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06 février 2007

With album, tour, Paula Cole reignites career

New music due for June release


ROCKPORT, Mass. — After a seven-year hiatus, Paula Cole says her music career has come full circle.

Cole, who grew up in Rockport before becoming a hit singer-songwriter in the 1990s, will embark on her first concert tour in seven years, “Lessons in Life 07/08,” later this year.

Cole’s fifth album, “Courage,” tentatively will be released in June. Cole said the music is more gentle than her earlier albums, recorded prior to her hiatus from the public spotlight.

Before her cross-country tour, Cole will perform at her alma mater, the Berklee School of Music in Boston, on Feb. 16. Cole said she views this show as a “thank you” to her college, her family, her hometown and others who have supported her career throughout the years.

“I want to thank the Rockport community for their support, and this show will be for them, my hometown,” Cole, the daughter of Stephanie and Jim Cole of King Street, said.

Cole said she’s preparing for the upcoming show by singing a little bit each day and trying to not get sick. Cole is also thinking about the overall arch of the show, which will include songs the audience knows as well as songs from her upcoming album.

Cole will also feature her new band at the concert, which she said is “breathtakingly great.” Rehearsals with the band have given Cole goose bumps, she said, because of their talent and energy.

Cole’s ‘Courage’

“Courage” has been Cole’s mantra over the past seven years, the 38-year-old said. She knew for years that her next album would have this title — the word is sung in numerous instances throughout the album, Cole said.

It took courage to get out of an unhappy marriage in her time off, she said, and to start working again in an industry in which her former record label said she would never get a second chance.

Cole said she took the time off after spending seven years of constant touring and recording, which she said was a long time to work nonstop. It began in 1993 when she joined Peter Gabriel’s world tour as a backup singer. During that time she recorded three albums: “Harbinger” in 1994, “This Fire” in 1996 and “Amen” in 1999. She toured as an opening act for Melissa Etheridge and Sarah McLachlan. She had hits with “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” and “I Don’t Want to Wait,” both from her second album. She won the Grammy for Best New Artist in 1998, along with a number of Boston Music Awards.

“My personal life atrophied, and I needed to step off the hamster wheel,” she said. “I wanted motherhood. I wanted a child. It felt increasingly inauthentic to be living the young dream (of a life of touring).”

When under the radar of the public’s sight, Cole moved to Los Angeles, severed her ties with Warner Brothers, her recording label, and had her first child, Sky, who is now 5.

But more recently, she moved back East and became reacquainted with Bobby Colomby, who managed a deal with Universal/Decca Records for Cole’s next album.

“Now I’m working on resurrecting everything,” Cole said. “It’s exciting not to know (what the future holds) and to be in the moment. ... (With a music career and being a mother) I’m not going to have a cookie-cutter life, that’s for sure.”

Cole said her “wonderful little girl” is her first priority, and her “Lessons in Life 07/08” tour will be scheduled around Sky’s school schedule. She adds that singing keeps her happy, and it was weird to be a singer every day, then all of a sudden not to be.

Cole said she’s looking forward to the second chapter in her life, which she will appreciate more after reflecting on her life in her time off.

A new sound

“Courage” will offer a new sound from Cole, which she said is not as angry as her earlier work.

The album has a greater stylistic range, she said, with an eclectic mix of songs for the radio, and others — including one that features Herbie Hancock — that sound as though they could be from the 1940s.

“‘Courage’ is about love and picking up the pieces,” Cole said. “All my albums are honest and autobiographical.”

Cole attempted to compose her fourth album with her former record label during her hiatus, but it never came out. After composing 20 songs, she “had to walk away” from the songs as part of her contract, she said. Cole said this was a positive thing, however, because it released her from the baggage she felt she was carrying with her at the time.

The new album is a “completely new body of work,” she said, in which she co-wrote her lyrics, rather than writing them by herself.

Unlike her earlier albums, Cole didn’t produce the new album. She was solely a singer-songwriter on the project, making the project more fun. Colomby also helped bring the fun back into music writing, she said.

Coming full circle

Moving to Los Angeles was a “delusional attempt to find happiness,” Cole said, because your life will follow you wherever you go.

In her time there, she said, she found herself missing her East Coast roots. And having a child made her want to go “full circle.”

“I’m so lucky that I grew up in Rockport; I know that now,” Cole said. “When I was younger, I was antsy and wanted to move to the big city. I might have taken for granted the delicious salt air, the small, caring community and the natural beauty (of Rockport).”

Cole said Rockport’s small-town charm created her work ethic and her inclination to be naive at times.

“East Oceanside,” the fictional location of her greatest hits album, “Postcards from East Oceanside,” which was released last summer, is Rockport, she said, a town she tries to go back to as much as possible. Cole said her best friends to date are the ones she met in kindergarten and third grade.

Cole said returning to her old stomping grounds of Rockport and Boston recharges her heart and soul. When looking to her upcoming concert at Berklee and beyond, Cole said there are “a lot of good things” to come.

Jason Simpson writes for the Gloucester (Mass.) Daily Times.

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