Poplarville, Mississippi isn’t near much of anywhere. It’s in that part of Mississippi you really have to be trying to find. Southwest of Hattiesburg; northeast of Biloxi. It’s a little over an hour to New Orleans, though, and that’s where Chapel Hart found their home.
The country trio released its’ debut in 2019, and since, its’ gotten a stamp of approval from Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. Things locked down shortly after the full length, but now, the girls are taking their show on the road, and they’ll make their way to Birmingham for the first time this holiday weekend.
I spoke to Danica Hart about their relationship with Gibbons, finding themselves in New Orleans and about a recent trip to Muscle Shoals.
You spent some time recording in Muscle Shoals recently. How did that go?
We did some recording; we recorded a song of ours there. Our fanbase has really grown. You know you go some places now and it feels like family; it feels really familiar. It was like that [there]. Folks would be like, “Y’all come by! We need to cook for you!”
Muscle Shoals has that. It can instantly become your hometown away from home.
Who did you work with while you were there?
We were 2020’s Mississippi Songwriters of the Year, and as one of the prizes, there was studio time at Wishbone Studio. Billy Lawson recorded a version of our song “You Can Have Him Jolene.” It’s not the one that is on our album, but it was amazing to get a chance to work with Billy at Wishbone. He’s incredible.
You started in rural Mississippi, and I guess New Orleans was the closest big town to you. How far away was that?
Yeah, super South Mississippi. We’re about an hour and ten minutes from New Orleans. Trea [Swindle] had moved to New Orleans about a year before I got there. She and my other cousin were like, “You need to come down.” I was working at the hospital in Poplarville, and I had lost my job. It was like, “Well, if I’m ever gonna make music, it’s now or never.” And thank the Lord I finally went.
Do you do most of the writing or do you do it collectively?
Our writing process varies a bit, but we kind of have it down to a science now. We call Dev [Hart] the “concept queen.” Usually Dev comes up with the concept. And Trea has an ability to play on words. Trea can usually find those words and phrases and twist and turn them. Then I’m the one that kind of puts it together and makes it a song.
That’s most of the process. And the rest is one of us just writing something down and saying, “Y’all gotta hear this.” That’s our secret recipe.
Your live show – I’ve seen clips online – it’s such a high energy performance. You’re really in sync and you’ve really got it going. It doesn’t seem like you’ve been playing live shows that long. How did that come so naturally for you?
A lot of it just comes down to chemistry. We’re always around and we’re always cutting up and we’re always playing jokes on each other. I think we take that same energy and we take it to the stage. And I think that’s why people end up feeling like they’re going to hang out with their best friends and it just so happens that their best friends are singers and are gonna be performing. I think you get that vibe at our show.
As often as we can play, we play. Practice has a lot to do with it. But really, we just bring our hearts and souls and leave it on the stage. And I think that’s the shine through.
Was it easy to be found in Mississippi because of your proximity to New Orleans?
I always tell people, if we had better sense, we would have probably moved to Nashville to do country music. But for whatever reason – and I think maybe that’s because Trea was already in New Orleans before I got there – that’s where I started. I think the visibility came from grinding the pavement. Sometimes the money doesn’t make sense or the geographic location doesn’t make sense, but just play as much as you can.
I think that’s where the visibility came from; once we started moving around and really going, people were like, “Have you heard these three girls?” That’s where it comes from.
You had the full length back in 2019. Is recording another full length on the horizon or is that even necessary these days? Would you rather stick with smaller projects or singles at a faster pace?
Since the beginning of the year, we’ve been like, “We wanna do a record. We wanna do a record. We wanna do a record.” And everybody has been like, “Everybody is doing singles. Just do singles. Push singles.”
It was just in our heart. We had Out the Mud in 2019, and that was us kind of first getting started. Folks were telling us, “You gotta do it this way” or “You gotta do it that way.” There was so much that we learned from when we started that album to its’ completion, and then to where we are right now. We want to an album that says, “This is us. This is Chapel Hart.”
And that brings me to our second album, which will be titled The Girls Are Back in Town.
That’s awesome. Obviously a lot of doors have been opening in the past couple of years that weren’t before. Have you got any opening slots or festival slots on the horizon that will get you front of some larger audiences?
They are. It still feels crazy, and we feel so blessed. Billy Gibbons [ZZ Top] has been such a Chapel Hart fan – we call him our uncle. “Hey Uncle Billy! What are you up to?”
We’ll be opening a couple of shows for ZZ Top. We were opening for Kelsea Bellerini, but Brett Young has taken over the headliner spot on that. But a lot of things are opening up as the world tries to open up and get back to live music. It’s moving for us. We’re super grateful.
How did you first meet Billy? How did that relationship happen?
We both shared the same booking agent at one point in time. And our booking agent knows that Billy loves all things music, but also things that are kind of weird and different. So he told us he was gonna share it with Billy. He sent him a few of our songs, then he sent him “Jesus and Alcohol.” Billy’s like, “Man! What is this? The other stuff is good, but this song right here – this is fresh.”
Then he sent Billy a picture of us. He said, “Billy never calls me. I can never get him to call me back. I might get a text message three days later.” But Billy picked up the phone and called him immediately. Billy said, “What is this? You’re pulling my leg right now. What’s going on?” He said, “No, man. It’s a new trio named Chapel Hart. Billy sat with the song a couple of days and he said, “I want to help these girls however I can. Whatever they need, let me know.”
So we invited him to be in our music video. The world shut down. It was go into quarantine or move forward and shoot that video with Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top. So we finished that video. We shot it in Nashville.
Chapel Hart is at The Nick on Saturday, July 3. Doors are at 9 p.m., while the show begins at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. Calliope Pettis opens.