Iowa City, Iowa | November 19, 2010
By George Burrows
Paula Cole provides Live Gig Shots insights to her 8 year absence from the music scene, as well as her new record and tour.George Burrows: What prompted you to become a singer songwriter and who were your influences? Paula Cole: It was a natural evolution of loving singing, having enough talent and support, wanting to write my own stories, faith and sheer determination. My influences are (not just were) singers, instrumentalists; writers/thinkers, singer/songwriters of influence: Aretha Franklin, Maria Callas, Nat King Cole, Chaka Khan, Annie Lennox, Dolly Parton, Ella Fitzgerald, Tina Turner, Sarah Vaughn, Stevie Wonder, Betty Carter, Michael Jackson, Al Green, Donny Hathaway, Billie Holiday…Instrumentalists of influence: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly, Philly Joe Jones, Carlton and Aston Barrett, Al Jackson, my band…Writers/thinkers of influence: Herman Hesse, Jane Goodall, Zora Neale Hurston, Carl Jung, Thich Nhat Hanh, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Gloria Steinam, Rumi, Yogi Bhajan, The Dalai Lama, Suze Ormon, Daniel Goleman, James Hollis, Ghandi… Singer/Songwriters of influence: John Lennon, Joni Mitchell, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Bill Withers, Bob Marley, Paul Simon, John Denver, Marvin Gaye, Neil Young, Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton. But most of all my influences are my parents and nature.
GB: After your success in the 90’s with 3 critically acclaimed releases, Grammy Awards and ‘The Dawson Creek’ mania, you took an 8 year hiatus. Please comment on that time and it how impacted your decision to return to touring/new record. (Ithaca)PC: Well I only won one Grammy! Maybe one day there may be another (God willing!) It was part self-sabotage in feeling discomfort with the spotlight, part heeding the inner voice which told me I needed to stop focusing outwardly so much and have a child, share my path. I didn’t expect or truly want that to turn into eight years, but such is life. I still feel sad about it sometimes and work on acceptance. Lots of personal challenges happened then, preventing me from making the albums I had in my heart; from re-emerging. I’m trying to do that now that I’m in a good place in life, and sure enough flights and hotels are still not glamorous or fun. I believe in my new album “Ithaca”. It is grand. I try to be unafraid and express some grandiosity amidst the humbler organic moments. I admire Beethoven, Van Gogh – big romantic thick strokes of paint, vision, fury. Who sings like Maria Callas anymore? Who makes rock like they did in the 70’s? It’s kind of a lost art in today’s world. The hiatus was important for me. I am more centered, humbler and happier. Even if the career is humbler, I have a much richer inner and personal life. I think that’s apparent live.
GB: Live Gig Shots focuses on ”live Music.” Tell us about your current tour. Who is in the band and how does touring differ from the 90’s? What do you like best about the live performance?PC: Actually, I thought a lot about my touring of old before I started performing for “Ithaca”. I was working with a larger band for awhile in support of “Courage” and it was very rich. But I yearned to hearken back to the lean muscularity of the power trio (which I did a lot in the mid-90’s.) There’s something creative that happens when we all have more space to inhabit. I like the open-ness of no bass, allowing the left hand of the piano to really ring. And what my guitar players do with all that space is divine. I love space. I love live music. It’s all about those fleeting, precious moments one shares with an audience, really. My current band is: Drums: Ben Wittman and sometimes Tony Mason, Guitar: Steve Elliot and sometimes Ben Butler, Kevin Barry or Mark Goldenberg.
GB: What new artists are you are listening to and do you get to attend their live shows?PC: It’s hard for me extract from my hermitude when I’m home. I’m such a nester and generally in need of re-fueling between shows, so I’m not chasing down the latest artist, sorry to say. I’m reflective and love discovering new work that inspires, though. I really love Ray LaMontagne (even though he’s not so new.) I know most of the band – they were my band, too. I love that Ray’s a humble New Englander who followed his courage to sing. I wish Amy Lee (from Evanescence) would release a solo album of more organic music. I’d love to see her in that context and I think her voice is extraordinary. I know they must be out there, but I feel there are very few artists who own the whole package of writing from their own passionate, unique perspective in a beautiful way AND singing in a passionate, unique, beautiful way. I’m wanting badly to see Rufus Wainright live but I haven’t had the chance.
GB: If you could change one thing in the music industry and it would become a reality, what would that be?PC: I would go back in time and prevent the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1997 under Clinton. I saw the effects firsthand. When I started, independent radio was more widespread. DJ’s could play what they wanted. They’d play Aimee Mann next to Chaka after Jeff Buckley and Miles Davis. Now that the law has passed, a very small handful of major corporations own the vast majority of radio in America. Now there’s a KISS, a MIX etc. in every city. And the play list is all the same. One or two people dictate that playlist. Which in turns homogenizes musical literacy and consciousness in our society. Now people ask, “What KIND of music do you like?” That question makes me want to barf. It should be “What ARTISTS do you like?” We don’t know how dumbed down we’re becoming because a few businesses want to BRAND us according to the demographic tuned into that radio or tv station. It’s all about selling some products, which makes the music superfluous wallpaper. That is so wrong. I’m not here to sell perfume or be on a fricking reality show. I am dedicated to music and will stand with the few artists that are in it for the long run, for the worship of music. Sincere thanks to Paula Cole and Cortney Fortune -George