Birthplace: Rockport, MA
Race or Ethnicity: White
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?
The daughter of two music enthusiasts -- her father a polka-playing entomologist and her mother a visual artist -- Paula Cole developed her own interest in performing early in life, studying both piano and clarinet as a child. After completing high school with exceptionally high grades she made music her central concern, enrolling at the prestigious Berklee School and developing her vocal style through courses in jazz improvisation and participation in the school's gospel choir. A post-college period spent working as a hired musician and composing her own songs eventually culminated in a 1992 record deal with Imago Records, the independent label that was also home to Aimee Mann, John Waite and Henry Rollins. It was at this time that she came to the attention of Peter Gabriel, who was seeking someone to fill the gap created by Sinead O'Connor's sudden departure from his Secret World touring band; impressed by her vocal abilities, Gabriel chose Cole for the position despite her unknown status, abruptly giving the young singer an international audience (her performances later receiving even wider exposure through Gabriel's double CD and video Secret World Live, 1994). This association created a favorable atmosphere for the release of her debut album Harbinger (1994) the following year, but the advantage was ultimately sabotaged by the dissolution of Imago shortly after its release -- a resulting lack of promotional support ensuring that neither the album nor its single I Am So Ordinary made a particularly strong public impact.
For her second album This Fire (1996) Cole found herself in the clutches of Warner Brothers, the rapacious conglomerate having stepped in to assume control of Imago in the aftermath its collapse. A 1995 reissue of Harbinger had been arranged first, but with only slightly more promising results; her entirely self-penned and self-produced second effort fared considerably better, buoyed by the success of the top ten single Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?. Cole then set to work supporting the album with extensive touring, both on her own and as part of the first Lilith Fair event (a touring festival that also included female performers such as Sarah McLachlan, Melissa Etheridge and Jewel). Even greater (perhaps even excessive) exposure was gained in 1998 with the song I Don't Want to Wait, used as the theme to the teen soap opera Dawson's Creek and given endless rotation on commercial radio. Her recording credits during this period were rounded out by guest appearances on albums by David Byrne (Feelings, 1997) and Jules Shear (Between Us, 1998).
Cole's third effort Amen surfaced in 1999, its songs taking a distinct turn towards hip-hop and R&B, and featuring input from hip-hop artists Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, Gang Starr's DJ Premier, and even Missy Elliott (who contributed to a track included with the single I Believe In Love). The bulk of the recordings, however, were created using The Paula Cole Band, a unit consisting of longtime collaborators and former Berklee classmates Jay Bellerose and Kevin Barry (on drums and guitar, respectively). Despite a well-received dance remix of I Believe In Love, the almighty sales figures for the album were not able to compete with This Fire and the singer's status on Warner Brothers was diminished accordingly; a fourth album (recorded with veteran producer Hugh Padgham) was subsequently rejected by the label, forcing Cole to distribute the tracks through her website in order to make them available to the public. An extended hiatus from recorded work was taken between 2003 and 2004, during which Cole focused on raising her daughter; this was brought to an end by an appearance on jazz trumpter Chris Botti's 2004 album When I Fall in Love, and work on a new Paula Cole album was initiated later that year.
Father: Jim Cole (executive)
Mother: Stephanie (artist)
Boyfriend: Seyi Sonuga (Nigerian musician and film maker)
Daughter: Sky Hakmoun
University: Berklee College of Music, Boston
Peter Gabriel Vocalist (1992-93)
The Paula Cole Band Vocalist/Multi-instrumentalist (1999-)
Grammy 1998 (best new artist)
Risk Factors: Yoga
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Secret World Live (1994) · Herself
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