by Rick Moore
Seldom does a performer or group actually have the ability to fulfill the promise of the hype surrounding them. Country vocal trio Southern Halo is one of those rare acts, though, that not only has the goods, but delivers them, and has the Nashville music industry paying serious attention.
Comprised of teenage sisters Natalia (just turned 19), Christina (17), and Hannah Morris (16), Southern Halo has opened for Randy Houser and Jamie Lynn Spears, performed at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, and recorded with Alabama’s Jeff Cook, just to name a few career highlights. Their tight, natural sibling harmonies have the critics and music execs gushing. And they also play guitar, drums and bass, respectively, in their live shows. Journalist Rick Moore caught up with lead singer Natalia at their home in Cleveland, Mississippi, the day after the trio shot a music video in for their latest single, “Rewind,” from their self-titled debut album.
How long have the three of you seriously been singing together? And do your parents play music as well?
We started about eight years ago, but we began working really seriously around 2012. Then we did the Texaco Country Showdown in 2013. Within the next year we started getting phone calls to open for some big artists. The year after that we started working on our album. Our parents aren’t really musically inclined, but they have been so supportive of our career. They love what we do, and they travel everywhere on the road with us. Dad even turned the garage into a band room (laughs). They’ve done so much for us. It’s a big fun family thing.
So how did the three of you learn to sing and play?
We never really took any lessons, we basically taught ourselves to sing and play off of YouTube videos. But we also have a great university here in our hometown, Cleveland, where they have the Delta Music Institute, and we’re great friends with one of the instructors there who gave us some lessons. We also went to some music camps there. But we mostly learned off of YouTube.
Cleveland is in the heart of the Delta, and you’re obviously not a Blues act. How did you come to be so interested in Country music?
It’s real interesting, because the music in Cleveland is so inspirational. We actually did start out singing Blues music. We played Blues around town, learned how to play instruments on a lot of Blues songs, grew up playing in juke joints and at Blues festivals. We actually got to open up for B.B. King in 2012 and 2014. We were doing things by Sam Cooke, Etta James, and songs like [Robert Johnson’s] “Dust My Broom” and [John Lee Hooker’s] “Boom Boom.”
But then our voices really started to develop and we began to harmonize together more. So as we did that, we began to fall in love with Country music more, as the Blues really isn’t known for three-part harmony. Our parents have always loved playing music around the house, so we grew up with all genres of music. We loved listening to groups like the Dixie Chicks and SHeDAISY.
Yes, it’s very possible. It doesn’t happen too often, but while Hannah handles most of the low harmonies she can nail a song like a Colbie Caillat song. As her voice develops she’s finding songs she’d like to sing. And Christina is different from both of us vocally. Her ear is great. When we’re discussing harmony parts she can hear exactly what we all should sing, and then she can nail high parts like Celine Dion, and has real soulful vocals. She’s very gifted.
Who inspires you as a singer?
I gravitate mostly towards the Country singers, but I really love Kelly Clarkson. She has such great control of her voice. I’m working real hard to get that, too.
I know you just graduated from high school, but how have the three of you managed to juggle touring and recording with getting an education?
All three of have been going to an online prep school that’s based in California. It’s a school that prepares you for any college you want, and it’s been great for kids like us who want to pursue their dreams and their careers. We can actually go to school remotely while we’re on the road because of the flexibility. It’s been perfect.
Considering the amount of time you and your sisters spend together, do you get along pretty well?
We get along really well. Basically starting a business together, and constantly working together, has brought us so much closer to one another. If we ever fight over anything it’s definitely our clothes because we’re all the same size.
For more about Southern Halo, visit www.southernhalo.net
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