Paula Cole (born April 5, 1968, Rockport, Massachusetts) is an American singer/songwriter. Her single "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone" reached the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1997, and the following year she won a Grammy Award for Best New Artist.
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Cole was born to Stephanie, a visual artist, and Jim Cole, a polka-playing entomologist. She has a sister named Irene. She lived in Rockport with her parents, where she attended elementary school. She was an active and popular student in middle school and high school, holding offices as class president and student council member. In addition, she was very active in the school's theatre arts program, starring in many productions, among them Flower Drum Song and Whose Life Is It Anyway?. She was a French Club member and traveled to France as part of a well-established exchange program founded by Foreign Language department head Mary Hayes. Cole entered the Berklee College of Music in Boston when she was 18, where she studied jazz singing and improvisation.
Cole got her first big professional break when she was invited to perform on Peter Gabriel's 1993-1994 Secret World Live tour. Shortly after this, she was signed on with her first record company Imago Records. Through this record company, she released her first album Harbinger in 1994. Within that year of Harbinger's release, Imago Records went out of business. In 1995, she was signed on to Warner Bros. Records. The record company reissued Harbinger in the Autumn of 1995.
Main article: Harbinger (Paula Cole album)
Cole released her debut album, Harbinger, in 1994 with Imago Records. She appeared with Melissa Etheridge to sing a duet on VH1 though she was not well-known at the time.
Harbinger featured songs dwelling on Cole's personal thoughts on discrimination and unhappiness. The songs were musically lush but driven and bleak. The accompanying artwork featured photographs of Cole with a boyishly short haircut, wearing loose fitting black sweatclothes, combat boots and nose ring. Unfortunately the Imago label folded and promotion of Harbinger was limited, affecting its sales. A single, "I Am So Ordinary", was released with a bleak, low-budget black and white video that reflected the album's artwork.
Main article: This Fire (album)
In late 1996, Cole released her second album on Warner Bros. Records, This Fire, which was entirely self-produced. The albums' debut single, "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone", became an instant smash radio (reaching #8 on Billboard magazine's pop chart) and MTV hit. The follow-up single, "I Don't Want to Wait," was a #11 pop hit single, its popularity in part due to its usage as the theme song for the hit teen drama series Dawson's Creek. The single "Me" (#35) was also released. The title "Hush, hush, hush," a duet with Peter Gabriel, talks about AIDS and about a young gay man dying in his father's comforting arms. "Feelin' Love" was a single that was included on the soundtrack to City of Angels.
Cole toured with Sarah McLachlan's Lilith Fair and garnered even more critical acclaim due to her live performances. Cole was nominated for several Grammy awards in 1997. Among them was "Producer of the Year" (Cole was the second woman to ever be nominated in this category); she did not win, but she did go on to win "Best New Artist" that same year.
Main article: Amen (Paula Cole album)
Cole took a hiatus to have and begin raising her daughter Sky. In 1999 Cole released Amen with the newly formed "Paula Cole Band". The album's debut single "I Believe In Love" was initially not a success but was remixed by producer Steven Miller into a successful dance song. The album failed to match the success of This Fire. A fourth album was recorded but the label refused to release it; in 2005 Cole uploaded one of the tracks, "Singing Out My Life," to her own website to get her sound out there. She also recorded a song called "It's My Life" during these sessions, which can be heard in Mercury automobile commercials. Cole also made a home recording of a politically charged song called "My Hero Mr. President".
Main article: Courage (Paula Cole album)
Cole returned in June 2007 with her fourth studio album Courage, which was released on Decca Records.
In addition to singing Paula uses numerous different instruments throughout her songs, performing many herself such as her main instrument piano, Juno, Juno bass, tube Wurlitzer, harmonium, beat boxing vocals, toy xylophones, didjeridu, clarinet, Rhodes, Rhodes bass, Moog, and low tuned-electric guitar in different songs.
Cole performed a two-hour set at Berklee Performance Center in Boston, Massachusetts on February 16, 2007 during which she debuted several songs from her then yet to be released fourth studio album, Courage. The set began with a solo piano version of "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone" which was replayed toward the end of the concert by the full band. Her performance was reviewed favorably in The Boston Globe on February 19, 2007. In March 2007, her official myspace previewed three new songs from Courage, which include "Comin' Down", "El Greco", and the album's first single entitled "14".
On July 10, 2007 Cole sang "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch of the 2007 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. In August 2007, Cole toured with Mandy Moore, playing mid-size venues in the western United States.
On June 17, 2008 she sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Game 6 of the NBA Finals in Boston. In August 2008, Cole toured to continue promoting her CD Courage, performing small venues like Chicago's Morton Arboretum. She is continuing her tour into 2009 with dates in February at Stone Mountain Center in Maine and the Mayo Center in New Jersey.