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14 février 2007

Paula Cole returns after seven-year absence

Cole play: Local pop star returns after seven-year absence

When Rockport native Paula Cole stopped performing in 2000 she was a pop star with a major label contract. At first she needed to take a break from the hectic career that followed her winning Grammy’s Best New Artist award in 1997. But the birth of her asthmatic daughter, Sky, required healing of another kind.

Now the Berklee College of Music graduate -- who will give her first performance in seven years on Friday at Berklee Performance Center -- is starting all over again."I stopped touring because I’d been running on a giant hamster wheel since flying to Germany in 1993 to sing with Peter Gabriel" Cole, 38, said from her home in Manhattan. "That was before my first disc, ’Harbinger,’ even came out."From there it just didn’t stop. The residual atrophy on my personal life took its toll, and my enthusiasm felt increasingly inauthentic. I stand by the three discs I made, though. I’m very proud of those."

Newly married and free of the pressures of touring, Cole attempted a follow-up to her 1999 CD, "Amen." When her record label, Warner Bros., reacted to the results with indifference, she shelved the project. They, in turn, dropped her. As it turned out, Cole was freed up just in time for the birth of her daughter Sky, now 5. The child’s severe asthma required a vigilant regimen of medication and emergency room visits. "Sky struggled for years," Cole said, "and I stopped writing all together. I needed that time just to be a mom. The fact that I was able to do so -- that my previous success kept us afloat -- is a blessing."

Now in the throes of a divorce that she declines to discuss, Cole sees her music as a source of energy. "I’ve missed performing and I’m coming back with a renewed sense of gratitude," she said. "I need to use my voice. It’s a responsibility and it’s healing. I thought about pursuing something else; I even looked into the business major curriculum at UCLA. But it’s obvious to me that music is what I’m meant for."

Once Cole decided to return to music, she first signed with Columbia, but, she said, "I got lost in the ongoing label mergers." Now she has a deal with the revived Decca label and is preparing for the release of a new CD, tentatively titled "Courage," which she describes as more diverse and gentler than previous efforts. It comes out in June. In July, Cole will kick off her national Lessons in Life tour. But first comes this weekend’s homecoming performance.

"Nowadays I look at the business side of this with a healthy Buddhist sense of detachment," Cole said, with a laugh. "Having survived my midlife crisis, I can now recommend it to everyone as an excellent tool to help you get around all of life’s BS. "For me it’s a spiritual full circle. I feel the need to come back to my community for strength and, of course, to say thank you."

By Christopher John Treacy/ Music
Wednesday, February 14, 2007

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