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Neal Learner: News

Welcome to Learner Music & Publishing

Welcome to my website! I'm excited to release my first CD, "Would You Like to Be A Mermaid?"

The disc is filled with 12 upbeat, fun, harmony-filled songs for and about kids. It has received rave reviews from the 10-year-old set. But I'm confident that parents will enjoy this music just as much (Itsy-bitsy spider played on a lone guitar this is not!).

The first track, Secret of Life, explores questions of what makes life good and real, while Eat Good Food offers some sound advice that anyone might want to follow. Rock & Roll Girl paints a lively musical portrait of Neal’s younger daughter Nina (age 9), and Me in You is a touching personal note to his older daughter Nadia (age 10). Spring is about the simple joys of this wonderful season, and My Kind of Heaven captures the joys of being alive at any time of year. Lullaby Your Eyes starts as a simple song to put young-ones to bed and ends with a surprisingly powerful and uplifting finale. Its companion song, Get Up, is a doo-wop wake-up call that can’t be denied. Hush details every parent’s desire to keep their children safe and secure, while Pretty Birdy is about the support and encouragement that parents give their children as they grow. Hubcap Heaven is just plain silly! And Would You Like to Be a Mermaid? rounds out the CD with some intriguing choices that every child has probably pondered at some point or another.

Please come back to check out future notices, blog commentary and other features (and hopefully more CDs). Warm regards, Neal Learner

Hubcap Heaven on NPR's Car Talk - March 21, 2011

Hubcap Heaven was featured on the March 19 episode of NPR's Car Talk! Check it out at the link below. The tune starts at 8:30 on Segment 3 of the show's podcast:

Alexandria Times story - March 18, 2011

The kids are alright
Neal Learner Takes Children’s Music Just Seriously Enough

By David Sachs

When it comes to music, Del Ray resident Neal Learner doesn’t believe kids should be sold short. So he released “Would You Like to Be A Mermaid?” earlier this year, the first album from Neal Learner and the Del Ray Phantom Orchestra.
It’s eclectic, ambling between bluegrass, rock and lullabies. If you listen to it, like it and you’re over 20, that’s OK, Learner says. Some songs edge close to tracks heard on major labels, but Learner croons about fatherhood and childhood  — not life on the road or lost love — without all the goody gumdrops.
The entire disc is performed, written, recorded and mixed by Learner (making him the sole member of the Phantom Orchestra), and its liner notes are speckled with artwork by his daughters Nadia, 11, and Nina, 10, who make an appearance on a few songs. 
Between his family and his day job as a communications specialist in Old Town, Learner talked with the Times about his new disc. 

ALEXANDRIA TIMES: What’s “Mermaid” all about?

NEAL LEARNER: I kind of describe it as music for and about kids, what it means to be in a good state of mind as a kid and as a parent. When you’re in your 20s you write stories about lost love and being ‘on the hunt’ and as a parent, that changes dramatically.

Is the album more of a personal outlet, or an addition to the kids’ music genre?

It’s mostly an outlet but also for kids’ music. You shouldn’t try to sell them short. They like complex stuff, too. You don’t have to be some guy with a guitar playing cute tunes. There’s actually a lot of kids’ music out there and some of it’s really good and some of it makes you kind of roll your eyes. I wanted to make music both parents and kids can enjoy.

Has living in Del Ray contributed to your creativity?

I would definitely say so. There’s a lot of interesting, eclectic people in Del Ray. We’re kind of a fixture on The Avenue. That vibe definately helps the creative juices.

What kind of musical influences inform ‘Mermaid’?

I love the Talking Heads, a lot of sort of silly songs. Rock ‘n’ roll should be fun and sort of silly. It’s kind of corny now, but I love Billy Joel, whose piano work is amazing. I like a well-crafted song that has a strong melody.

Sum up what this album means to you.

It’s really all about the joy of it — the joy of parenting, the troubles — it’s not always easy. But also the joys of being a child. Fatherhood is kind of as rich as it gets in the course of life. You’re right in it. And hopefully my songs reflect that.

“Would You Like to Be A Mermaid” is available in Del Ray at Contessa’s, The Purple Goose, A Show of Hands and online at

© 2011 |

For the original version, click here:



Del Ray/Old Town Patch - March 13, 2011

By Jen Desautels | Email the author | March 12, 2011


Neal Learner's Tunes of Fatherhood: 'Would You Like to Be a Mermaid'

My foot taps on the floor as I watch my daughter and her best friend spin in circles, arms in the air, hugging, kicking their legs, holding hands and promenading around the room. The soundtrack for this morning’s dance party? The upbeat, finger-snapping tunes of Neal Learner and the Del Ray Phantom Orchestra from "Would You Like to Be a Mermaid?" Neal is an Alexandria resident and father to two young girls.

A recent post on Neal’s fatherhood blog reads: "On the path through fatherhood I've had many questions, mainly centering on this one: What is normal versus extraordinary? It's well documented that women feel tremendous pressure to be "Super-Moms!" But my hunch is fathers too wonder how their parenting skills and life habits stack up to others as they seek to be better dads."

"Would You Like to Be a Mermaid?" feels like sunshine. The songs are crisp, lively and energetic, sending two 4-year-olds into a fit of giggles as they jump up and down moving to the beat.

The second song on the album becomes an immediate favorite, “Eat Good Food.” It is upbeat, but the motto that bursts forth is something that I immediately decided I would adopt for my house of preschoolers: “Be Kind, Tell the Truth, Eat Good Food.” For a moment, listening to Neal’s voice and the delivery of this important message, I feel like it is certainly something that will be easy to live by. Talk to me later as I try and force-feed my children mashed potatoes.

The songs are a combination of soothing lullabies and children’s party tunes (demonstrated by the manic dancing behavior of the girls). The music is catchy, the lyrics meaningful and clearly from the heart of a father, as suggested by “Me in You.” I could feel Neal speaking to his own little girls as he croons “No other place I’d rather be than by your side making history.”

Thoughts from the 4-year-old department as they listened to the music?

My daughter: "I thought of dancing!"

Her pal: "I thought of having a best friend."

The album is great for parents and children; parents don’t develop that twitch that can appear with Mickey Mouse’s rendition of “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands” on repeat. "Would You Like to Be a Mermaid?" is creative, jazzy, festive and fun—a perfect musical choice for a morning dance party or a long car trip.

"Would You Like to Be a Mermaid?" is available for purchase in Del Ray at Contessa's, The Purple Goose and A Show of Hands. It's available online at and through Learner's website.

Read the Patch article here:



Alexandria Gazette Packet - February 14, 2011

Business Matters

By Michael Lee Pope
Thursday, February 10, 2011
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Phantom Songs

Del Ray resident Neal Learner says he was having an otherwise unremarkable dinnertime conversation when it happened. The discussion was the standard fare about ferries and princesses until one of the daughters turned to the other and asked a simple question: "Would you like to be a mermaid?"

His ears perked up, and he knew she was onto something.

So he went to work writing and performing tunes, playing every instrument in a multi-track studio he’s playfully dubbed the Del Ray Phantom Orchestra. Now, hundreds of man-hours later, Learner has self-published a new CD titled "Would You Like to Be a Mermaid?" The 12 tracks include songs with titles like "Eat Good Food" and "Hubcap Heaven."

"It’s an upbeat and uplifting compilation," said Learner, a journalist and communications professional who started playing violin as a child. "It’s got touches of doo-wop, bluegrass and pop."

Hard copies of the album are available from CD Baby for $14, although some Del Ray establishments are selling it for $10. Like all modern musicians, Learner is also selling his music online for 99 cents a song or $10 for all 12 tracks. But that doesn’t mean he’s happy about it.

"I’m kind of old school in that way because I still think about CDs as innovative new technology," he said. "As an artist, I don’t think it’s a good trend to sell songs in bits and pieces instead of having an album that you can play front to back."
Read the Gazette article here:

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