First Person/Paula Cole


Rockport's Grammy-winning songstress Paula Cole, 43, on breaking back into the biz.

(Fabrizio Ferri)
By Mike Morin
August 7, 2011

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After commercial success in the ’90s, with hits like “I Don’t Want to Wait” and then a hiatus, it seems you’re living life on your own terms these days, touring small venues.

I’m accepting I’m not living that younger, dreamed version of myself in the big city. I’m raising my daughter with her grandparents in the picture, and that feels good. And the business is changing, so I can easily make music in my home studio.

Why did you choose to stay at home with your daughter, Sky, who was born in 2001?

I was a single mom for a while and she had really bad asthma. I had to be full time, hands on. Now she’s doing really well and I have a little more autonomy, and that’s why I’m working again.

Speaking of family, is it true your father was a talented polka musician?

Yes, he was in this high-profile polka band, if there is such a thing, and made albums. He used to put me on his feet and dance around the kitchen so I’d get the feeling of the polka dance. Even though I’m just one-eighth Polish, I guess it was something alive for him.

How did you learn to play the didgeridoo?

Didgeridoo was something I picked up while I was on tour in Australia with Peter Gabriel in ’93. I found out later that it’s only meant to be played by men. I was wondering why the male aboriginal salesclerk [was giving me] scowling glances in the shop.

How’d you get tapped for that tour?

Peter ended up hearing an unreleased version of my very first album, Harbinger, and invited me because Sinead O’Connor was leaving. That was an amazing opportunity, seeing the world in a furious flash. I would stand back, listen, and try to hold on.

I saw you interviewed on the Charlie Rose show in 1997 and again more recently. You’ve become more self-assured.

I guess there are some good things about getting older. That was a very intense period of my life and I was on the nonstop wheel of work, constantly traveling, the only female amongst male musicians. It’s like being in the Army or the Marines.

Would you ever want to get on that schedule again?

I don’t know. It’s kind of a philosophical question for me. I can’t answer it in an interview. Maybe over a glass of wine, you know?

  • August 7, 2011 cover
  • August 7, 2011 cover
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