When the country music vocal trio of two sisters and a cousin took the stage in their “America’s Got Talent” audition, nearly everyone was surprised. Their soulful, harmonic vocals from performing together for years were only the beginning. A smaller section of the audience was startled after they recognized them from their independent studio and extended play (EP) albums. A number of other fans remembered the critical acclaim they received after being named the “Next Women of Country”, by the CMT network in 2021.
However, most of the audience was shocked by something unprecedented: all judges and the host pressed the Golden Buzzer together. The option was added in the ninth season, and first used during season 10. It let each judge press it once per season to send an act directly through to Live Shows or quarter-finals portion.
While their audition was remarkable, the group sadly didn’t win in the end, prompting outrage, as well as curiosity about what the future holds for them. We can set your mind at ease; they remain active, and even began touring just months after the finale. However, before we explain what happened during and after “America’s Got Talent,” we will analyze who the Chapel Hart members are.
- 1 Danica Hart
- 2 Devynn Hart
- 3 Trea Swindle
- 4 Beginning of the group and forming Hyperphlyy
- 5 Changing the name to Chapel Hart
- 6 Gaining media recognition in 2020
- 7 Earning CMT accolades and releasing singles and an album in 2021
- 8 Appearing in “America’s Got Talent”
- 9 Reaching the talent show’s finale
- 10 Earning a fifth place in the “America’s Got Talent” finale
- 11 Grand Ole Opry debut, single releases, and first tour
- 12 What comes next for Chapel Hart?
Danica Hart was born in Hart’s Chapel, Mississippi, USA, a community in the nearby town of Poplarville, where her favorite place to shop is a small boutique entitled Posh. Her uncle, mom’s brother, adopted her at age 2 after her biological father left but still lived in the same city. She grew up listening to George Jones and Kenny Rogers, wore cowboy boots and a hat, and was proud of being a Southerner; running barefoot, eating good food, showing hospitality, and swimming in the creek. However, Danica admitted to being a ‘rebel Baptist who went to church a lot but also drank a lot’. This would inspire the trio’s later song “Jesus & Alcohol”.
Trea and she moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 2015, and had two record label meetings, but weren’t signed, so released their first album independently. Their city in Mississippi being just an hour-long car ride over Lake Pontchartrain to New Orleans, Louisiana, she and Trea wanted to make it big there anyway.
Danica, like the two other members, writes music individually, too. Noteworthy songs she’s written are “Jacqui’s Song”, about her keyboards player’s girlfriend Jacqui who died at 28 when lightning struck her tent during a South Louisiana music festival; and “Daddy Do” for the uncle she considers her father. Danica is also the diva in the group and the most dramatic, and would invite Garth Brooks over other country stars for a Christmas dinner. Sadly, she nervously shared in October 2022 on Instagram that she’d had vocal cord surgery; things were scary since she couldn’t talk for five days, and had to use a whiteboard, but has since made a full recovery.
Devynn Hart was born in Hart’s Chapel and grew up in Poplarville, too. Although she also listened to George Jones and Kenny Rogers growing up, her primary influence was the “Here for the Party” 2004 album by Gretchen Wilson. Both sisters were influenced because Gretchen ‘didn’t have to have fancy dresses, be this particular body type, or be glitzy and girly.’
Danica, Trea and she all attended Poplarville High School, and worked at Pearl River County Hospital and Nursing Home, the topic of their song “Made for Me”. Additionally, according to her sister, despite being the baby of the group, she’s ‘innovative because there’s nothing to do in Hart’s Chapel. She is also insensitive to mental or physical attacks, because all three were ribbed by their cousins, and played football games on Sundays. Devynn is the only member who didn’t want to be in music. because she was terrified to sing and wouldn’t even do it in church. However, she was converted after a few years of performing.
Her favorite seasonal tradition is the Christmas Eve holiday party. It begins at 5 or 6pm, and her parents, uncles, aunts, sisters and cousins end fun activities at 11pm to pray and have a devotional for the next year. All three group members like grilled and smoked meats Devynn’s dad makes, such as brisket, ribs, and pulled pork.
Trea Swindle was born and grew up in the same tiny town as the two sisters, and is their first cousin. She revealed in “America’s Got Talent” that the Hart’s Chapel was named after the Hart family ‘because there’s so many of us’. In an interview with SouthernLiving.com in November, she mentioned that she’s one of 108 Hart cousins – her grandparents had 17 children, and interestingly, all are musically inclined.
She also grew up listening to country, but preferred male artists such as Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, and would invite Big & Rich for Christmas dinner. Additionally, she’s a rebel like Danica, who stood out for loving rock and country instead of gospel, loves swimming, and even worked as a prison guard in Mississippi. One night, she promised to sing if the two prisoners made others quiet. The two men proceeded to silence a 500-man room, making this a nifty routine before meals. She also has a favorite guitar that is ‘thin and brown like her’, a favorite song she wrote is “I Will Follow,” and she’s fascinated by the Midwest state fair butter-cow tradition.
Trea admires their grandmother’s faith. Despite having an empty pantry and fridge, she would call all the kids for dinner daily. To her repeated surprise, people, who usually drop their children off to play with the Hart kids, always showed up unannounced and brought canned goods or garden food, and no one ended up hungry. She likes ‘yeast rolls from Aunt Bev, baked goods and pistolettes from Aunt Marilyn, and a cornucopia of hors-d’oeuvres from Aunt Bridget’.
Beginning of the group and forming Hyperphlyy
Danica, Devynn and Trea started singing together in 2014, after people kept telling Trea that she should sing, and she rebutted that saying ‘she doesn’t sing, but has cousins who do’. The duo mainly performed on the streets of New Orleans, especially Royal Street, Frenchmen Street and Bourbon Street. At first, they only covered songs and performed blues and jazz because they thought their small city was unprepared for a country band.
However, things changed after they decided to go back to country music. They started songwriting, and released their debut EP album, “Made for Me” on 20 September 2016, but under the name Hyperphlyy. Devynn joined them in 2018 after she lost her job, and they formed an official trio. A year later, on 16 July 2019, they released their debut studio album, “Out the Mud” also as Hyperphlyy.
Changing the name to Chapel Hart
The trio continued to hold smaller concerts, and performed at music festivals around Louisiana. They even went to Innsbruck, Austria, becoming the first females to headline the festival in 21 years, and the first-ever females to play country music.
In late July 2019, the trio officially renamed their group Chapel Hart, at their manager’s suggestion, after their community. Their albums were re-released under the new name.
Happy LOVE day!! We put together a list our our absolute favorite love songs. Give it a follow and have it spinning in the background for your #ValentinesDay soundtrack! What song would you add?
— Chapel Hart (@ChapelHartBand) February 14, 2023
Gaining media recognition in 2020
The group entered the spotlight when record producer Jeff Glixman discovered them, then became their producer and manager. After they released their first standalone single, “Jesus & Alcohol” accompanied by a music video, the media took notice, especially to the fact that ZZ Top member Billy Gibbons played guitar as a pastor in their music video, plus including a cameo from Deborah Allen and T. Graham Brown, both renowned country singers with long careers.
During interviews with Houston Chronicle, Danica Hart shared that their previous work was influenced by country music legends such as Kenny Rogers and George Strait, and later added Gretchen Wilson as a ‘primary musical influence’. The journalist also noted that Danica’s voice sounds like that of Etta James, a renowned singer of various genres. They admitted that they know country music was an uncommon choice for an African-American, however, they clarified ‘It’s something you don’t really choose, it was how we grew up and who we are.’
Earning CMT accolades and releasing singles and an album in 2021
The trio used the publicity CMT network brought them in 2021, to release their second standalone single entitled “I Will Follow” and a music video, and after plenty of positive reviews, the group released a second single, “You Can Have Him Jolene”. This also got people talking, since it was a 2022 take on an answer song to Dolly Parton’s well-known 1973 song “Jolene”. They got the idea during a cover song of Dolly’s hit “9 to 5”, when Devynn wore a shirt signed by fictional Jolene that displayed, ‘you can have him!’
both singles became part of their studio album, “The Girls Are Back in Town”, released on 28 August 2021. Chapel Hart planned to tour with the duo entitled Indigo Girls in 2022 to promote their album, but one duo member became ill with COVID-19.
Appearing in “America’s Got Talent”
Coincidentally, during the tour planning, an NBC scout for “America’s Got Talent”, Lindsey Rush, contacted them about auditioning, and persisted despite the trio declining the initial offer. Ultimately, the group announced that they would appear in the TV show on 19 July 2022, and perform “You Can Have Him Jolene”. Local news announced this, and emphasized their inability to ‘gift wrap their Mississippi roots and Louisiana spunk’. Consequently, there was a massive viewing party in The Whiskey Bar, an establishment in the nearby Pass Christian town.
The musical trio stated that if they succeeded, their plan within five years is ‘world domination’, and to bring the sound of girl country bands of the 1990s back. Afterwards, Simon Cowell commented, ‘Trust me, I needed you today. That was fantastic. I love you and I love the choreography.’ The four judges and the season host, Terry Crews, gave them a group Golden Buzzer, the second time in the show’s history that this happened; the 9-year-old Victory Brinker earned it for his season 16 audition.
Dolly Parton wrote on Twitter, ‘What a fun new take on my song, Chanel Hart. Carl’s birthday is today so I think I’ll hang on to him, and I’m not notifying Jolene that today is his birthday’. After their appearance in the show, the single debuted at number eight, and reached fourth place on the US Country Digital Billboard chart the next week.
Reaching the talent show’s finale
Chapel Hart performed another original, “The Girls are Back in Town” in the semi-finals, again receiving standing ovations from all four judges. The audience voted enough for them to reach the top five placement of the night, and another round of voting sent the trio into the finals instead of The Brown Brothers and Duo Rings. The single released afterwards peaked at number 21 on the Billboard US Country Digital chart.
That made the group and a rival act, magician Yu Hojin, the first finalists from a seventh-episode audition to reach finals in a long time. Benton Blount from season 10 was the last to achieve this feat. They also became the first trio to get a Golden Buzzer and reach the finals. In the finals, Chanel Hart performed “American Pride,” a song from their 2021 studio album dedicated to their grandmother. Another feat followed – they were the third act in the audition’s history to eliminate two other Golden Buzzer acts in the same round of competition, and the first to do so in the finals – the first was Michael Ketterer in season 13, and the second Daneliya during season 15.
Earning a fifth place in the “America’s Got Talent” finale
During the finale of “America’s Got Talent” aired on 14 September 2022 Chapel Hart joined Darius Rucker, a well-known country singer on stage to perform “Something to Talk About” by Bonnie Raitt. Things were looking positive when the host revealed the group received enough audience votes to place within the top five – Avery Dixon and Sara James were eliminated.
Unfortunately, Chanel Hart placed fifth behind Mayyas, the winning dance group, and the runner-up pole dancer Kristy Sellars. Fellow singer Drake Milligan finished in third place, and multimedia “deep fake” group Metaphysic ended the competition in fourth. The group was in good spirits and commented, ‘This has absolutely meant everything to us. We were able to come and show off our songwriting, and what we do in the world, to the world!’ Additionally, their hometown of Poplarville declared the competition week “Chapel Hart Week”.
Grand Ole Opry debut, single releases, and first tour
Fans who feared disappointment would hamper the trio’s progress could release a sigh of relief; Chapel Hart made their Grand Ole Opry debut on 17 September, three days after the “AGT” finale. This was fortunate, since Danica had vocal cord surgery a week later and had to rest.
Also, their talent TV show finale was a foreshadowing in a way. First, they performed a duet with country singer Darius Rucker, on his single “Ol’ Church Hymn” released on 30 September 2022. In September 2021, Darius was recording the song alone when he heard of the group, and sent them an Instagram private message with a collaboration offer.
Second, in January 2023, Chanel Hart released the single “Glory Days” before announcing their first Glory Days Tour, throughout the US, starting on the 26th of that month in Wichita, Kansas. They also informed their audience that Drake Milligan, the only singer who placed higher during season 17, would join their tour on 28 July 2023 at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson. The group also decided to fulfill the wish of Loretta Lynn, who requested a response to one of her songs in July 2022, after hearing “You Can Have Him Jolene” but died on 4 October 2022. On 20 January 2023, Chapel Hart released an answer song entitled “Welcome to Fist City”, based on Loretta’s 1968 hit “Fist City”.
What comes next for Chapel Hart?
Although the trio is touring the country throughout the first half of 2023, they already have future plans. During the press interviews, they assured their fans that Danica’s throat surgery was a success, and that they intend to release their third studio album in the spring of 2023.
Sadly, while they have a PR manager, and a talent agent, they lack a record deal or record label backing. However, Chapel Hart told MusicMayhemManagzine.com that a few record labels reached out in late 2022 with offers.
They continue to play smaller venues, because those kept them afloat during the COVID-19 outbreak. Trea even called their fans ‘friends and family’ for attending their events during difficult times, and Danica added that artists shouldn’t skip steps to fame. The two advised anyone who looks up to them to lay the groundwork, instead of looking for one fortunate or viral moment.