Alexandria Gazette Packet

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."
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