn.
Formed in 2014, the Mississippi natives started out playing the streets of New Orleans before writing their own songs. Danica Hart and Swindle also recorded the EP made for me as Hyperphlyy in 2016 and, as Chapel Hart, were one of many artists chosen for CMT’s “Next Women of Country” campaign in 2021.
The trio has already released two albums, including their first, out of the mudin 2019 and their most recent The girls are back in town in 2021 and are now ready to do their The Beginnings of the Grand Ole Opry and make new music together.
American songwriter spoke to Chapel Hart about writing, being three of 108 grandchildren, and their momentum now and beyond America’s Got Talent.
American songwriter: Everything has been going so fast for Chapel Hart since you auditioned on America has talent. How has the series transformed your career?
Danica Hart: We’ve been working on it for a long time, and everything seems so fast, but I told someone the other day that it’s like having a dream car. Let’s say the Ford F-250 has been your dream car all your life and all you’ve done is think “if I get a Ford F-250…” and then all of a sudden you get the car, and it’s like, “Oh, my God, what am I doing? Where am I going?” That’s how it feels. It’s everything we ever dreamed of and all the things we said we can’t wait to do like “we can wait to play Opry. We can’t wait to play Ryman and we can’t wait to bond with friendship with all of our favorite celebrities,” and now all of this is happening. It’s just one of those moments. It’s something you can’t describe, and it’s a feeling like no other feeling in your life.
AS: How did it go? AGT changed the way you write songs or even approach music now?
Devyn Hart: Being on this show has definitely opened us up to a global audience, and it makes us realize how accessible our music already is. It’s keeping that perspective open as we continue this journey of writing and sharing our stories and thoughts.
AS: You still live in Mississippi. Why didn’t you move to Nashville?
Danic: We’ve been back and forth to Nashville for the past five years, but we’ve traveled so much it’s hard to move. Plus, a lot of people think you have to do this gesture. You gotta stay in Nashville, but I think there’s something [in Mississippi]that keeps us, perhaps subconsciously, focused. Once you’re in a place, you can get complacent or think “I’m just going out for a drink today”, but when you’re paying to stay in a hotel, you have to make sure to write. Looking at it as a whole, maybe not moving was a bit of a blessing to keep us focused. When you’re on your dime to be there, you’re usually a bit more focused. It’s so easy to put everything on hold.
AS: When writing, between the three of you, is it quite collaborative, or does one person usually have the backbone of the song, which is then fleshed out between all of you?
Danic: The thing we all agree on is that whatever the song calls for is what we will give our creativity to. Sometimes it’s individually. We could have a song and say “Hey ladies, listen to this, tell me what you think” or the three of us sit down with someone else, so the process is too broad and in between, but we are always committed to allowing the song to have what it needs, to us to give it what it needs.
AS: When a song is being prepared, when do you know it’s ready and it’s a Chapel Hart song?
Devyn: One of the main things I know for sure is that there is always a feeling. Once we’re done with the song, or even in the process of writing the song as it’s coming together, we just look at each other and know “that’s us.” That’s it.” I think one interesting thing about our writing process is that we were three of 108 grandchildren, so we grew up together, but also differently, separately. It’s the same experiences but under three different angles, so I think that opens the door for more people.
Treasure Scam: I would call a lot of our songs songs of life, because they’re about all the different situations, from the good times to going out to the stuff that hits you right in the soul. These are the songs that tell stories about life in general.
AS: Will there soon be a third Chapel Hart album?
Danic: Every song we do goes on the album. I think that’s why we love to write so much. “The Girls Are Back in Town” was put together from all of these songs over the years, some of which didn’t make it onto the album. When we started putting it together, it was like taking puzzle pieces and saying, “This lyric does this, and this one makes me feel that.” It’s one of my favorite parts of the songwriting process, seeing the message in each one and how they come together to create a cohesive story. A lot of people don’t make albums these days, and people were very hard on us at first to release The Girls Are Back in Town. They were like, nobody’s doing albums right now. Everybody’s home, so put out a single, but we wanted a piece that people could listen to and say, ‘Who is Chapel Hart? If you can’t listen to this album and say “wow it’s Chapel Hart”, then obviously you don’t understand.
AS: You played on AGT three times now. Has the experience had any impact on how you approach Chapel Hart performances now?
Devyn: What I liked about playing on AGT is that it’s in front of a live crowd because that’s what we do. We mainly do live shows. What I took away from that was mostly playing for TV shows, because as we reach this new level in our careers, and hopefully one day we’ll be one of those main actors, being able to translating that live performance energy to the screen is also important.
Danic: There’s so many songs you wanna do and so many things you wanna show and that was our plan [to America’s Got Talent]. We just wanted to show them Chapel Hart. We had the chance to show our fun side. We had the chance to show our sassy side. We wish we could show America our hearts, the things we love and cherish, and there are so many songs that do that too. We just want to be able to show the sides of who we are as Chapel Hart.
We want to get away AGT and to be able to say that we had the chance to show America as much of Chapel Hart as possible…in one season.
Let us know what you think of Chapel Hart’s performance on “America’s Got Talent.” Comments below.
Photos: Trae Patton/NBC