Hannah Longstreet is a singer/songwriter with a CD on iTunes, radio talk show appearances, and performances all over the metro area under her belt.
Somewhere in Blue Springs there’s a bright pink Victorian house surrounded by a forest of pink flowers, and Michaelangelo-inspired cherubs painted on the piano room ceiling. Clearly, someone artistic has to live there.
That someone is Hannah Longstreet, a singer/songwriter with a CD on iTunes, radio talk show appearances, and performances all over the metro area under her belt.
At 16, that ain’t too shabby.
“I’m just a regular teenager. It’s not like I’m a musical genius, I just try really hard and sometimes it works,” Hannah said. “I do homework, I do chores, I argue with my mom. I don’t get out of anything because of my music.”
This St. Teresa’s Academy junior with hair highlights to match her house paint, is an average teen with a twist.
She began playing the piano at age 5, started writing songs two years ago and since then has written almost 30. Eight of those songs were on her first CD “All Used Up” which came out this January on iTunes.
“I don’t record all of (the songs), just my favorites,” she said. “I record everything by myself on my computer, on my mic and my Dr. Dre headphones. I do everything myself.”
Her sound is mostly alternative, but it changes with her moods.
“People would call my sound alternative, but sometimes I can be ambient, poppy. I play what I feel like playing,” she said.
She’s inspired by her favorite artists Norah Jones, Regina Spektor, Esperanza Spalding.
“My favorite song changes from day to day,” she said.
Longstreet uses garage band software on her Mac to make her recordings. Her father, David, works at the Apple store in Leawood, Kan., so she gets a heads-up and discount on the latest software. She also burns the CDs and prints off the self-designed covers by herself.
“My mentor is myself. As I write, it starts to improve, I’m sort of teaching myself as I go along,” she said. “Practice makes perfect, so I got to practice.”
Hannah writes her music in the summer, records in the fall and publishes and publicizes it in the winter. She burns her CDs in groups of 50 and sells them for $10. She has sold/given out around 100 CDs. Like every artist, Hannah is learning the art of hawking oneself.
“I give them out a lot, whenever I get the chance,” she said.
Sometimes she hands them out or sells them at City Market when she plays on the street. She was also on Web Talk with Bob (1510 AM) in May to talk about how she uses the internet to promote herself and make money.
“I started out in a weird place. Most people start out in small places, coffee houses, friends, family, then they get a contract,” she said. “I started out on iTunes.”
Hannah says she doesn’t mind doing everything herself, and isn’t pining for an agent.
“There’s a person between you and your music. I don’t have an agent, so I get 70 percent and 30 percent goes out. Fifty years ago I’d make like six percent,” she said. “I’ve never wanted one before. Sometime I may have to get a lawyer, though. I like it just being me. I know exactly what I’m going to do and there’s no cheating.”
The freedom to do what she wants comes with a price.
“Right now I’m just trying to get myself out there and known. It’s easier to get people to buy your music on iTunes and not know who you are,” she said. “I’m talking to Web sites, radio stations, newspapers and trying to get my name out there. It’s difficult.”
Unlike some parents whose worst nightmare is a child who wants to be an artist, Hannah’s parents love her career choice. In fact, David was the one who encouraged her to put her music on iTunes.
“I just want to play, and really my dad was the one who wanted me to do iTunes. I was like ‘I don’t want to sell it, no one’s gonna buy it,’” Hannah said.
“But he told me, ‘the worst they can say is no.’ I just did it and it’s worked out. It’s more successful than I thought it would be.”
David even sold his 1960 Chevy Impala Belair to buy a grand piano for her 15th birthday.
“That’s enough birthday presents for the rest of my life,” she said.
Her parents are used to their children being drawn to the arts, it runs in the family. Hannah’s brother Joe, 23, is a graphic designer and her sister Rachel, 22, is an installation artist.
“My parents are so excited about it all. Their kids are all artists, they do think I can make a career out of it,” Hannah said. “My sister says ‘Even if you’re poor, I swear it’s fun.’ Everyone in my family loves it.”
Her parents have their share of aesthetic talent; her mother, Margaret, is a primo cook and gardener, and David loves taking photographs.
Hannah’s family members aren’t her only groupies, her friends are fully behind her.
“My friends love to buy all my stuff, all of them bought a CD. We don’t really talk about it very much,” she said. “I was on the radio a little while ago and they said ‘Hey, good job on the radio. Did you do the homework assignment?’ They just sort of accept it, I don’t have any jealous friends.”
Hannah hangs out with her friends and boyfriend a lot during the school year. She’s also involved with the Dead Poet’s Society, the math team, teaches piano lessons and works at an afterschool program at Visitation Academy during the school year.
“Music, I save mostly for the weekend or when I want to procrastinate,” she said.
With only two years left in high school, Hannah is looking to the future.
“I hope I can make it as a small career in high school and maybe a career later on,” she said. “I’d love to make a living making music. If I didn’t make money I’d still do it, I just want to be happy.”