Billy Joel has struggled publicly with depression in recent years, but he says he's made it through his latest dark spell with a renewed faith in humanity. And his salvation came from a somewhat unlikely source.

Reflecting on his emotional woes during a recent interview with the U.K.'s Telegraph, Joel traced his suffering to one of the bleakest days in recent U.S. history. "I was in New York on 9/11, and it had a devastating impact on me," he recalled. "It hit me like a ton of bricks. I went into a deep depression and started drinking. I lost faith in humanity."

It was only recently that Joel says he was turned around by the inspiring example set by Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teen who, as he put it, "was shot by the Taliban" and refused to be cowed. Instead, she published an autobiography and embarked on a worldwide press tour advocating for women's education. "She is the antidote," argued Joel. "We need people like that. I get inspired by people like that."

But he remains devoutly uninspired when it comes to recording new music. "Just because I can put out albums and the record company would release them and people would buy them, that don’t mean I should," he said. "I got bored writing popular music. I just got tired of writing in the same format -- it can’t be too long, it’s got to be played on the radio. It’s a box, and after a while that box becomes a coffin."

But he's popping out of his coffin long enough to complete his first U.K. tour in seven years, with rumors of a fresh round of U.S. dates to follow. "I don’t sit around saying, ‘Gee I miss the adulation, I want the applause,'” Joel mused. "But what I do miss is making music with other musicians ... I want to do these dates and see how it feels to get back in the saddle."