By Kevin Wierzbicki | Photography courtesy of Chuck Arlund
The Delta’s latest contribution to the music world is Southern Halo, a trio of sisters who are making their voices heard in Nashville.
It might be a bit puzzling to some why the GRAMMY Museum Mississippi even exists, let alone why it is located in the tiny city of Cleveland where the population barely tops 12,000, a far cry from the Los Angeles location of the original and only other GRAMMY Museum. But Cleveland is situated in the Mississippi Delta, a flat farming region that has also raised up an incredible crop of musicians that includes famed blues men James Cotton, B.B. King and John Lee Hooker. Widely recognized as “the birthplace of America’s music,” the Delta continues to give with young acts like Southern Halo, the country/pop trio consisting of Natalia, Christina and Hannah Morris.
The Morris sisters now reside in Nashville part of the time, but they will always be Delta girls attached to their native Cleveland.
“I believe that the Mississippi Delta’s musical history is the true inspiration behind many musicians,” Natalia says. “We have always said and truly believe that there’s something in that Delta dirt.”
Natalia is the oldest of the siblings and was the first to get into music, playing piano at 6-years-old and picking up the guitar a few years later. It didn’t take long for the Delta to work its magic; Southern Halo was born while the sisters were still in elementary school.
After playing shows in regional bars and restaurants, the girls got their first big break when Southern Halo was invited to play at B.B. King’s Birthday Homecoming Festival in Indianola, Mississippi, in 2012.
“It was our largest audience to date, and we expanded our set list to include blues songs and we were overwhelmed at the wonderful audience response,” says Christina. “They made us feel right at home on the big stage. And we had the honor of meeting B.B. after the show.”
Since those early days, Southern Halo has been on the fast track to stardom. Their first EP was produced by Jeff Cook of Alabama, they’ve toured overseas multiple times, they’ve played on the Spotlight Stage at the CMA Fest, they’ve placed singles on the Billboard and Music Row charts, and they’ve recently released an impressive new album called “Just Like in the Movies.”
Regarding the group’s skyrocketing popularity, Hannah says, “We love to think that our family, friends and community help to keep us grounded. It takes a village to raise a child, literally!”
Hannah also cites an example of an ego-busting occurrence from a show in Nashville: “Our equipment cart blew a tire right on Broadway during the CMA Fest, and we had to carry the equipment piece-by-piece down the busiest street in Nashville. It was hilarious!”
“Just Like in the Movies” is a concept album, the seeds of which came to Natalia in a dream. The album opens with the catchy “Southern Halo,” a cut that’s not directly about the band; rather it’s a celebration of all Delta young ladies, who among other delightful things are described as being “Sweeter than a glass of tea.”
Sugary harmonies are a big part of Southern Halo’s appeal and the three blend voices flawlessly on “Notice Me,” an appeal to a seemingly uninterested guy, on the encouraging “Anything is Possible” and during the homesick “Missing Mississippi.”
Everything on the album is crafted not only for the charts but also for hearts; cuts like the self-explanatory “Coming Home” and “Gettin’ Back Up” will strike a chord with many who have experienced similar emotions. Perhaps the song nearest to being autobiographical is “My Girls & Me,” a story of the rigors of being a musician on the road and the difficulty and ultimately the joys of all that comes along with it.
Natalia, Christina and Hannah Morris are barely out of their teen years, and this fall Southern Halo will be performing a few shows on the High School Nation tour, appearing in as-yet-to-be-named schools in Texas and Florida in late September and in South Carolina in early October. Southern Halo will also perform at the Chillin’ on the Lucie festival Oct. 5 and 6 in Port St. Lucie, Florida where they’ll share the bill with Craig Campbell, Parmalee, and Wynonna & the Big Noise as well as perform a special show with Trent Tomlinson.
It seems like Natalia’s dream is rapidly becoming reality for Southern Halo, so what about that GRAMMY Museum in the band’s hometown?
“On the outside of the museum there’s a photo montage representing Mississippi’s music heritage,” Natalia says about the Cleveland installation. “It depicts famous artists’ faces and you can see it from the main road. It would be pretty cool to be right there in the middle of them!”