Cole still passionate about musicWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Music and family are intertwined for Paula Cole.
“I was just this natural canary and I loved singing. And my dad made music on many instruments; he made it fun in the home,” she recalled. “So we were harmonizing as a family; it was a living art form, and that allowed me to fly.”
On her new disc “Raven,” the singer-songwriter’s powerful, passionate voice soars.
She penned the opening track, “Life Goes On,” for her father.
“It took 15 years to get the courage to release this song. I wrote this in the late ’90s, and he was the first to hear it,” Cole said. “It’s a reflection of our relationship of all of the dynamics, from the early volcanic years to softer, gentler years where he becomes a kind, gentle, older man. And I think that’s kind of the universal path if men are on the right path.”
Words from her grandmother led to “Strong Beautiful Woman.”
“I grew up in Rockport, Massachusetts, kind of quintessential small town New England, and [my grandma] is in that song because I used to run down the hill to her house, and she gave me very smart, sassy life advice, and that was something she’d say to me,” Cole said.
“It’s even become a little mantra for me now to my girlfriends; I’ll say, ‘You’re a strong beautiful woman/ Don’t let the world let you down/ Look within yourself and remember who you are.’ ’
Cole’s mother contributed, too.
“She resuscitated ‘Manitoba’ from, I don’t know, just from decomposing somewhere,” she said and laughed. “She had it on cassette tape. She had wrapped it so wonderfully, archiving it as a mother would — acid-free paper on cassette in her bank vault drawer. Isn’t that sweet?
“I was gathering songs for ‘Raven’ and she said, ‘I think I have an old demo cassette.’ So I had to find a boom box, of course, to listen to it and that took a minute, and I found ‘Manitoba’ and it was so different from anything else. Now it’s become a showstopper in our live set.”
Fans — Cole’s extended family — made “Raven” possible. More than 900 contributed more than $75,000 in just over a month through Kickstarter.
“It was daunting to have to go forward and ask,” she said during a call from her home in Beverly, Mass. “My fans were there for me — I had 150 percent of my ask. What this allowed me to do was not only cover my cost but set up a small home label so that I would not have to even approach a major label for licensing.”
That made the Grammy Award winner happy.
“I want to own my pie because it is a smaller pie; it’s not the ’90s pie, it’s not pre-digital distribution pie, it’s post-digital. We make less income on music. My career is humbler after my hiatus,” she said.
“This Fire,” Cole’s 1996 disc, burned up the charts with “I Don’t Want to Wait” and “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?”
“I had a big kick in the pants with life, you know, in my 30s and that’s when I disappeared, really, on an eight-year hiatus when I had my daughter and then she had asthma, a bad marriage — it just took time to extract myself, for her to grow up and be healthy, and for me to be able to work again,” the artist said.
That strong, emotional voice was welcome back with “Courage” in 2007, “Ithaca” in 2010 and “Raven” in April.
Cole will take the stage at 8 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Ark in Ann Arbor. Tickets are $25. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.
“It’s taken me years to be in a comfortable place on stage where I am prefacing the songs with stories. [Audience members] ask me questions; we talk. I meet with fans after shows; to me, that’s act two, that’s equally important as the show itself.”