Paula was born to visual artist mother Stephanie and polka-playing
entomologist father Jim Cole.
Paula Cole has a sister named Irene. Paula entered
the Berklee College of Music in Boston when she was 18, where she studied jazz
singing and improvisation, shortly after her high school graduation. Although
some press and stories focused on Cole being an unpopular and lonely child
during her schooling in Rockport public schools, this is almost purely fiction.
Paula Cole was, in fact, from middle school on, a very popular student, holding
office as class president and student counselor. 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. Although it has been
reported otherwise, she did, in fact, attend proms.
Cole got her first big professional break when she was invited to perform on Peter Gabriel's 1992-1993 world tour. Shortly after this, Paula Cole 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 oput of business. This prevented Paula's album from getting radio exposure. However, she wasn't without a record company for long. In 1995, Paula Cole was signed on to Warner Bros. Records. The record company reissued Harbinger in the Fall of 1995.
Paula released her debut album, Harbinger, in 1994 with Imago Records. Once on tour her fellow Rockporters supported her: elementary school teacher Selma Bell, middle school science teacher Richard Grey, and classmates turned out to attend Paula's concerts on the east coast, mid-west, and west coast. Paula Cole appeared with Melissa Etheridge to sing a duet on VH1 though she was not well-known at the time.
Harbinger featured songs dwelling on Paula'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.
In late 1996 Paula released her second album on Warner Bros. Records, This Fire, which was entirely self-produced. The albums's 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, thanks in part to the fact that it was made the theme song to the popular teen drama Dawson's Creek. (The song was considered by many to be so overplayed that it was lampooned on various sketch comedy shows. Memorably, a sketch on MADtv that spoofed Dawson's Creek had an outsider burst in on a romantic scene and destroy a radio playing the song). The single "Me" (#35) was also released.
Paula toured with the Lilith Fair and garnered even more critical acclaim for her live performances. Paula was nominated for several Grammy awards in 1997. Among them was "Producer of the Year" (Cole was the first woman to ever be nominated in this category); she did not win it, but did win "Best New Artist".
Paula Cole In Popular Culture
Cole's songs are highly referenced in pop culture, particularly in TV shows (The Simpsons, South Park, Saturday Night Live, MST3K) and films (Urban Legend, Scary Movie).
In the past, Cole created some controversy by appearing in public wearing tank tops and sleeveless shirts, and even totally nude on the This Fire album cover, without shaving her armpits. One magazine, Entertainment Weekly enraged Cole after airbrushing her armpit hair out of its cover photo. They eventually ran the unaltered photo and Paula's letter to them, citing that the editors of the magazine thought it was a smudge on the photograph "until we saw the Grammys."
Current Status of Paula Cole
Paula Cole's official website is now managed by The Colomby Group. Paula Cole is scheduled for a future tour and the tag "great things are happening" on the site would suggest Ms. Paula is ready to release her fourth studio album under her new record company Columbia In 2006, Cole released a greatest hits album.
The Amen Album
Paula 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 into a successful dance song. The album failed to match the success of This Fire. A third 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. Paula Cole 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."
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