Country trio Chapel Hart — sisters Danica and Devynn Hart and their cousin Trea Swindle — have spent so much time on the road lately that they jokingly say they have added a new member to their family act: their tour bus. They’ve affectionately named it “Ruby.”
“Fans will come to our shows and our meet-and-greet lines and show us photos of themselves standing in front of Ruby,” lead singer Danica tells Billboard. “I don’t know what we’re gonna do when it’s time for us to upgrade from this bus. I don’t know if our fans will allow that. We might have to tell them Ruby’s getting a makeover,” she jokes.
“Or we’ll have to be like, ‘This is Ruby’s Fam Damily, this is her son,’” adds Devynn, nodding to the act’s upcoming album track of the same name.
The New Orleans-based, Mississippi-born trio’s third studio album, Glory Days, out May 19, blends tightly-woven, family harmonies with straight-from-the-heart lyrics. “It’s not a dressed up, painted up perception of anything that we’re going through — it just is what it is,” Trea says. “Like in our song ‘Fam Damily,’ everybody’s got family members they don’t want to talk about.”
Glory Days brings fans deeper into the trio’s story and Southern roots, with songs such as “Home Is Where the Hart Is,” which namechecks several of their childhood friends, as well as a favorite Poplarville, Miss. restaurant Ward’s, known for its chili cheeseburgers and root beer.
“It’s a Mississippi thing right now, but we’re trying to make this a global situation,” Trea adds of their aim.
Chapel Hart’s new album follows its 2019 debut Out the Mud and 2021’s The Girls Are Back in Town. That same year, they were named to CMT’s Next Women of Country class.
Their breakthrough came in July 2022, when Chapel Hart performed on America’s Got Talent, offering their original song, “You Can Have Him Jolene,” an answer to Dolly Parton’s 1973 classic, “Jolene.” The electrifying rendition landed the trio a spot in the AGT finals. After the performance, accolades rolled in from not only Parton herself, but Tanya Tucker and Darius Rucker, the latter of whom invited Chapel Hart to record “Ol’ Church Hymn” with him on his upcoming album.
But that wasn’t all. Loretta Lynn also offered praise — and laid down a challenge for the trio.
“I love it, ladies,” Lynn wrote on Twitter. “Now I’m wondering what you might be able to do with one of my songs!”
The trio took the charge seriously, penning Glory Days’ “Welcome to Fist City,” an homage to and an extension of Lynn’s 1968 song “Fist City.” Less than three months following Chapel Hart’s AGT performance, Lynn died at her home in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, at the age of 90. Though Lynn never got to hear “Welcome to Fist City,” Chapel Hart wanted to pay homage to Lynn’s legacy.
With “Fist City,” “Loretta was like, ‘Girl, I’m gonna grab you by the hair of your head. Don’t play with me.’ We thought, ‘Okay, how are we going to flip this?’ So we decided to extend the story,” Danica says. “It’s great because some of Loretta’s fans are showing up to shows or saying things like, ‘She would be so proud.’ It’s hard to not be emotional when you read things like that because you’re introducing a new generation to her music who probably had not heard it.”
In the short while since that breakthrough AGT performance, the trio has kept momentum, making its Grand Ole Opry debut last year and in April performing on the CMT Music Awards.
As the sole writers on approximately half of the new album, Devynn, Trea and Danica were less concerned with cramming the set with radio-friendly hits and more focused on creating a cohesive album that brings fans deeper into their journey.
“After performing a completely original song [on America’s Got Talent] and being received like that — not just nationally, but globally — it let us know that our writing is enough,” says Devynn. “Our experiences are translating with other people.”
Taking influence from the unvarnished, story-centric writing styles of Parton and Lynn, the trio began writing Glory Days with one audience in mind: their fans.
“Even with The Girls Are Back in Town, it was authentically Chapel Hart, but we were also like, ‘Do we think this sound would be good for radio?’ We were really trying to fit in,” says Danica. “But with this record, we just want to tell our stories, tell our experiences. We want to let the wall down and let them in a bit more.”
On “Perfect For Me,” written with Leslie Satcher, they pay homage to a lover who may not be flashy, but is hardworking and dependable. “If You Ain’t Wearing Boots” — the result of an “eight-hour write” between the trio and Steve O’Brien — takes listeners to Pop Hill, a towering hill in their hometown where they’ve often slowed things down and taken in life while watching the sun set.
“We went through like, 50 concepts before we landed on this song,” says Danica. “It paints a picture of how we were raised. It is one of our favorites on the album — it’s like the difference in how you can cook a meal in 20 minutes and it’d be good, but it’s those Sunday dinners that grandma started on Saturday night. That’s the kind of difference this is.”
In addition to the trio’s whirlwind album release schedule, they continue adding new performance dates, including CMA Fest in Nashville, Alabama’s June Jam in Fort Payne, Ala., and Nashville’s Concert for Love and Acceptance. To date, Chapel Hart’s catalog has tallied 9.6 million on-demand official U.S. streams, according to Luminate.
“Everything feels like a pinch-me moment,” Devin says. “Every time we start processing something amazing that has happened in our career, something else incredible will happen. We’re just super blessed and honored for all the doors that have been opened and it’s awesome to be in the conversation.”