She has a rapturously moody way with the piano.
Alexa Ray Joel is back in her recording studio, seated at a baby grand as her fingers begin to play. Muscle memory in her hands from years of classical training freely summons her emotions from the instrument. Joel, 24, leans into the music as she sings. The piano-driven ballad booms with a vocal intensity that fills the room. She has also learned by heart the personal lyrics of love, and its dangerous ruin.
"There's so many different sides to me on this album," she said. "My first single, 'Notice Me,' is just like a very bright, happy, flirty song. It's very reflective of the place that I'm in now. And then there's the song that does go into my past relationship, and it's sort of like a reflection on masochistic love. When you're just like, 'Love me, I don't care, I just wanna be with you.' I really poured my heart and soul into this album, and I wasn't afraid to kind of go there, and I just went into some very dark places and some very inspiring, light, happy places."
For Joel, it has been a journey out of heartbreak. She said she didn't understand the extent of her pain until she put pen to music sheet. Her new album became a kind of lifeline -- connecting her emotions to the healing power of music.
"You know, music, it's not going to the office every day. It's very personal," Joel said. "You're pouring, my dad likes to say, you're spilling your guts out on the table for everybody to hear."
Her father should know. Joel was, after all, the child of a celebrity marriage of nearly supernova scale.
The 1985 union of one of the world's greatest living musicians with one of its most celebrated beauties created a sense of shock and awe throughout Hollywood. Months later it also spawned a public fascination with Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley's only child. Fans were curious about which remarkable family traits she would inherit.
But if you think Alexa Ray Joel is merely the daughter of two pop culture icons, safely trailing in their stardust -- think again.
"I love my parents, and I'm proud of where I come from, and I'm fortunate and privileged," Joel said. "But at the same time I don't want to ride on their coattails and I want to be defined by me."
Alexa has long been physically defined by her father's soulful eyes and dark hair. But it's their shared passion for songwriting and performing that helped shape her artistic identity.
She began as a child, singing in costumes at home and learning the piano from "The Piano Man" himself. But with great opportunities come great expectations. Alexa decided to emerge from the golden shadow of Billy Joel's success.
"I was always comparing myself to my parents, and my father in particular because he's an artist," said Joel. "How can I live up to this, how can I compare? And what I've realized this year is, I don't have to compare myself to him, I'm my own artist. I'm a female first of all, I have a totally different voice, I have a different sound, I have something different to offer."
Billy Joel's sound, thunderous and lyrically confidant, has made him a global phenomenon with more than 100 million albums sold. In 1999 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Alexa's voice is softer, more earnest. Her album is a young woman's ode to the turmoil of her first love, as well as its addictive thrills.