At the do-it-yourself (DIY) studio setup inside the confines of his room, which he describes as “bare and minimal,” Noah Raquel apologizes for arriving a few minutes later than the Zoom call time.
Around this narrow space is where Noah would usually make his own music and entertain virtual meetings, such as this exclusive sit-down interview with PhilSTAR L!fe.
Noah wears a modest white T-shirt, hair draping down the forehead displaying his sleek curls. He can talk at length but remains articulate, responding to each question with tenacity. He gets very animated, especially when he wants to make a point, often moving his hands or shifting his arms.
It has been seven months now since Noah has gotten into running out of a need to embrace a change in lifestyle – a need he has eventually come to love. If not spending time with the family’s six dogs, he runs. It’s what he does outside of music.
At 24, Noah has grown a huge fan base, amassing over 1.4 million combined followers on TikTok and his YouTube channel, in the span of two years of covering and recreating chart-topping songs. Since 2020, the time when he began to gain real traction, the Filipino musician has done over 50 song covers and tons of audience-based content. He has also been collaborating with music recording platform BandLab.
On Sept. 30, Noah released his debut single “Nakalimutan,” with an accompanying music video. Noah’s TikTok video featuring the song has reached over 6.4 million views as of this writing. It was soon followed by the release of “Jowa” on Oct. 28. An acoustic version of one of the tracks will complete the musician’s debut EP “Jowa ni Noah.”
Navigating early success
Noah credits this burgeoning success in his young career to his exposure to music production at the height of the pandemic. The artist toyed with the idea of producing music covers after he got laid off as a manager at a restaurant – a job he said he hated.
“Matagal na ako actually na gumagawa ng covers. Matagal na akong kumakanta. Matagal na ako naggigitara, sumasali ng choir,” says Noah. “So may idea ako sa utak ko: ‘What if gumawa kaya ako ng covers?’ Kasi marunong naman ako maggitara, marunong naman ako kumanta. Tapos at the same time, nag-dance din ako when I was in college. So what if pagsama-samahin ko ‘yung tatlo – dance, guitar, and singing? So nag-release ako ng cover sa YouTube.”
“And of course, when you do something repetitive, matututo ka talaga sa music production and recording. [I’m] recording my voice into the microphone. Kahit ‘yung cellphone ko, ginagamit ko,” he adds.
But the monotony of covering hit songs almost as a daily routine propelled him to create original music, beginning with an English song. “Maganda siya pero it didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel [like] me. Parang may disconnect between me and my music.”
That is, until he began writing a song in Filipino, from which the groovy heartbreak single “Nakalimutan” was born.
Balancing the upbeat with the melancholic
Mixed by Rob Murray, who has previously worked with the likes of Britney Spears and Sia, Noah shares that his debut single is not 100% about his story.
“Although the lyrics are very personal to me, there are also a lot of parts in the song na nilagay ko siya dun kasi gusto kong maging maganda ‘yung kanta,” says the artist. “Personal sa akin ‘yung kanta. It’s about my past. Nagka-jowa ako nun, and ‘yun ang pinaghugutan ko sa kuwento ng ‘Nakalimutan.’”
Despite crafting a sad song, Noah admits he was happily single at the time. “That’s why nung ginawa ko ‘yung beat, mabilis siya. And then triny ko lang maglagay ng lyrics kasi nagsusulat ako ng lyrics sa cellphone ko,” explains Noah as he imitates the song’s funky beat. “So lumabas ‘yung ‘Nakalimutan mo na ba kung bakit mo ‘ko nagustuhan?’ ‘Yun ang pinakaunang vocal or lyric na napunta sa song. And then sabi ko, ‘Ang catchy nun, ah.’”
Noah adds: “It all came very naturally. And then I sought help from a lyricist kasi may friend akong magaling sa lyrics. Tinulungan niya ako. Natapos namin ‘yung kanta under one week.”
His latest single “Jowa” follows the same treatment, driven by the urge to strike a balance between the upbeat and the melancholic and steer away from what he calls as the overtly “sad and slow” OPM songs.
“‘Nakalimutan’ is a fun song. I mean, it’s a sad song but the production and the melodies, high energy siya. Upbeat and masaya ‘pag pinakinggan mo without the lyrics,” says Noah. “Ganun din ‘yung ‘Jowa’ pero parang naka-steroids lang. Mas mabilis pa and then mas upbeat pa.”
@noah.raquel “Mayroon kana palang ✨Jowa✨ na iba?” ARAY Q 😭 #newsong #originalmusic ♬ original sound - Noah Raquel
Both tracks were fine-tuned by Noah’s lyricist Samantha Isabelle and recorded in his small yet all-purpose studio setup at home, which the artist proudly toured me around via Zoom. “Despite na napakaliit nitong studio ko and napaka-bare and minimal, lahat ng tools na kailangan ko, nandito na.”
Noah says that having to produce his own music in the comfort of his room was an exhilarating experience.
“It was very fun kasi nga tapos na ako sa phase na [I’m] figuring out how to work with software and how to play the guitar. Parang it’s just a matter of having an idea, putting it into the computer, and figuring out kung paano ko tatapusin ‘yung song parang puzzle pieces. Binubuo ko na lang,” shares the musician.
In fact, Noah wishes he had started creating original music sooner. “It’s so much more satisfying and iba siya when you make something that you like and that you’re proud of and it came from your heart, you’ll be very happy about it.”
Blurring music genre lines
But how has Noah fared with the artists of his generation?
The singer-songwriter says it’s in his conscious effort to refuse confining his artistry in a specific genre. “Actually, I think that music as of now is like [the] word ‘genre,’ mas nagiging less and less applicable na like when I say pop music, napaka-wide na niya. And ‘pag pinakinggan mo ‘yung ‘Jowa’ at ‘Nakalimutan,’ pop music siya pero meron din siyang elements ng rock.”
“In terms of genre, I think it’s just [a matter of] getting inspiration from all the music that I’ve listened to before,” adds Noah. “Mahilig din ako sa choir noon like nae-enjoy ko ‘yung rich harmony na different layers. That’s why na-implement ko rin siya sa ‘Nakalimutan’ and ‘Jowa.’ Maririnig mo na maraming harmonies and layers ‘yung vocals ko. Ganun din sa guitars, inspired din siya by hip hop. ‘Yung drums, very punchy and hard-hitting kasi nga na-exposed din ako sa dance culture [kung saan] malaking bagay ang beats.”
Discovering these uncharted aspects of his musicality allows Noah to be more versatile as an artist.
“Ang saya lang na pagsama-samahin ‘yung sounds without having to try to define them. [Wala na ‘yung limitation na] ‘bawal kong gamitin ‘to kasi galing ‘to sa ethnic, bawal ‘to gamitin kasi hindi naman ito ‘yung style or genre,’” he says.
While Noah has found a platform on TikTok, he also doesn’t want for his music to be defined by it. “I was obsessed [with TikTok before]. That’s why I kept on making covers because I was gaining popularity. It was fun seeing all these comments, all these likes, the reaction from the audience. But it came to a point na parang paulit-ulit na lang. ‘Yung music ko parang influence na lang ng TikTok. I would say na these two songs so far – ‘Jowa’ and ‘Nakalimutan’ – I didn’t make them for TikTok.”
The artist adds: “You don’t have to release stuff that you don’t like. Kung gagawa ako ng sarili kong kanta, gusto ko ‘yung proud ako iparinig sa inyong lahat. Hindi ko siya ire-release dahil baka pwede siyang mag-trending sa TikTok.”
As he patiently proves his mettle as an emerging artist and performer in the changing landscape of the local music scene, Noah says that “this is just the beginning.”
“I really enjoyed making [original music], and I think I’m gonna make more and even better songs,” he promises.