The up and coming Country music trio, Southern Halo, from the small town of Cleveland, Mississippi, have been busy making a name for themselves in the industry with their music, which has been described as “a blend of multiple Country styles, current Alt. Pop vibes and a dash of Southern Rock,” along with their beautiful harmonies. Southern Halo are Morris sisters Natalia (principal songwriter, guitarist, lead vocalist), Christina (drums) and Hannah (bass).
Their current CD, SOUTHERN HALO, produced in 2015 by SESAC’s 2012 Writer of the Year Catt Gravitt (Kelly Clarkson, Jake Owen) and Gerald O’Brien (writer of hits for Martina McBride, Trace Adkins), has spawned three hit single/videos: “Little White Dress,” “Rewind” and “Living Like That.” The Morris sisters recently spent time in the studio recording their next album which they said will include more original music and lots of harmonies.
On their way to the UK this week for the British Country Music Association Awards, the sisters have been nominated in the International Act of the Year (Touring) category and will also be performing and presenting at the awards show scheduled October 22. We wish them luck!
We had a chance to recently chat with the girls on a conference call, where they all three were in different cities working on projects, to talk about their background in music, family life, what’s new for the next album, and meeting B.B. King.
Cover Photo by Chuck Arlund
Left to right are: Southern Halo- are Hannah, Christina and Natalia Morris
Natalia, you’re the guitarist in the group. When did you first start playing guitar and how did your sisters get involved with the instruments they play?
I actually started off playing the piano at age six and I loved it so much that I just continued playing it. Then about six years later when I was twelve years old, I found an old Taylor guitar in my dad’s closet and I really wanted to learn how to play that, as well. Knowing the piano first kind of helped me to learn other instruments very easily, and I just picked up the guitar really well. Then my sisters actually wanted to play an instrument as soon as they figured out I was playing. So, they picked out some instruments that basically suited their personality. Christina is the middle child and she is super crazy so she instantly took to the drums. And she’s just loved it ever since.
Christina: And this is definitely evident on stage! Me being the drummer, I’m also the middle child, which makes me crazy. Definitely, a lot of drummers have that persona.
Hannah: And me being the baby of the group, the bass player, I’m very laid back and chill, so my personality just fits my instrument really well.
Do you come from a musical family?
Oh, no. Not at all! (Laughs.)
But your Dad had a guitar? Did he play?
Natalia: He actually told me he tried to learn so he could pick up girls in college, but it never really worked out. (Laughs.)
You’re known for your harmonies. What are your backgrounds in vocal and how did you develop your style?
Christina: Growing up we have always listened to the classics and lots of musical groups that had great harmonies like Fleetwood Mac and the Dixie Chicks. We said to each other, ‘why can’t we be like that? Let’s just do what they’re doing.” So, we each picked up different parts of the harmonies and here we are today.
Natalia: I would like to add that when we were like little kids, we went to music camps at the university in our home town, Delta State University. I would have to say that also helped define our voices. We were given little pieces to sing and they grouped us together since we were sisters. Ever since we did that one camp, we were just like, wow… we really loved singing together! So, we kind of just ran with it after that.
You’re obviously a very close-knit family and your parents are very supportive of your musical career. Share with us one family value that has given you the drive to pursue your career in the highly competitive music industry?
Natalia: Yes, my parents are extremely supportive and they’re really cool. Dad even let us turn his garage into a band room–he took down all his cars! He’s a radiologist so he gets to take his work with him on the road and Mom drives the bus. So, every show is literally like a family vacation.
As to one family value, I would have to say mom and dad’s hard work ethic. We’ve grown up constantly watching them always support us, always love us, and just work so hard so we could live a great life. The only way I can really think of to pay them back for that is to work just as hard as them. They’re very, very inspirational and such great parents. They’ve been really good at teaching us that if you really want something in life, you have to work really hard at it- put those 10,000 hours into anything and you will be the best at it.
The band has been so busy with interviews, writing, performing, photo shoots and videos, and all the things that come along with pursuing a career in music, how do you still find time for yourself, and what does being yourself include?
Natalia: For me, it’s all about time management. That’s something I think everybody learns as you grow up in life- taking on a busy life and still finding time for a social life, as well. So, we’re good with time management- set aside a few hours for school, a few hours for music, road time, and even time to fit in friends. Socializing and networking is very important, especially growing up in the music industry. That’s what the girls and I have definitely learned. And it also helps growing up in a really cute, small town because it’s so easy to stay connected with our friends. We always find time to hang out with them on the weekends, go support the football games and basketball games, all those fun things.
Christina: I know any time that we’ve come home from a gig or radio tour, it’s great for all of us to just try to recollect ourselves. As for time management, we do our work, of course, and then we use our other time to have fun because you can’t have work without play. For me, I just love to use my time fishing, mud riding, any kind of crazy outdoor adventure.
Hannah: I would have to say we each have a hobby that we love to do, so Natalia is really into working out and nutrition, Christina loves her mud riding and fishing, and then me, I really love to find time to just deal with animals. I’m actually an equestrian, so I like to go out to the barn and ride a little bit. And I always have time for my friends on the side.
As sisters, how does the band operate? Natalia, as the oldest sibling, do you take on more of the leadership role for the band or do you guys all have equal input? How does all that play out?
Natalia: You know that was something that we also learned growing up. We’ve been doing this since about 2009 I would have to say. We’ve learned a lot, especially being together so close in age, growing up in the music industry. We taught ourselves, and our parents have also helped teach us, that it’s us three against the world. Work together. And we’re literally best friends, too. So, anytime that an argument ever arose, the girls and I just really worked our hardest to always overcome that. And back to the leadership thing, I wouldn’t really say that I’m the leader or anything, but I am the oldest sister so I do have that mentality of guiding my sisters in the right way. But the great thing about my sisters are they are just so cool and we are all so different that we learn from each other. We have learned to work together with our differences and our different personalities. And that makes us even stronger.
Christina: And we all each bring different things to the table so it all just equals out in the end.
For such a young band, you’ve opened for some great artists, most notably, the late great B.B. King. What an incredible experience! Can you share with us a memorable moment?
Christina: I just remember that when we first got to meet him, we were all really excited. We brought him some of our merch and he loved one of our hats we gave him and we actually got a picture of him wearing it. I was just hanging out with him and his family. It was just such a great experience.
Natalia: I would have to say it was pretty cool, too. We got a really good picture of him in his Southern Halo hat so that was awesome.
Let’s move on to your writing process. Since you all have different artists that have influenced you, how do the three of you approach the writing process?
Natalia: We each do have our different influences in the industry. I gravitate toward country artists, Christina gravitates toward rock artists, and Hannah loves pop songs. We each get together and we don’t try to be like really anyone else. We just try to bring all of our influences together and then turn it into Southern Halo. That’s what makes Southern Halo today.
As for the writing process, I’ve been playing the guitar and piano since I was really, really young and I started writing songs at a very young age, as well. So usually I mainly write the lyrics by myself. Then I come together with my two sisters and they help me build the song musically and kind of produce the song. So, we come together and make a song the way it sounds today. It’s really fun and they’re a lot of fun to work with.
How did you come up with the name Southern Halo?
Natalia: Hannah, do you remember?
Hannah: Actually, it’s a really funny story. As kids growing up in a small town and when we would walk around our community, everyone would call us the “angels of the south.” We were like, ‘hey, why don’t we just call our band Southern Halo?’
“Living Like That” was your last single that was released earlier this year. And now you’re heading into the studio to record some new tunes, what are we going to hear?
Natalia: Yes! We’re so excited about that. We can’t wait to get this next album out there.
Christina: Definitely a lot more harmonies, a lot more music, and a lot of originals!
Natalia: And I would also have to say that when we did do our last album, we were so young and still trying to figure out who we were. As we grow together as sisters, we are slowly and gradually figuring out who we are. This album means a lot to us because each song is so important to us. We are proud of each and every one of them, and we can’t wait to share it with everybody.
How many songs?
Natalia: We have fourteen songs for this next album, so we’re excited!
You’ve had so much going on this year and more exciting news is your appearance at the British Country Music Association Awards. Tell us about that!
Natalia: Yes, the BCMAs are going to be taking place in England on the 22nd. We are so excited about it. I even think we’re up for a few awards. We’re going to see all the bands and people and new friends that we met on our last trip over there so it’s going to be like a big, fun family reunion. And then after that we are going out on a Radio tour and performing that week based around our new European single “Just Like In The Movies.”
Lastly, I would like to ask about your guitar gear. Your bio states you’re endorsed by Gibson.
Yes, we are, and it really helps being endorsed by Gibson whenever we go to Europe because they let us borrow instruments from the Gibson factory so we don’t have to take all of our equipment overseas. Christina has a great Gibson bass, and I have a beautiful Gibson J45 acoustic guitar and Les Paul. They’ve just been really sweet to us and we just love their instruments.
Any particular musicians who’ve had an impact on you?
Hannah: I really love Tal Wilkenfeld. She’s a great bass player.
Christina: Being a drummer and being obsessed with rock music, I just can’t get enough of Dave Grohl and he just came out with a new album actually and I’m so obsessed about the whole thing.
One of contributing writers, Steve Byrd, had a few questions that he’d like to add:
Since you’ve already been doing your own radio show in Mississippi, entitled “Hangin’ with Halo”, how has that worked out?
Natalia: When we did “Hanging With Halo,” it was nothing short of amazing. We learned so much more about the music industry. In a two-hour show, we would play all the newest country songs, chat about what was going on with all the country artists, and what’s going on in the music industry. We just learned a lot from it and it was a lot of fun. It was aired on Europe’s number one country music station CMR Nashville and sometimes listeners even got to hear the scoop on Nashville before it even hit the news.
What struggles, if any, have you experienced as a band to earn respect in the music industry?
Natalia: I would have to say that especially with us wanting to be independent because we really want to know how everything works ourselves before we get signed, so being an independent artist is a little harder in the music industry if you’re not signed. You have to do most of the work yourself. But like my dad always taught us, hard work is always the number one thing, and we just love getting to do it together. Like you said, we love doing it for fun and the fact that we get to do what we love to do together as a job is just the coolest thing in the world.
One more from Steve: Since your music is described as a country-pop-rock hybrid, has your being categorized as a country act improved your chances at stardom more than if you were categorized as pop or rock?
Christina: It’s not necessarily about becoming famous. I think that we really enjoy the whole country route because it’s more like a family. All country artists really reach out to each other and so it’s just like a big family and we want to be a part of that. We’re just more aligned with the country acts more heavily than the other genres.
AND NOW ON TO A FEW FUN QUESTIONS:
In your quick facts, you mentioned your favorite food to “cook” is cereal? What cereal do you “cook”?
I really love Honey Bunches of Oats. I cook that every morning and I’m pretty good at it, too!
You also stated in your quick facts your favorite candy is Russell Stover dark assorted chocolates. Are you one of those that takes a bite out of every candy to see what’s inside before deciding to eat it?
Yes! Yes, I do.
Your favorite candy is Reese’s peanut butter cups? There’s been some rumors circulating on social medial lately about Reese’s being discontinued…and right before Halloween! Thankfully, it’s been debunked as “fake” news. What would you do if Reese’s were discontinued?
I would buy them all as soon as possible before they got it off the shelves and save them and then eat them periodically because I can’t live my life without Reese’s peanut butter cups.
I read where you said your favorite food is “meat, meat and meat.” So, you’re definitely not vegan!! What is your “favorite” meat?
I cannot get enough of lamb. I just love any part of the lamb. It’s just the most tender meat out there and I love it.
As the youngest of the group, do you get harassed by your older siblings?
Actually, no. If anything, they’re a good inspiration for me. Anything they do, we always support each other. I’ve learned a lot from them, that’s for sure!
You love Whiskey Pecan Magnolia Ice cream. Are you old enough to eat that?
Well, I’m actually 17, so they don’t put a lot of whiskey in it. I have a really good friend who makes this ice cream brand Sweet Magnolia Ice Cream and it is amazing. It’s just a hint of whiskey…it’s not a full thing, so I can take it pretty much.
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