Pedal steel Noah cover glamor fans online. Next up: his own songs.

Like many American teenagers, 16-year-old Noah Faulkner was obsessed with music. He would spend hours going down rabbit holes, listening to every note played by his favorite artists and researching new discoveries. He recently concluded a month-long in-depth study of Clarence Ashley, a banjo player who recorded during the Great Depression, ” Makes me feel like an old man,” Faulkner said. Ashley’s music “feels very eerie, I imagined it was like some abandoned place.”

Unlike most teenagers, Faulkner is channeling these influences into a dedicated music career. Using a Pedal Steel Noah handle, he posts covers of ’80s new wave and post-punk hits on Instagram and TikTok every day, interpreting the work of bands like the Smiths and Tears for Fears on one of the most difficult instruments to master. Along the way, he’s attracted fans of Neko Case, Big Thief, Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle, and many others drawn to his emotional playing and captivating setting: a large Texas flag in the background, and he’s 13 Younger brother Nate plays bass and has shaggy hair.

In March, the brothers and their father, Jay, performed multiple shows at the South by Southwest music festival in their hometown, opening for the Black Keys’ keynote. Wearing a Western-style shirt, a black cowboy hat, and the colorful Crocs that have become his signature footwear, Pedal Steel Noah hits Texas to the tune of Duran Duran and the Cocteau Twins State seal.

“It’s great,” he said via video call from his dining room table, his family gathered around him, “but it’s also exhausting. Hopefully I can give myself a reward and throw a party for my friends. Monday , he took the next step in his young career by releasing an EP, “Texas Madness,” which included three cover songs and two original songs.

Faulkner, who is autistic, has had an intense curiosity about music most of his life. When he was a little kid, he would spend hours every day at the piano, trying out the pedals and listening to the sounds each key made. Later, his mother Christine said, “We sent him to speech-language pathology school before he could speak. One day, the director came out and said, ‘Noah sang a whole song!’ ” He sang before he actually spoke. It was his first language.

Faulkner’s interest in pedal piano stemmed from an early love of country music. “When I want to listen to some upbeat and faithful music, I’m listening to George Strait,” he explains. “I loved the pedal steel in his songs. I loved how sustained and atmospheric it sounded. His music teacher Buca Allen (son of Lone Star artist Terry Allen) introduced the Faulkners to Law Ed Means, Lloyd Means was something of a Texas royalty, having played with Robert Earl Keene, Joe Ely and two generations of Allens.

Maine helped the family find a great beginner pedal steel—Mullen, the same brand he uses. After it was set up at their home, he gave Faulkner his first and only lesson, teaching him how to hold the bar, how to put on the pick, and what each pedal did. “I played him an old Bob Wills song called ‘Steel Guitar Rag,’ which was very tricky to play,” Maines recalled in a phone interview. “It took him a while to figure out how to hold the bar, but he played me the basics of that song right away.”

Faulkner immersed himself in the instrument’s history, learning techniques by imitating his favorite players and exploring the range of sounds that could be produced from the strings. After he started recording covers and originals in GarageBand and uploading the videos to YouTube, his parents realized there was an opportunity to introduce some structure into their son’s life and possibly put him on a sustainable career path.

“He was really good at managing the schedule,” said Jay, who played bass and guitar in “a bunch of no-name bands” around Austin. “So we challenged him to make a video every day for a year. It was just to help him hone his skills as a musician. He started waking up in the morning and we would create a song and post it. We would Made very quickly.

These videos quickly involve the entire family. Jay usually played acoustic guitar off-screen, and after football season, when Nate stopped practicing, he learned to play bass and took the spot behind his brother’s left shoulder. When their dog Carla kept walking into the shot, Kristen placed a piece of bacon next to the camera to keep her quiet. “I’m happy to be able to do what I love with my family every day,” Nate said. “This is the best thing ever.”

At first, Faulkner performed country songs for thousands of fans, but he soon branched out into new genres. Christine, who has loved 1980s music since she was a teenager, made a request. “After doing a lot of country covers, I said, ‘Can we play some of the songs my mom grew up with?'” She asked the Cure for a few requests, and they settled on “Just Like Heaven.” Faulkner turned the song into a dreamy honky-tonk two-step, and his audience swelled into the tens of thousands.

Faulkner said the song “feels like teenage life.” “I love playing synth parts. I find that some minor chords can be confident, while major chords are happy and emotional. Emotional music is good for people.

He quickly developed into an experienced performer, able to balance technical proficiency with artistic insight. Rather than simply reworking these old hits, he reinterprets them, using their familiar themes to explore specific moods or ideas—an approach that removes both novelty and nostalgia.

Tim DeLaughter, who invited Faulkner to open for his long-running punk ensemble Polyphonic Spree, considered Faulkner a uniquely Texas artist. Not only did he learn from the lessons of the old performers, but he also exercised freedom. “This resonates with Texas,” Drout said in a phone interview. “Noah brought in pop music from around the world, but he also put a Texas air into it. That really resonated with me because we’re a tired country that produces a lot of left-wing art. At the same time, Noah also There is joy in doing your own thing.

Pedal Steel Noah’s Texas Madness EP cements his place as an artist in Lone Star’s legacy, even if his source material comes from thousands of miles away. He turned Joy Division’s emotionally piercing “Love Will Tear Us Apart” into a daydream road trip through the Texas hill country. Two of his originals, “Cleopatra,” and especially “Lucy & Dixie,” have the all-caps emotionalism of local post-rock veterans Explosions in the Sky.

The family recorded the EP at a studio near Dripping Springs, Texas, with Nate and Jay continuing in their usual roles and family friend Brian Beadle on drums. Despite having never worked in a studio, Pedal Steel Noah immediately took control of the session. “When he came into the studio,” Jay said, “he was like a machine. He directed everything, told me what to do, told the engineer what he wanted. He wrote 10 or 15 songs in three days. He’s very motivated.

His eldest son agrees that making music is hard work. “My arms are really tired. The best thing to do is work out. I do a lot of push-ups,” he said. “I was definitely proud of myself when it was all over.”

Texas Madness, named after an episode of the Faulkner-created reality TV series, will be released by Lightning Rod Records, a Nashville-based label run by Jay’s childhood friend. The label has given the Faulkners a unique recording contract, ensuring that all profits from the release of Pedal Steel Noah, including the EP and full-length album planned for late 2024 or early 2025, go directly to Noah Faulkner himself .

“Once you hit 18, services for people with disabilities almost drop off a cliff, and there are suddenly very few options for adults,” his mother said. “When we started all this, we were just hoping that maybe Noah could become a studio musician. Maybe he could make a living. Maybe he could stay off the cliff. Now I’m hoping this will actually give him a social circle. As As a mom, all I wanted was someone to play with.

audio producer Jack Disido.

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