Chapel Hart: Why The Trio Nearly Passed On 'Pivotal' 'AGT' Audition

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Chapel Hart captivated the country — including music legend Dolly Parton — when the trio auditioned for America’s Got Talent with a song that puts an original, modern twist on the 1970s classic, “Jolene.”

That audition nearly didn’t take place.

The trio of sisters and cousins, Danica Hart, Trea Swindle and Devynn Hart, recently caught up with iHeartCountry about their unforgettable golden buzzer moment on AGT, how their passion for music began, major milestones in their career so far (including landing a commercial with their song “This Girl Likes Fords,” and embarking on their first U.S. tour), and what’s next for them.

Chapel Hart was on the road when they repeatedly heard advice to audition for America’s Got Talent. They repeatedly turned that advice down, determined to play shows on tour with the Indigo Girls; however, when one of the team members tested positive for Covid the week Chapel Hart was set to perform, they opted to shift their plans. The trio said they went to the audition “not really with any expectations…and lo and behold,” they received the golden buzzer in a triumphant moment that “changed everything for us. It was a pivotal moment in our career.”

That Parton-inspired audition with “You Can Have Him Jolene” earned praise from Parton herself, followed by other iconic artists. Tanya Tucker delivered a shoutout to the Mississippi-born trio, and Chapel Hart delivered a spin on “Fist City” by the late Loretta Lynn, which they began working on prior to her death in October 2022. Chapel Hart also collaborated with solo country artist and Hootie & the Blowfish star Darius Rucker on a stunning, gospel-inspired love song that appears on Rucker’s latest album, which serves as a tribute to his late mother.

Danica, Devynn and Trea grew up singing together in a big family in Mississippi, where they said there was “a choir of 50 (to) 60 grandkids at any given time.”  They grew up with church seven days a week, as referenced in their song “If You Ain’t Wearing Boots,” appearing on their latest full-length album. Throughout their lives, the singer-songwriters immersed themselves in music by Gretchen Wilson, Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, Terri Clark, The Highwaymen and many more. Chapel Hart’s hometown nods and personal stories span three albums: Glory Days, The Girls Are Back in Town and Out of the Mud. The trio noticed, though, that their own stories are also resonating deeply with listeners around the globe. Audiences related to Chapel Hart everywhere from New York City to Kenya to Switzerland. They recently played the C2C: Country to Country music festival in the UK, they noted, and were in awe of the way country music can connect people of all walks of life. 

Chapel Hart’s Danica, Devynn and Trea are also looking ahead to newcomers to country music listening, including after powerhouse artist Beyoncé released her highly anticipated act ii album, COWBOY CARTER. The record-breaking, country-themed project — which includes its own reimagined version of “Jolene,” and an interlude from Parton, among other star-studded appearances — arrived days before Beyoncé accepted the Innovator Award at the 2024 iHeartRadio Music Awards, hosted at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, California. Chapel Hart noticed, even prior to COWBOY CARTER’s debut, that people who are predominantly listeners of hip hop and R&B are leaning into the country music genre and discovering other artists for the first time. To them, it shows that the “country experience is universal.” That storytelling, the passion and artistry of the genre is “why we fell in love with country music, even as little girls.”

The trio’s own music also resonates with listeners — the “congregation,” as Chapel Hart deems their fans —including deeply enough to land in a movie (Bull Street, starring Loretta Devine and Amy Madigan) and in a commercial. “This Girl Likes Fords,” which flips the script on the country music narrative of a male artist picking up a girl to ride shotgun in his truck, appears in a commercial for the automobile giant (fittingly, premiering during national truck month and women’s history month).

Chapel Hart has marked many milestone moments together, including their debut performance at the historic Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, and watching their music reach No. 1. Danica, Devynn and Trea recently kept their word on a pact they made with one another in 2018 to get matching tattoos to commemorate the date that “You Can Have Him Jolene,’ and “The Girls Are Back In Town” reached that milestone. Still, they’re looking forward to the journey that’s ahead of them. The three singer-songwriters await the day they can deliver a heartfelt acceptance speech (whether that be for a Grammy Award, a CMA award, ACM award, CMT award or anything in between), for example. They’re also looking ahead to recording their first-ever Christmas album and continuing to travel and perform.

“Watch out and see what happens next. There’s a big world of country music that’s opening up, and also that we’re trying to navigate through in our own artistry. I think that that is a journey all by itself.”