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14 juillet 2008

Paula Cole's comeback includes arboretum stop

By KATHY CICHON, Naperville sun

A lot has happened in the life of Paula Cole since she took home the Grammy for Best New Artist in 1997, an award she earned with her second release - the breakthrough album "This Fire." Putting her music career on hold after the 1999 follow-up release "Amen," Cole wanted a family. In the decade that followed, she married, became a mother, went through a "brutal" two-year divorce, lost loved ones and this past winter battled pneumonia.

It's been 12 years since the release of "This Fire" - which sold two million copies and spawned the pop hits "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" and "I Don't Want to Wait," which became the theme song for television's "Dawson's Creek" - and several years since she has toured. "I've been gone a long time," Cole said by phone last week. "It's near-death in a pop career."

But a new album and tour, which stops Saturday night at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, have revived 40-year-old Cole's musical career. The challenges she faced served as inspiration for her latest album, the critically acclaimed "Courage," which was released in 2007. Like all of her works, "Courage" is a personal one - "almost embarrassingly so," she said. The songs, she said, are snapshots of where she has been. The title - Courage - is a recurring theme on the album. Many of the songs relate to her recently finalized divorce.

"The words came to me like little white flags saying 'help, I want to get out.'" Cole said. It was the music that brought her through the difficult times, she said. "It's like finding my power again," she said. "I wouldn't take that for granted."

Listeners might find "Courage" has more of a jazz influence than Cole's previous albums, but the musician said it has always been an element in her work. "It might not have been apparent, but it's always been there," Cole said.

In fact, the first deal she was offered came from a jazz label, while she was a senior studying at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. "I turned it down because I wanted less of a label to my music," Cole said.

Cole's concert is part of "In Tune With Trees," The Morton Arboretum's 2008 Summer Concert Series designed to support the arboretum's mission of encouraging the planting and protection of trees. The last time she played the Chicago area was in 2000 at the Park West. She's looking forward to returning and is grateful to her fans.

"I thank you for remembering me and holding on," Cole said. "I'm totally excited again to play in Chicago." Fans can expect to hear a mix of both new songs and old hits Saturday, she said. "I love my old songs," Cole said. "I'll do it all."

Having toured extensively on her own, and before that with Peter Gabriel on his Secret World Tour, she considers herself "a citizen of the world." She has lived on both the West and East coasts. And while she considers New York City her spiritual home, she recently moved back to where she was born.

"I'm back," Cole said. "I'm full circle in my hometown in Rockport, Massachusetts." The return home comes after the death of her grandmother, and a desire to be near her parents and for her daughter, Sky, to be near her grandparents. "I just want to be around them, and I want my daughter to be around them," Cole said.

Although Cole has several tour dates scheduled in the fall, she wants to make sure she has plenty of family time. "I want to be an involved mom. I can't be away too much," Cole said. "I want to be able to tour like I need to. It's a balancing act." But fans shouldn't worry, she won't disappear. "I don't anticipate taking a seven-year break ever again," Cole said.

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