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Paula Cole

Paula Cole
Cole performing in 2009
Background information
Born (1968-04-05) April 5, 1968
Origin Rockport, Massachusetts, U.S.
Genres Adult contemporary[1]
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter
Instruments Vocals, piano, keyboard
Years active 1992–present
Labels Imago/Warner Bros. (1993–2003)
Columbia (2003–2005)
Decca (2006–2010)
675 Recordings (2013-Present)
Website Official site

Paula Cole (born April 5, 1968) is an American singer-songwriter. Her single "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" reached the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1997, and the following year she won a Grammy Award for Best New Artist. Her song "I Don't Want To Wait" was used as the theme song to the television show Dawson's Creek.


  • Early life 1
  • Recording career 2
    • Peter Gabriel's Secret World Tour 2.1
    • Harbinger 2.2
    • This Fire 2.3
    • Amen 2.4
    • Courage 2.5
    • Ithaca 2.6
    • Raven 2.7
    • 7 2.8
  • Instruments 3
  • Current status 4
  • Discography 5
    • Studio albums 5.1
    • Compilation albums 5.2
    • Singles 5.3
  • Awards and nominations 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life

Cole was raised in Rockport, Massachusetts; her mother was an elementary school art teacher, and her father was a professor of biology and ecology at Salem State College and a polka musician.[2] She attended Rockport High School, where she was president of her senior class and performed in school theatrical productions such as South Pacific.[3] Cole then attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she studied jazz singing and improvisation. She was offered a record deal by a jazz label, but decided to turn it down.[2]

Recording career

Cole got her first big professional break when she was invited to perform on Peter Gabriel's 1993–94 Secret World Live tour. Shortly after this, she 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 out of business. In 1995, she was signed on to Warner Bros. Records. The record company reissued Harbinger in the Autumn of 1995.

Peter Gabriel's Secret World Tour

To replace Sinead O'Connor who left the tour, Cole joined the two last legs of Peter Gabriel's 1993-94 Secret World tour.[4][5] A video of the tour was released as Secret World Live, with Cole covering all the primary female vocals and featured in duets with Gabriel, especially the song "Don't Give Up" on which she sang the part that Kate Bush recorded with Gabriel in 1986. The film received the 1996 Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video.[6] Cole was also the main female vocalist on Secret World Live, the audio album documenting the tour.

The tour gave Cole international exposure as well as experience performing on a large stage.[7]


Cole released her debut album, Harbinger, in 1994 with Imago Records. She appeared with Melissa Etheridge to sing a duet on VH1 though she was not well known at the time.

Harbinger featured songs dwelling on Cole'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. The Imago label folded and promotion of Harbinger was limited, affecting its sales. A single, "I Am So Ordinary", was released with a black and white video that reflected the album's artwork.

This Fire

In late 1996, Cole released her second album on Warner Bros. Records, This Fire, which was entirely self-produced. The album'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, its popularity in part due to its usage as the theme song for the hit teen drama series Dawson's Creek.[8] The single "Me" (#35) was also released. The title "Hush, Hush, Hush", a duet with Peter Gabriel, talks about AIDS and about a young man dying in his father's comforting arms. "Feelin' Love" was a single that was included on the soundtrack to City of Angels.

Cole toured with Sarah McLachlan's Lilith Fair. Cole was nominated for several Grammy Awards in 1997. Among them was "Producer of the Year" (Cole was the third woman to ever be nominated in this category after Janet Jackson in 1990 and Mariah Carey in 1992); she did not win, but she did go on to win "Best New Artist" that same year.[9]


Cole 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 by producer Jonathan Peters into a successful dance song. The album which had guest appearances by DJ Premier and long-time Cole fan Tionne Watkins featured some R&B and hip-hop influences but failed to match the success of This Fire. A fourth album was recorded with Hugh Padgham 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. She 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 "country-esque" song called "My Hero Mr. President". [4] [5]


Cole returned in June 2007 with her fourth studio album Courage, which was released on Decca Records and produced by Bobby Colomby at the Capitol Studios in Hollywood.


Cole's fifth studio album, Ithaca, was released September 21, 2010. She wrote and co-produced all of the songs on the album. Cole says it "represents that inner fortitude and the journey I've been on."[10]


Raven is Cole's sixth studio album. It was funded by a Kickstarter campaign which ran from September 22, 2012 to October 29, 2012 and raised $75,258.[11] The album was released on April 23, 2013 on her 675 label. Cole wrote the 11 songs on the album including two from early in her career, "Imaginary Man" and "Manitoba". Her mother had saved these songs on cassette tapes.[12] Most of the album was recorded in one week at a barn in Massachusetts. The musicians included co-producer/drummer Ben Wittman, guitarist Kevin Barry and bassist Tony Levin. She has worked with Wittman and Barry since she was 19.[12]


7 is Cole's seventh studio album released on March 23, 2015 via Cole's official Website/store and to other digital music outlets on April 10, 2015. In Cole's words, it is "a collection of songs that came suddenly and urgently. The songs demanded to be written and released, as if my subconscious needed to reach out to me; to tell me what it thought about all I was going through. I recorded this album live, as an acoustic quartet. It sounds like a soft, soulful album made in the 1960’s and the songs speak for themselves.”


In addition to singing, Cole performs on numerous instruments, including her main instrument, harmonium, beat boxing vocals, toy xylophone, didjeridoo, clarinet, Fender Rhodes electric piano, Rhodes bass, Moog synthesizer, and low tuned-electric guitar in different songs.

Current status

Cole performed a two-hour set at Berklee Performance Center in Boston, Massachusetts on February 16, 2007 during which she debuted several songs from her then yet to be released fourth studio album, Courage. The set began with a solo piano version of "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone" which was replayed toward the end of the concert by the full band. Her performance was reviewed favorably in The Boston Globe on February 19, 2007.[13] In March 2007, her official myspace previewed three new songs from Courage, which include "Comin' Down", "El Greco", and the album's first single entitled "14".

On July 10, 2007 Cole sang "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch of the 2007 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.[14][15] In August 2007, Cole toured with Mandy Moore, playing mid-size venues in the western United States.

On June 17, 2008 she sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Game 6 of the NBA Finals in Boston.[16] In August 2008 and 2009, Cole continued to tour and promote her CD Courage.

Since 2013, Cole has been on the voice faculty at Berklee College of Music while continuing an active performing career.


Studio albums

Title Details Peak chart
  • US Sales: 150,000[21]
This Fire
  • Release date: October 15, 1996
  • Label: Imago / Warner Bros.
  • Formats: CD, cassette
20 26 60
  • US: 2x Platinum
  • Release date: September 28, 1999
  • Label: Imago / Warner Bros.
  • Formats: CD, cassette
  • US Sales: 116,000[21]
Courage 163
  • Release date: September 21, 2010
  • Label: Decca
  • Formats: CD, music download
  • Release date: April 23, 2013
  • Label: 675 Records / United For Opportunity
  • Formats: CD, Digital Download
  • Release date: March 23, 2015
  • Label: 675 Records
  • Formats: CD, Digital Download
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Compilation albums

Title Details
Greatest Hits: Postcards from East Oceanside
  • Release date: June 6, 2006
  • Label: Warner Bros. / Rhino
  • Formats: CD, music download


Year Single Peak chart positions Album
US Adult


US Pop
1997 "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" 8 27 4 32 10 5 32 7 15 This Fire
"I Don't Want to Wait" 11 3 1 5 27 5 43
1998 "Me" 17 25 20
1999 "I Believe in Love" 22 18 39 37 Amen
2000 "Be Somebody"
2007 "14" Courage
"Coming Down"
2010 "Music in Me" Ithaca
2013 "Eloise" Raven
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Nominated work Result
1997 MTV Video Music Awards Best Female Video "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" Nominated
1998 40th Grammy Awards Record of the Year Nominated
Song of the Year Nominated
Best Female Pop Vocal Performance Nominated
Album of the Year This Fire Nominated
Best Pop Vocal Album Nominated
Best New Artist Paula Cole Won
Producer of the Year, Non-Classical Nominated
Boston Music Awards Act of the Year Won
Outstanding Female Vocalist Won
Single of the Year "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?" Won
Outstanding Song/Songwriter "I Don't Want To Wait" Won
1999 Act of the Year Paula Cole Nominated


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "Paula Cole", Northshore Magazine (Mass.), July 10, 2010.
  3. ^ Gail McCarthy, "Paula's homecoming: Rockport's Cole wows sold-out crowds", Gloucester Daily Times, August 8, 2010.
  4. ^ "Paula Cole Biography". Retrieved 2014-01-09. 
  5. ^ "Paula Cole". NNDB Mapper. Retrieved 2014-01-09. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Paula Cole Picks Up Tips From Peter Gabriel". MTV. Retrieved January 9, 2014. 
  8. ^ 90s Alternative Girls: Then & Now
  9. ^ "Don't Fence Her In Singer Paula Cole and "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" have been branded as anti-feminist. Ain't so, ma'am. You can do the dishes, while she goes to get her Grammys.". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved June 16, 2013. 
  10. ^ McLaughlin, Moira E. Washington Post, 16 October 2009. "With a balanced life, Cole is ready to return to the spotlight". Accessed 23 January 2010.
  11. ^ Paula Cole: New Independent Album, "Raven"
  12. ^ a b Paula Cole on Releasing Raven, Parental Guidance and ‘Lilith UnFair’
  13. ^ Rodman, Sarah (February 19, 2007). "Returning to the limelight, Cole is as striking as ever". The Boston Globe, Living/Arts [6]
  14. ^ press release from MLB
  15. ^ this article from Broadcast News
  16. ^ "Celtics win NBA title: Game 6 scene at the Garden". The Boston Globe. June 17, 2008. 
  17. ^ "US Certifications - Paula Cole".  
  18. ^ "Paula Cole Album & Song Chart History - Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved June 24, 2011. 
  19. ^ " - New Zealand charts portal". Hung Medien. Retrieved June 24, 2011. 
  20. ^ "Chart Stats - Paula Cole". Archived from the original on July 28, 2012. Retrieved June 24, 2011. 
  21. ^ a b "Ask Billboard".  
  22. ^ "Paula Cole Album & Song Chart History - Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved June 24, 2011. 
  23. ^ "Paula Cole Album & Song Chart History - Adult Contemporary". Billboard. Retrieved June 24, 2011. 
  24. ^ "Paula Cole Album & Song Chart History - Adult Pop Songs". Billboard. Retrieved June 24, 2011. 
  25. ^ "Paula Cole - AllMusic".  
  26. ^ "Paula Cole Album & Song Chart History - Alternative Songs". Billboard. Retrieved June 24, 2011. 
  27. ^ "Paula Cole Album & Song Chart History - Dance/Club Play Songs". Billboard. Retrieved June 24, 2011. 
  28. ^ "Paula Cole Album & Song Chart History - Pop Songs". Billboard. Retrieved June 24, 2011. 
  29. ^ " - Australian charts portal". Hung Medien. Retrieved June 24, 2011. 
  30. ^ "RPM search results - Paula Cole".  
  31. ^ "Chart Log UK: Chris C- CZR".  

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
LeAnn Rimes
Grammy Award for Best New Artist
Succeeded by
Lauryn Hill
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