First Posted: 4/15/2013 4:18:00 PM
“Where have all the cowboys gone?”
It’s a simple inquiry that immediately conjures up a catchy tune and the powerful vocals that belong to Paula Cole. Couple that 1997 hit with another chart-topping tune, “Dawson’s Creek” theme song “I Don’t Want to Wait,” and you’ve got a singer/songwriter who rocketed up the charts in no time.
However, Cole’s flame quickly went out in 1999 when she stepped out of the industry to care for some personal matters, leaving her on the sidelines until her comeback studio album, aptly named “Courage,” in 2007.
The Grammy winner and seven-time Grammy nominee has put out several bodies of work since then and just recently forayed into independent territory with her self-produced album “Raven,” due out April 23.
We caught up with Cole as she was days away from embarking on a tour in support of the album, a string of shows that will land her at Mauch Chunk Opera House (14 W. Broadway, Jim Thorpe) on April 20.
THE WEEKENDER: “Raven” is the first time you’ve released something independently. Why did you choose that route and how has that experience been?
PAULA COLE: I wanted to do it my way, even if that was a smaller way. It would be freeing to be a primary decision maker, and it involved all aspects, whether it deals with the cover or even if photo shoots weren’t so fashion-y. I can really let the album content flow; I don’t have any record company influence in the control room. I’m spinning more plates, of course, and it involves more entrepreneurial skill, but I should be able to handle that now. I’m so happy about it, and it makes sense with the paradigm shift of record companies folding, merging, collapsing. There’s a real opportunity for artists to go their own way. Some have been doing it for a while, and I wish I had done it sooner.
W: How does the sound of “Raven” differ from your previous works?
PC: I’m so inside my own head that it’s hard for me to say exactly, but the feedback I’m getting from fans is that it reminds them a lot of “This Fire” (released in 1996), and I understand why because there’s storytelling and that rock element, and it’s also self-produced and not overproduced; it’s very organic.
W: Where do you draw inspiration from when writing songs?
PC: I keep it very diverse so that I keep songwriting fresh. I liken it to a conversation between the left brain and the right brain hemispheres. Yes, there are flashes of inspiration that are largely right-brained and fabulous, but not all writing is like that. Sometimes you do need the organizational left brain to come in and help you, start you down a different path of your writing inspiration. Sometimes it’s journaling, life experience, a homework assignment, or even just fingers on the keyboard or guitar. It’s random, and I like that it’s diverse.
W: You took quite a bit of time off. Did you know you were going to come back to the music scene eventually, or was that a decision you would go back and forth on?
PC: I was always bouncing it back and forth in my head. There were immediate needs that needed to be addressed, like my little daughter who was sick, an unhappy marriage that I needed to get out of, and a couple of moves; all these things were put ahead of my career. I missed music terribly. I would make it in the home; I tried making an album a couple times, but that didn’t fly. I think I was scared about going back in public. I had so many mixed feelings about my first career. It happened too quickly and it became a thing I didn’t’ like. As a thoughtful introvert, I was uncomfortable with the quick escalation and the falling down. All of it was just mean and harsh and I always saw myself as more of a dark horse with a long ramp-up and a slow build and a nice long career. I feel like the whole thing was traumatic and ill-fitted to who I really was.
W: So what finally gave you that push to give it another shot?
PC: I realized my life isn’t complete without music. I was making music at home, but that wasn’t enough without it reaching people. If you’re sitting on a gift, a talent, a proclivity that gives you joy and gives other people joy, that gives your life meaning, and then it becomes this evil, torturous puppet head inside of you, causing you great depression, well, you just need to use it. You need to use your gifts in this world or else you go crazy. My life wasn’t full and music makes me strong: forming it, writing it, being in front of people, meeting people – all of this makes me a more empowered me, and then other aspects of my life go well. If that’s alive and well and in harmony with my personal life, it’s wonderful.