Alexa Ray Joel is ready to get noticed on her terms.
"I look forward to the day where I'm more known as an artist, as opposed to 'the daughter of' or 'who did this,'" says Joel, sitting next to Jimi Hendrix's white piano in the basement lounge of Electric Lady Studios in Greenwich Village.
"I am just the most impatient person right now," she adds with a laugh. "I'm beyond ready to be known for what I've been working for, and put it out there, and have people react to and respond to the music. I want people to think, 'She's got some talent, too.'"
That time is just around the corner, as Joel gets set to push her debut single, "Notice Me," this month, with a flurry of TV appearances and radio station visits, and the 24-year-old singer-songwriter is ready to surprise some people. With bouncy guitar riffs and an instantly hummable chorus, "Notice Me" sounds like Regina Spektor crossed with Katy Perry. That unique mix of carefree braininess is exactly the pop introduction Joel wanted for her first official single.
"It's happy, and it's summer and it's fun, and it doesn't take everything so seriously, which I tend to do," she explains. "So it's almost refreshing for me to have a song like that where I can say: 'I'm having fun, I'm flirting.' It's very tongue in cheek."
Joel says she's thrilled with how the song turned out, marking her first collaboration with producer Tommy Byrnes, who has worked with everyone from Bo Diddley to Taylor Dayne, as well as her first since signing with Long Beach-based management company OCD Music Group. Byrnes, who has known Joel since she was a baby, and also still plays guitar with her father, Billy Joel, says he's proud of "Notice Me," saying, "We're all feeling good about that being her first handshake with the world."
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But most important for Joel, it's a sign that she has emerged from a dark, emotional period after a breakup that led to an accidental drug overdose in December that was splashed all over the media. "A lot of people don't know who I am, so I was really surprised that it got picked up as much as it did," she says. "I'm not Madonna. I'm not Jennifer Aniston. I'm not the hugest star in the world at all. . . . And it was wrong the way it was interpreted - that I was trying to kill myself. Every young person that I know has had some sort of a crisis. I'm not saying that it was responsible of me to take all those pills, but, at the end of the day, they were homeopathic pills.... The intent was not to kill myself. The intent was to calm me down because I was having a panic attack.
"If you're young and you have a flair for the dramatic, as I do, and you're heartbroken, you say some things that you don't mean," she continues. "I said, 'Oh, I want to die, I want to die" because I actually felt like that - but did I actually try to kill myself or want to die? No. Now, my name and 'suicide' are attached, and that bothers me. I'm a very positive, optimistic, energetic, upbeat person."
Joel says she hopes her new single and upcoming album will show that and help change people's views about her. "I know people are interested and kind of curious about my life - and I want people to have a reason to be," she says. "I don't want it to be, 'What's she doing? She's just a celebrity's daughter. She got a nose job. She doesn't really have anything to say.' It's not like that, and I will do whatever I have to do to prove that."
If the public's reaction to "Notice Me" is anything like the one Joel got from her father, she'll be just fine.
"We played him 'Notice Me,' and he said, 'Stone-cold hit - that's the one,' " Byrnes says. "He's doing some Harry Belafonte thing, saying, 'You're making a bald white man dance. This is awesome!'"