Gloucester Times: Album Release Show Preview
September 23rd, 2010
As Ithaca was the beloved home of the Greek hero Odysseus who finally manages to return after more than a decade after the battle of Troy, Cole, now 42, has returned to her hometown invigorated by both her struggles and triumphs she has faced in her life's voyage so far.
"It is the perfect metaphor to encapsulate my homecoming journey, using Homer's 'Odyssey' and I feel some connection to that, being out in the world, feeling beaten up and facing my past," she said. "Rockport, Massachusetts, is my Ithaca."
"I have a newfound adult friendship with my parents — which is the silver lining of divorce —- and I'm coming back home to the town I left many years before," she said.
She is holding her album celebration during the 10th annual Beantown Jazz Festival, hosted by her alma mater Berklee College of Music.
Cole received a scholarship, graduating in 1990. She was offered her first record deal with a jazz label while a student at Berklee, but she turned it down.
A few years later, in 1993, Peter Gabriel asked her to join his Secret World Tour, after her debut album titled "Harbinger." Her second album, "This Fire," was a breakthrough hit with her signature "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" and "I Don't Want to Wait" — widely known as the theme song to the hit television series "Dawson's Creek."
In 1997, her music was recognized at the highest level when she won the Grammy for Best New Artist, after which she released another album, 1999's "Amen." But then her path changed and she took a seven-year hiatus, though she fought back with her 2007 album "Courage," a trait she would need to power through her absence in the music world.
"Eight years off is like a near-death experience in this business," said the singer, who had to heal some wounds like her equestrian counterpart. "You fight hard to be taken seriously again and to get another shot again. It's like being Seabiscuit."
But her fans on the North Shore are welcoming her back with a fierce affection. She sold out two August shows at the new seaside $19 million Shalin Liu Performance Center in the heart of Rockport.
And the fans not only included her high school classmates and school staff, but fans from throughout New England and as far away as Holland.
Kaytee Bolcome, an Rockport High graduate many years after Cole, was thrilled at Cole's return and has been a longtime fan.
"She's amazing," she said after the show. "I was so excited to be able to see her perform here."
Cole's new release, "Ithaca," involves the singer's vicissitudes during her break from the public world of music.
The second track, titled "Waiting on a Miracle," embodies some feelings about that journey.
"I'm proud of the vocal arrangement on this song," she said. "It's about just being brave and truthful about what happened in my life. There was sadness and then separation and a resting time and feeling scared to trust again."
"That's the dark, the doubt and the waiting," she said. "The album starts with songs written in the throws of divorce and moves through those years and relocating to Rockport. That's the light."
"The later songs written in Rockport reflect that piece, the love coming back into my life."
She describes her process of writing as her personal dialog with the subconscious in an autobiographical vein — much like her songwriting role models and favorites, John Lennon and Joni Mitchell.
"I'm just another inept human struggling with my feelings and, in so doing, I make songs," said Cole. "They're Polaroid snapshots of my life."
Currently, for the mother of an eight-year-old, she has found love — and is in love — again.
"I feel very blessed," she said during a telephone interview this week from a New York City hotel as her album launch gets underway.
Not only has she found love in her personal life, she found love from her fans.
When she performed this summer at the two sold-out shows, the audience could not get enough of her.
"I did feel overwhelmed by love and warmth," she said. "As I stood on the stage, I was comprised of various selves. I was a RHS student seeing my former classmates. I was a citizen of Rockport feeling proud that we made the performance center as part of the town's fabric and I felt nervous to be performing for my hometown because that's the hardest."
"But I felt a very deep love for the people there, a sincere love," she added. "And that's usually what I feel when I step out onto stage, the love for the folks who spend their hard-earned dollars on music and magic and healing. I love the whole dance of the energy coming from them to me and me to them."
Cole said it was important to her that the music on her new album is comprised of her songs.
"I've got my groove back and I feel strong," said Cole who was co-producer on this album.
There are other benefits to this next platform in Cole's career.
"I can hear an evolution of my voice," she said. "If you treat your body well, the voice is meant to open and flower in the prime years of 35 to 55. I feel mine has gotten better.
"As far as writing is concerned, sometimes the songs come like little lighting bolts, and you have this pregnant feeling and you have to give birth to this little song." she said. "At other times, it's driven by patience and nurturing an idea. I think I'm more attentive to lyrics.
"We all need and look to music to process our feeling about life — life is hard. But in music — whether happy or angry — we go to this meeting point and share the music," she said.
"I still have anger," she said. "I'm human. Ithaca still has some darkness. But I'm back. I let more slide off of me."
"That's one nice thing about getting older," she added. "I know myself and I like myself more now. There is an inner calm."
An Evening with Paula Cole
What: Paula Cole celebrates new album "Ithaca" at release concert
Where: Berklee Performance Center at 136 Massachusetts Ave. in Boston as part of the BeanTown Jazz Festival
When: Friday, Sept. 24 at 8 p.m.
Admission: $36, $26 reserved seating. Purchase tickets online through Ticketmaster.