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Paula Cole at The Ark, 5 Things To Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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Like most artists, and especially songwriters, Paula Cole prefers to look, and move, forward.

But this year she’s celebrating a glorious bit of her past.

To commemorate the 20th (actually 21st) anniversary of her breakthrough album “This Fire” -- a double-platinum smash with seven Grammy Award nominations that features the hits “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone” and the “Dawson’s Creek” theme “I Don’t Want To Wait” -- Cole is on the road playing the set in its entirety. She’s also recorded fresh versions of those songs as well as a new video for “Cowboys” with a happier ending than its predecessor.

But Cole is moving forward as well. Later this year, most likely early August, she’ll release “Ballads,” a collection of American standards and folks songs done in jazzy arrangements, returning the Massachusetts native, who came to prominence as part of Peter Gabriel’s 1993-94 touring band, to her own musical roots...

• “This Fire’s” anniversary has given Cole, 49, a moment of pause, she acknowledges. “I’m a different person,” Cole says by phone from her home in Beverly, Mass. “It feels like I’ve lived a few lifetimes already. the work has been probably the most consistent thing about my life. The songs are like my living autobiography, so I feel very connected to that part. It’s more when I think about just being 20-whatever and on tour and flying to the Persian Gulf to sing for the troops and back to sing for the Grammys, just being lonely on the road, all of that tumult and intensity -- that’s when it feels like it’s been (20 years).”

• The material, Cole adds, is also challenging. “It’s exhausting to sing now, I’ll tell you that,” she says with a laugh. “I perform ‘This Fire’ in its entirety and I do it and it’s awesome. It’s definitely athletic.”

• The hit singles from “This Fire” came as something of a surprise for Cole, and something of an antithesis to her own musical ambitions. “Sometimes I feel misrepresented by what is known of me out there with the hits,” she explains, “just the collective conscious understanding of what Paula Cole is. People don’t know who Paula Cole is anymore; They know the songs. I think the ‘Dawson`s Creek’ thing, which was a gift on one hand, also took away consciousness about the artistry of me or the catalog of me. It’s ironic because I’m a musician’s musician. I’m deeply arty and I’m an activist. So for me to be lumped into pop was kind of traumatic.”

• The new video for “Cowboys” -- directed by Melora Hardin (“The Office”) -- portrays Cole and her husband in the song in roles as a settle, older couple, putting a different spin on the lyric’s implied dissatisfaction in the relationship. “Trust me, it wasn’t comfortable or easy for me to do that video,” Cole says. “I’m such an introvert. I struggle being the center of attention on camera and being kissed on camera and even being middle age. But I thought, ‘Goddamn it, people in mid-life, they have love. they fall in love, too. If not me, then who? And why not? I need to just get over myself.’ So it healed me, in a way.”

• Cole is looking forward to showing off a different side of her artistry with the “Ballads” collection, a 20-song set that will feature songs by Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Bob Dylan and others. “I started as a jazz singer, which is another reason being blended with pop was so weird,” Cole says. “I was really dedicated to it. I wanted to be the female Chet Baker and I had high expectations for myself that of course I can’t live up to. Nobody’s Ella Fitzgerald. but I’ve sung on a lot of other artist’s jazz albums. I’ve collaborated with Herbie Hancock. I’m comfortable in that world because it’s where I started and it’s a big part of me, so it was time for me to get back and do it already.”

If You Go:

• Paula Cole

• 7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 23.

• The Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor.

• Tickets are $25.

• Call 734-761-1818 or visit theark.org.

Web Site: www.theark.org

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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