For celebrity offspring, pursuing a career in a "star" parent's industry comes with enormous advantages. But the scrutiny of celebrity culture means their careers are also burdened by expectation.
"They have to be that much better due to the road their parents have paved them," said E! film critic Ben Lyons, the son of NBC movie critic Jeffrey Lyons.
The challenge, Lyons says, is to establish their own styles. That can be particularly difficult for the children of music legends.
Their famous names — think Sean Lennon, Jakob Dylan and Miley Cyrus, aka Hannah Montana — will grab the headlines, but their long-term success might ultimately depend on how they define themselves as different.
"The kids who have trouble are the ones who try and replicate or duplicate their parents sound and aesthetic," said Lyons.
Ben Taylor, Albert Hammond Jr., JoJo Simmons and Melanie Gabriel are second-generation musicians taking separate paths to make their careers their own — four aspiring talents challenged with moving beyond their parents' legacies.
Ben Taylor, 30, is the son of Carly Simon and James Taylor. A star in his own right, Ben occasionally collaborates with his mom and his sister Sally Taylor. Though his voice might remind you of his father's, Taylor has undoubtedly defined his sound.
"I just want to continue to get more experience and more comfortable in all of the aspects of music that I'm participating in. It progresses at a pretty satisfying rate for me," he said. He's currently recording and producing a new album for the label he co-owns, Iris Records. Ben Taylor's MySpace
Albert Hammond Jr., 27, is the son of legendary singer-songwriter Albert Hammond. Hammond Jr. is the guitarist for the smash hit garage rock band, The Strokes. He also has a very successful solo career and is currently six tracks into his second solo album. His trajectory continues to skyrocket, but he noted, "I'd love [to] find someone to play music with, to make a team, a songwriting partnership with whoever that person is out there." Albert Hammond Jr.'s MySpace
JoJo Simmons, 18, is the son of hip-hop icon and Run DMC co-founder Joseph Simmons and the nephew of music mogul Russell Simmons. What does he want to do? "Platinum and beyond. I don't just want to be an artist. I want to be an entrepreneur, with a shoe company and a clothing line," he said.
Just out of high school, Simmons is recording an album with his group Team Blackout, while working toward a degree in audio engineering. JoJo Simmons' MySpace
Melanie Gabriel, 31, is the daughter of singer Peter Gabriel. Gabriel joined her father on his "Growing Up" tour and sang with his band from 2002 to 2004. Recently she has branched out into world music and is currently working on a project called Taiga Maya, which is a mix of traditional Mayan, Indian and Siberian music added to her own words and vocals.
The four young artists answered questions about the challenges presented by their famous parents and the decision they make to mold their careers.
How would you describe your sound?
Taylor: "'Kungfolk.' It's a quality fusion of folk music and kung fu. It's song based and likens itself to folk music that way, but it's not so easygoing as a lot [of] folk music, so we put the kung in just as a joke, but we like it."
Simmons: "We're sort of bringing the old school with the new school. We've got the old-school Run DMC, but we do a little bit of both."
Gabriel: "It's an acoustic singer-songwriter sound. I like quirky, slightly left-field music. … I'm still sort of discovering my own style."
Did you always know you wanted to pursue music?
Taylor: "I got into music really, really late. … It was intimidating to me, and I figured that I'd always be compared and I didn't know if I wanted to deal with that."
Hammond: "Growing up I never wanted to do music. … I figured it out on my own and just fell in love with it."
Simmons: "Every since I was younger I listened to my father's music, I always heard music and I always wanted to do music. I was always doing rapping and basketball."
Gabriel: "No, not at all, I think basically because it was my dad's thing I stayed away."
Taylor and his mom, Carly Simon, share their good looks
Do you remember when you first knew?
Taylor: "Eventually I figured that all of my heroes one way or another were musicians so I couldn't really find anything else that I really wanted to do."
Hammond: "I heard Buddy Holly and Roy Emerson when I was like 13, and ever since then it kind of just took off."
Simmons: "At the end of ninth grade I knew. I picked up the pen and knew I loved it. I was too short for basketball (laughs) and I felt more of a love for music."
Gabriel: "I was doing visual arts, painting and photography in college, and I started singing for fun and realized I love it. … I just realized I had to do it."
Hammond says his music "isn't connected" to his father's
How was had having a parent/family who is so established in the music industry affected you, and how has it impacted your music?
Taylor: "It was intimidating having such radically successful examples as parents."
Hammond: "It made me want to beat him. I felt like what I wanted to do was very different than what he did though. … I really have no connection musically to my father."
Gabriel: "It's pretty intimidating when you have a dad who does it well. Because of this it took me until i was about 23 to realize my passion for singing."
Simmons: "It hasn't really affected me in any way."
Taylor: "Because of who my folks are, when I started playing music I think at my first concert ever I had like 350 people there, and in the front there was like Spike Lee. … It was terrifying."
Simmons: "It puts more stress on me knowing that my father was such an icon and I got to fill those shoes, but I'm just doing to my best and do what I got to do."
Gabriel: "It's been a struggle because people have high expectations of you but at the same time a blessing — being exposed to wonderful music/musicians from all around the world and then his advice and encouragement, for example having me sing on tour with him."
Simmons is currently remixing one of his father's Run DMC tracks
Who have been your biggest influences?
Taylor: "Mozart and Stevie Wonder really more than anybody else. And I think that Mozart and Stevie Wonder are actually the same spiritual cosmic entity reincarnated."
Hammond: "Built to Spill, Woody Allen, The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, The Eagles, The Kinks, Neil Young, The Clash, Lenny Bruce, John Lennon."
Simmons: "I listen to a lot of Fabulous — him and Jay Z, and of course, old-school Run DMC."
Gabriel: "My family. And then I listen to all sorts of music and am not aware of what influences me. … [My father] introduced me to all these world musicians. I grew up listening to music from around the world."
Taylor:"John Forte too."
Hammond: "Guided by Voices [the American indie-rock band] pretty much just changed my life."
Gabriel's Taiga Maya sounds nothing like her father's music
What are you listening to now?
Taylor: "I like Fat Freddy's drop — it's kiwi-reggae-funk. I love good hip hop — The Roots, Mos Def. I still listen to Mos Def's last album like crazy. … A lot of Amy Winehouse. I can't help it. I think she's amazing."
Hammond: "The Kinks and the Clash."
Simmons: "Fabulous, Dipset, Ja Rule."
Gabriel: "Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Bjork, Beck, Radiohead, Grandaddy, Wavemachines, Farafina, Joseph Arthuotis, Rush/Albert Lee, The Notwist, Feist, Cat Power, Sina Nordenstam, Arcade Fire, Joan as Police Woman, Cocrosie, Martha Wainwright, Nick Drake, Jolie Holland … and I stay open to new stuff."
Thoughts on Collaborating With Family
Taylor has sung, played guitar and co-produced music with his mother, Carly Simon, and his sister Sally Taylor. He's currently singing and playing guitar on his mom's new album for Starbuck's "Hear Music."
"We sound great together," said Simon. "Our voices have a physically similar sound. … It has a lot to do with looking at each other and seeing how your lips move and it also has a lot to do with coming from the same family and just having sung together for so many years."
"I love working with my mom," said Taylor. "She's one of best singer-songwriters I've ever met and it's an honor to be involved." He adds that he plays with his sister Sally "as much as [he] can," but she's just had a baby so these days he's "honing avuncular skills."
One of the tracks on Simmons' first album is a remix of a Run DMC track. He is excited to be working with his father and is letting him handle his promotion. "I'm gonna have to trust a veteran. I'm new to the game, and he's one of the best. If you can't trust your family, who can you trust?"
For Gabriel, singing with her father on tour was "fantastic. … It was really lovely to have the opportunity to work with him. It was a bonding experience because his work always kept him separate from us. … It's really quite surreal singing with him on stage songs that he's written for me [e.g. "Come Talk to Me]."