Devynn, Danica and Trea
Unknown to me until a few weeks back the female trio Chapel Hart impressed me immediately I came across them, courtesy of the ” CMT Presents : Next Women Of Country Class Of 2021 ” virtual showcase , and I wasted no time in delving into their story and back catalogue. One thing I particularly loved on the one song they performed on that stream, their hilarious single ” You Can Have Him Jolene” , was their stunning harmonies , so it came as no surprise that the three are closely related. Sisters Danica and Devynn Hart and first cousin Trea Swindle grew up together in the town of Hart’s Chapel, Mississippi surrounded by music both within the family and at church, their gospel influences also coming across in their own music.
Starting out as a duo busking on the streets of New Orleans performing covers drawn from their entire and varied musical catalogue, it was when Devynn joined a couple of years later that the trio decided to focus on the style they really loved – country music. Their decision was cemented by advice from Louisiana band La Roux whose songs they used to cover and who asked them to sing harmonies on their song ” New Orlean’s Ladies” who told them ” let the music be the guide and never forget what you do is for the love of the music”. Another eye-opener was Chapel Hart’s trip to Austria to headline the New Orleans Music Festival where they played under the name of their covers band but where the audience particularly loved their own writes, on each of the three days the line to buy their debut CD ” Out Of Mud” grew longer with people asking if certain originals were on the track list and when they were coming back again! They knew they were on the right track and thankfully haven’t looked back, their future is looking very bright indeed.
It was great to get the chance to chat to the ladies from their home in New Orleans and find out a bit more about them, their music and their plans ….as I’d anticipated our conversation was great fun, one of my most enjoyable interviews ever actually, but also very interesting and enlightening as I hope you agree.
LH Hi and thanks so much for your time today! Can we maybe kick things off with each of you introducing yourselves please so we can get a picture of who you all are individually?
CH Hi I’m Danica Hart and I just LOVE music! My hobbies are writing and listening to the radio!!
Ok, I’m Devynn, I watch a lot of Netflix shows, I’m a full time singer, part time movie critic! Part time food critic as well!
And finally we have Trea ….I am their cousin, I have a construction problem! I make music and I make ” stuff!”
LH I know you grew up surrounded by music, but when did you decide to make a career out of your passion and start writing your own songs?
Trea : We started to grow a fanbase when we were a covers band and knew that to make it in the music industry we’d have to write our own songs, and started maybe 4 or 5 years ago? I think that maybe somewhere deep down music was supposed to be our career ….when I told my Moma i was going to be a country singer she said ” you’re too smart, do something else!” and now it’s ” ha look where we are now, Mom!” . I’d say we took the full plunge 4 years ago, now this is all we do. Danica : And actually it’s the most fulfilling job I can have, hanging out with these two!
LH Fast Forwards to 2019, and the independent release of your debut album ” Out The Mud” . That must have been a huge moment for you?
Devynn: We were all super excited about putting out out first album and about going through the entire process for the first time. Being in the studio, watching the songs come to life, that really was inspiring and a learning experience! We’ve learned so much since 2019 to where we are today, it’s helped a lot and taught us a lot. Danica: Yes, it taught us so much! We’d go out and grind all weekend on Bourbon St to get $1000 to get a song fully produced, we’d work, work work and sometimes we’d go to the studio and could barely talk but somehow that album sounds fairly decent ! It was a lot of hard work but we put it in and it showed us ” we can do it!”, and we saw each other in a different light .
LH And recent months have brought you more excitement…..let’s talk a bit about you being inducted into the CMT Next Women Of Country Class Of 2021 ….
Trea: I still don’t think that words can accurately describe how we feel. Because for our entire lives CMT has been the medium where country music comes from, the inspiration for our art. It’s so surreal, and to be able to share that platform with all these other great artists, it’s definitely an honour!
LH Yes, Leslie Fram in particular is fantastic isn’t she, the way she champions female artists ?
We need to bow at her altar ….
Danica: Yes she’s the queen …
LH Well I’d say we have Queen Dolly, but Leslie is definitely a Princess…Danica: …Ha Princess Leslie, I’m gonna change her name to that from now on!
LH And of course as independent artists you don’t get the big marketing budget of label artists, this will definitely help raise your profile won’t it? I wouldn’t have known you for a start!
Danica: What I love about it year on year is I’ve watched the women who go into the class and after their year are big stars….Kelsea Ballerini , Carly Pearce, Ashley McBryde, Maren Morris….you know what I’m saying? And what I love is when they really weren’t playing women on country radio it was a way to keep women relevant in country music . It just shows what we can do as women if we stick together and help each other out, it’s what Leslie was cultivating. I think we are all ( i.e. this year’s CMT class inductees) having a meet and greet via Zoom because we couldn’t meet in person. I can’t tell you how excited we are to be a part of this program. It’s an honour.
LH That leads on perfectly to my next question, Danica….do you think that female country artists in general, and women of colour within the genre in particular, are finally getting recognition again after a pretty bleak few decades, especially where country radio is concerned?
Danica: There’s two parts to that question and I think the first answer is yes. And I must also say I so appreciate CMT for making those steps to do the right thing and open the door. Someone made a comment, something like ” ok so CMT, is there something you want to say, a reason you have so many black artists now?” Well I remember my momma saying ” when you know better, you do better ” . They are trying and I’ll give them that, we are super grateful that they are taking this chance. I remember watching CMT as a little girl, and in my head I knew i didn’t have a chance to be on the CMA’s or the AMC’s , but I saw people like Shania Twain who were a little different, not blonde haired and blue eyed, so I though maybe if she can do this, I can. Now there’s an opportunity and doors are opening for little black girls, or Asian girls, or whoever is watching to say “wow if they can make it if I try hard maybe I can “. I think that’s why we pushed so hard and worked so hard through all the negative comments and backlash to be the people who go higher, do you know what I mean? It’s hard work and sometimes the comments get you down but it’s a purpose that’s much bigger than us so you just keep fighting through.
Trea: I agree with all that, I’m just glad we’re at a place where doors are opening and am happy Leslie is championing for women. There are more women and more women of colour coming through but i just can’t wait till country music in general gets to the point where you don’t say “well that’s strange, there’s a lot of black girls ” it’s just about great music.
LH Yes, the music is what it should all be about.
LH And we are only in February but you’ve hit the ground running in 20210 and already released two singles, let’s start with talking about the hilarious ” You Can Have Him Jolene” …..I was just cracking up when I heard you perform it at the CMT showcase, there were so many great comments coming in, you must be thrilled at the reaction that song is getting?
Danica: Oh my gosh yes!! I just want people to hear the music, feel and experience the story the way we have…when we are writing we laugh and crack up and all of that we poured into the song. And there’s an energy about it and when people comment and say “you know what, i want to listen to some of your music ” I love it, that’s why we do what we do. That song was definitely a blast to write, and …..exclusive!! ….there may be a music video coming up soon! We had the most fun filming this music video and I can’t really go into the stuff we got into, the trouble we ran into making it….
LH Oh maybe when it comes out we can chat specifically about it ….
Danica: We’re definitely going to have to do a follow up interview because it is so hard not to spill the beans here!
( LH Keep a watchful eye out for this follow up chat at thinkcountrymusic.com where of course you’ll find many more country music related interviews and articles )
LH And your most recent release, ” I Will Follow” shows a different side to you, it’s definitely and very heartfelt, uplifting and inspiring song. What drew you to it, as I’m aware you didn’t write it yourselves but actually it’s pretty autobiographical as it happens?
Danica: Oh yeah! I think ” I Will Follow” is one of those songs that you hear and by the first verse you think ” this is my song” …I haven’t heard a song in a while that so accurately describes us! Coming from what most people would I suppose call an unconventional background for country but being able to just disregard all that and go for your dreams. That song is for the dreamers and believers, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, what cultural or ethnic background, if you have a dream, follow it, follow your heart and forget about the naysayers.
Trea: Yeah, I think that the minute you find a song that fills your heart, you can find it in you to give it to somebody else. Once you put it out people go ” Oh wow that’s exactly what I needed ” and that’s what speaks to me right now at this moment. There’s people going through career changes, family changes, so many things…..and people just need that little something from the universe when they’re wondering ” ok, what’s next, what do I do? ” . And it’s like follow your heart! One of the most amazing things I ever heard was someone say to me ” whatever you decide to do on this journey, you already have everything you need inside of you ” and I was like wow, that’s powerful! So finding that song, I was like wow!
LH Well it’s such a relatable song, so many people can find reassurance in it and I’m glad you got to record it as your version is so beautiful.
LH And as much as we can plan for 2021 in these uncertain times, what lies ahead for Chapel Hart in the coming months?
Devynn: Right now we’re just in the process of deciding what we want to do. We all really want to put out an album. From our debut album in 2019 I just feel there’s been so much growth as a group and individually, so I think it would be really exciting to put something out that really shows off our writing skills and defines us as artists. We don’t have any dates or anything yet but we hope to have something soon!
LH And I guess like we spoke about earlier the time and costs involved may play a large part?
Danica: Well actually that all goes with our conversation about recording our debut album in New Orleans ….but we were told once you’ve recorded in Nashville you won’t want to record anywhere else and I have to say that hands down the professionalism of the guys that play with us in Nashville means the process doesn’t take us that long! The first time we recorded there, I pulled out my phone and tho the guys had never heard the song before it was translated and they all just went in and played…we recorded the entire song, including multiple takes, in less than 20 minutes!
LH Yeah, Nashville is known predominantly as a songwriters town but people forget about its amazing musicians….who probably after their studio time with you were off to do a shift in a bar or wait tables!
LH And when you are able to tour again, what can fans expect from a Chapel Hart show?
Devynn: High energy!
Danica: Definitely, just because we haven’t been able to perform! We really want to interact with our fans, and once all this stuff is over we’ll come back full throttle, It’s going to be a great time.
LH Do you have a regular band or do you use session musicians?
Danica: We have a few guys who’ve been with us for a while , both in Nashville and New Orleans, so they kind of rotate depending on who’s available. So a pretty regular band.
LH And of course the final burning question for me is are you hoping to visit us here in the UK at some point?
Danica: Hopefully! We’re trying to get back to Europe as soon as we can …we played in Austria…so hopefully when things are up and running and if they let Americans back in over there! I just want to spend as much time as I can travelling, we have so many friends and fans from all over the UK and everywhere else in Europe . Maybe you can whisper in a couple of ears!
LH I wish I was that influential! But I’d be screaming from the rooftops, not whispering!
Thank you all so much it’s been such fun and let’s hope we get to chat again or meet in person before too long! I wish you the best of luck til then!
For more information about Chapel Hart , and links to the band’s socials, go to chapelhart.com
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