Joel was born in Manhattan, New York, the daughter of singer Billy Joel and his second wife, model Christie Brinkley. Her middle name Ray is in honor of musician Ray Charles. She has a half-brother Jack Paris Brinkley Cook (né Taubman, born June 2, 1995) and a half-sister Sailor Lee Brinkley Cook (born July 1, 1998), both children of her mother Christie Brinkley. She also has a half-sister on her father's side named Della Rose (born August 12, 2015), born to his fourth wife, Alexis.
Her father, Billy Joel, wrote his 1993 song "Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)" for her, and she has stated it is her favorite song of his. His 1989 song "The Downeaster Alexa" is titled after a boat he named after her, but is about the struggles of Long Island fishermen. Joel is also referenced in her father's 1989 song "Leningrad" (with lyrics: "...He made my daughter laugh, then we embraced..."), in which "He" refers to a Russian man who became a circus clown after being in the Red Army.
Joel is known for her melodic song writing, and has noted that her musical upbringing with her father gave her a "unique inside-peek into the songwriting process," and "It's no wonder I write music in the same way (my father) does: melody first, and lyrics second." Joel said that by age 15 she was finishing complete songs and complementing those songs with piano accompaniment, and writing poetry.
At age 19, in 2005 Joel assembled a band and performed her first live show at Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey, In 2006 Joel played nearly 100 shows, including a Hard Rock Cafe tour completed in May 2006.
Joel self-released and independently distributed the six-song EP Sketches in August 2006. Joel explained "It's called Sketches they were raw, often done in one take." Joel designed and illustrated the CD cover, packaging and inserts that included her handwritten lyrics. Sketches also included a pop/rock cover of Neil Young's "Don't Let It Bring You Down."
Joel performed at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (April 2007), the 2007 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival (June 2007), and the Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival (September 2007).
Joel performed onstage with her father during the 2008 Rainforest Foundation Fund Benefit Concert at Carnegie Hall on May 8, 2008. Other charity events at which Joel has performed include the "Save Sag Harbor" benefit concert (2008), the "Stage For The Cure" benefit for pediatric cancer (New York City, 2008), a benefit for The Art of Elysium (artists for seriously ill children; The Hamptons, 2009), a benefit for Habitat for Humanity (Long Beach, New York, 2010), the "Right To Play Day" benefit (Sag Harbor, New York, 2010), and the Eric Trump Foundation benefit for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital (New York City, 2010). She has also supported animal rights, including the Animal Haven's Speakeasy Bash (New York City, 2012).
Joel and her father performed his song "Baby Grand" at a Barack Obama election fundraiser at the Hammerstein Ballroom on October 16, 2008.
Joel debuted her single "Invisible" on The Wendy Williams Show in October 2009, the song being described as a "piano-driven ballad... about a bad breakup."
Alexa Joel's "Notice Me" single, released on May 24, 2010, was listed as a "Hit-Bound song" on the Sirius XM Hits 1 satellite radio channel in August 2010. Newsday described the single as having a "carefree braininess" and "bouncy guitar riffs and an instantly hummable chorus" that made Joel's work "sound like Regina Spektor crossed with Katy Perry." "Notice Me" is Joel's first collaboration with producer Tommy Byrnes and her first since signing with Long Beach, New York management company OCD Music Group/The Hang Productions. Joel described the "Notice Me" video as using fashion to show both a modern look and a vintage throwback look.
Joel has had residencies in New York City, including the Oak Room of the Plaza Hotel (late 2010-2011, said to add a "contemporary vibe" to the "storied venue,") and the Café Carlyle at the Carlyle Hotel (April 2014).
Joel has been active in New York fashion events. She performed at Manhattan's "Fashion's Night Out" in 2009 (Elie Tahari), 2010 (Bloomingdale's), and 2011 (Bloomingdale's). Joel interviewed celebrities and designers as a host for social networking website Julib.com during New York Fashion Week in September 2012 and February 2013, and she performed at the launch of Bobbi Brown's book Pretty Powerful: Beauty Stories to Inspire Confidence, also appearing with Brown on Today.
In February 2010, Joel was chosen the new spokeswoman for Ultimark Products' Prell brand of shampoo, with Joel's songs to serve as background for commercials. New York Post sources said that Joel was persuaded to accept the commercial endorsement contract because of the opportunity to promote her music. Additionally, Joel was said to have liked the idea of succeeding her mother Christie Brinkley, who was the face of Prell in 1986.
In September 2013, Joel became part of The Gap's "Back to Blue" television ad campaign, performing her interpretation of Billy Joel's 1977 song "Just the Way You Are."
On December 5, 2009, Joel ingested an excessive quantity of Traumeel, a homeopathic alternative to ibuprofen. Joel is reported to have taken "several pills"; an NYU Medical Center toxicologist said the drug has "no active ingredient" and indicated that it was essentially impossible to overdose ("basically you'd be taking more of nothing"). Interviewed six months later by ABC News, Joel described herself as having been "distraught and in so much pain" after the end of a four-year romantic relationship but not wanting to bother anyone since it was the holiday season. "I wasn't trying to kill myself. I was panicked. I was not thinking clearly at all. I was in so much pain and I just wanted to numb it." "The intent was to calm me down because I was having a panic attack."
Joel told People magazine that her April 2010 nose job came after five years of consideration, and was to correct a deviated septum and to feel better about herself, Joel having been "self-conscious of pictures taken from the side." Joel explained that her surgery waited until she "was in a better place" than at the time of her Traumeel incident four months earlier, further stating that she is "done with plastic surgery".
In a July 2010 interview with 20/20, Joel talked about "moving out of (the) shadows" of her "two megastar parents" and about recovery from her December 2009 crisis with depression. While she acknowledged that it had been "scary" to be "compared to a rock and roll legend", her confidence was said to be "helped along by a wider acceptance" by others. Stating that "I'm not a blond girl with blue eyes and that's fine", she added that Ultimark Products approaching her to be the face of Prell shampoo was a "big confidence booster". Describing overcoming the relationship dependence that triggered her December 2009 Traumeel incident, she said: "I've got to get a new band, whole new songs, whole new career plan. Everything changed after that incident."
Joel has been dating restaurateur Ryan Gleason since 2013.
(August 2006) (EP, Audio Bee (label))
- The Heart of Me – 5:23
- Now its Gone – 3:32
- Don't Let it Bring You Down – 3:05
- The Revolution Song – 4:17
- Resistance – 4:07
- Song of Yesterday – 2:53
(January 2008) (single, Audio Bee (label))
- For All My Days – 4:42
(October 2009) (single)
(May 2010) (single, Audio Bee or OCD Music Group/The Hang Productions or ARJ Music (label))
- Notice Me – 2:48
(August 1, 2011) (single, ARJ Music)
- All I Can Do is Love – 3:50
(November 8, 2011) (single, ARJ Music)
- Beg You to Stay – 4:48
(September 16, 2013) (single)
- Just the Way You Are – 4:13