Jerry Nunn is a contributing writer to the GoPride Network. His work is also featured in Windy City Times, Nightspots Magazine and syndicated nationally.
Where has Paula Cole gone? After winning a Grammy award for "Best New Artist" in 1997 and having several hits, the wait is finally over and she returns with Ithaca, her fifth studio album.
JN: (Jerry Nunn) Hey, Paula. How does it feel to have your new album, Ithica, finally come out?
PC: (Paula Cole) Well, we are speaking on the day of release and I just performed at the Wendy Williams show, which was a trip! She is so great actually.
JN: She is, I just went to her show in New York.
PC: She is very lovely. I had a little bit of nervousness around today but I am looking forward for the long run. I will be working hard around this album through next year probably. I am proud of its existence because it was a long road to find the confidence in getting back into the music business, finding my voice and writing songs again. It took a while so I am thrilled that I am here talking about it.
JN: What is the first single?
PC: It's called "Music in Me." It's track number three.
JN: Did you perform that one on Wendy today?
PC: I did. My voice cracked but what the hell? (both laugh)
JN: Have you made a video for the song?
PC: No, I haven't done that the last couple of albums. The last two albums have been very personal. I have not been in a video-making phase of my career.
JN: How do you feel about the music business?
PC: The landscape keeps changing around me. I feel like I have to change to no perish, I suppose. Through it all, I just keep picking myself up and dusting myself off. The singing and writing has always been an autobiographical process, it just takes a lot of hard work and persistence to endure the business aspect of it. Even if the delivery system of music disappears I can still make music and release it myself.
JN: Yes, with the internet.
PC: I am not at that stage yet. I am still lucky to have Decca behind me. I am still on a record label as old-fashioned as that seems. The whole business is going to mutate.
JN: I am sure it will.
PC: I don't have that many other skills besides singing so I don't know what I would do. I don't want to do anything else.
JN: Did you feel a lot of pressure after winning the Grammy for "Best New Artist?"
PC: It seems to be a doomed category of the Grammys! No, I didn't feel pressure. Looking back reflectively at my life, it seems like there was this big to-do at the end of the nineties, that's when everything exploded, honestly everything happened too fast. It would have been a nicer ride if it all unfolded more slowly. It really zoomed up to the top with seven Grammy nominations and so much attention. I needed a break, which was an eight-year break, a near death experience in pop music. So now I am a single mom and been stuck in divorce court for two years. I have been through so much crap. This is career number two and next time I go to the Grammys I want to be happier in my personal life.
JN: Sure, that sounds positive. Where did the name Ithaca come from?
PC: Ithaca represents my homecoming. It comes from Homer's Odyssey.
JN: I read it in school.
PC: Odysseus goes back to Ithaca, his home. It takes ten years of fighting out in the world slaying beasts then ten years of coming back to Ithaca. I feel some kinship in that.
I felt beat up in the world and coming back to Rockport, Massachusetts, I found acceptance and love in this homecoming with my parents.
JN: I appreciate how open you are about your personal life because a lot of people aren't. You just recently performed in Chicago.
PC: Yes, it was such a wonderful show. I love Chicago. I was blown away by the love and incredible vibes there. You see gay, straight folks, everybody walking arm and arm in the street. That speaks to me as a higher plane of consciousness and community.
JN: A man dying from AIDS inspired your song "Hush Hush Hush."
That's right. I was living in San Francisco and had just graduated college. I was friend with a man named Steven who got sick all of a sudden from AIDS and was just gone from us. I didn't know what to do. That's how I express my feelings with writing songs. There is some poetic licensing in the song because the man has been estranged from his father by being gay and coming out. It is only when he is dying that the father comes back but at least they are loving and reunited at the end. The father figure is portrayed by Peter Gabriel in the song.
JN: That's so interesting. Well, I look forward to seeing your show.
PC: Thank you, my dear and thanks for your support.
You don't have to wait. Paula arrives at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W Campbell, Arlington Heights, on Nov 20. www.metropolisarts.com for details and tickets.