Mississippi folks don’t play.
That’s the message from vocal trio Chapel Hart, who made headlines after its “America’s Got Talent” audition aired July 19.
Two Mississippi-born sisters and a first cousin make up the singing group, who brought the show’s judges and the audience to their feet with their hand-clapping, toe-tapping original song “You Can Have Him, Jolene,” inspired by the Dolly Parton classic, “Jolene.” That performance earned Chapel Hart the coveted “golden buzzer,” allowing them to automatically advance to the competition’s finals, bypassing the semis.
On the NBC show that night, the singers’ hometown was listed as Poplarville, Mississippi, although Danica Hart, Devynn Hart and Trea Swindle have lived in New Orleans for the last eight years, four years and 10 years, respectively. Accordingly, many news outlets identified the women as New Orleanians.
And boy, did the Mississippi fans react, taking to social media with comments like “those girls are from Mississippi, NOT New Orleans!” and “don’t let New Orleans claim them, they try to claim everything!”
“That’s going to be our next bridge of love,” Danica Hart said by phone two days after the show aired. “It looks like New Orleans and Mississippi are fighting over us, which is a good problem to have.
“We are born and raised in Mississippi, but New Orleans pretty much adopted us and took us in,” she added, crediting show editing with omitting the part where the trio said they live in the Crescent City now.
“Nevertheless, we 100% claim and represent New Orleans as well,” she said.
The confusion was multiplied when their audition footage and touching, inspiring story went viral.
“Trust me, I needed you today. I mean, that was fantastic. I love you,” judge Simon Cowell commented after the song.
A tearful Danica Hart, who the other two agree is the diva, began, “We’ve been trying to break in to Nashville the last couple of years, but it’s been hard. I think country music doesn’t always look like us, and so. …”
As Parton music was heard in the background, Cowell replied, “You know what you’ve got to do sometimes, you’ve got to break down that door.”
“First of all, I love the song, I love the energy, I love the look,” judge Howie Mandel said. “You say country music doesn’t look like you — that is your win because you are going to be the original.”
But back to Tupelo. Just to clarify, the Harts and their cousin grew up a stone’s throw from the Mississippi town of 2,900, not in Tupelo proper.
“We’re from Hart’s Chapel, named after our family (and modified for their stage name). It’s a small, rural community and most people say they know they’re in Hart’s Chapel whenever they get to the top of the hill and they can see our church, Hart’s Chapel Baptist Church,” Swindle explained. “It’s just a place of pure family. We used to sing in a kids’ choir because we have like 108 first cousins. It’s the place that made us the women we are today.”
As the encouraging and loving messages continue to flow in, Devynn Hart says it’s mind-blowing for the girls from little Hart’s Chapel.
“It’s a blessing and an honor and we are just so excited to have this platform now,” she said.
Chapel Hart will return to the stage sometime in August. The show airs at 7 p.m. Tuesdays on NBC.
For more on “America’s Got Talent,” visit nbc.com/americas-got-talent.