As the offspring of Billy Joel, the third-best-selling solo artist of all time, and supermodel Christie Brinkley, Alexa Ray Joel is no stranger to glamour. The 28-year-old singer prefers vintage silk to sweatpants and a wardrobe made up of “mom’s hand-me-downs.”
“I tend to feel naked without jewelry,” jokes Joel, who for four years has resided in a two-bedroom apartment in a sunlight-filled Soho building in New York. “My boyfriend [restaurateur Ryan Gleason] makes fun of me because we’ll just be watching a movie at home and I’ll need to add earrings.”
Whether it’s her closet or her home decor, Joel says her taste is “a medley of vintage meets bohemian meets old Hollywood with a little edge.” It’s a fitting match for Manhattan’s historic Cafe Carlyle, where she performed for several weeks this year, and will be returning for a six-month residency in 2015.
“Every show I’ve done there has been jam-packed, sold out,” she says of her past run, which featured a combination of cabaret, reworked jazz covers and her own original music. “[The Carlyle] is a prestigious venue, and it’s rare that you’re asked back. Eartha Kitt played there, all these jazz greats.”
Joel hopes that soon, with a commercial under her belt for Gap (she reworked her father’s 1977 hit, “Just the Way You Are,” for the “Back to Blue” campaign) and the success of her live performances, she’ll reach a wider audience.
And while her sound — “Fiona Apple meets Rufus Wainwright,” she says — is not her father’s, Joel still looks to the musical great for guidance. “You don’t have to stick with one niche. Musically, that’s something I learned from him.” Maybe, this time father knows best.
Baby Tunes: “I wrote a song called ‘Verona’ about these dreams I’ve had of my future daughter. My father did that for me [with ‘Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)’], so it’s passing on the tradition.”
Good Luck Charm: “My mother did this [drawing]. My father isn’t a religious man, but he’s very superstitious. He collected these rosaries of St. Christopher.”
Prop Girl: “I have a beautiful collection of fans from Milan and Capri. I use them in my show.”
Loungewear: “I don’t own sweatpants. I always walk around in kimonos and robes. I have a collection of vintage ones.”
Set In Stone: “This is [a cast of] my mother’s hand and mine when I was a little girl.”
Inherited Style: “My favorite pieces are hand-me-downs from my mother,” says Joel, photographed by Douglas Friedman on Sept. 11 at her New York home. “She has given me a lot of vintage Ralph Lauren and Dolce [& Gabbana].”
This story first appeared in the Sept. 27 issue of Billboard magazine.