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Paula Cole performs at SOU

 Posted: 2:00 AM March 20, 2014

Singer and songwriter Paula Cole says she loves a good, classic pop song.

"It's like a beautiful, encapsulated jewel," she says in a video about making her 2010 album "Ithaca." "It's a craft."

With six full-length albums to her credit, Cole's been nominated for multiple Grammy Awards — including best producer for her 1996 recording, "This Fire."

If you go

Who: Paula Cole

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 22

Where: Music Recital Hall on the Southern Oregon University campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland

Tickets: $27 or $30


When Peter Gabriel heard Cole's 2008 "Harbinger," he asked her to join his 1993 tour as a backup singer.

"It was a rock-star tour with first-class everything," she says. "He had a profound influence on me. I was used to touring around the country with my boyfriend in a rental car with a PA in the boot."

Cole — along with acoustic and electric guitar player Chris Bruce and drummer Ben Wittman — will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 22, in the Music Recital Hall on the Southern Oregon University campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland. Tickets cost $27 or $30 and can be purchased at Music Coop, 268 E. Main St., or online at

Cole knew she wasn't destined to become a backup singer. She had to sing her own songs. Each of her albums, she says, is a snapshot of a time and place in her life.

The songs on "Ithaca" were written in New York City while she endured a difficult divorce. The album became a look at the journey that brought her back to her own songwriting process and the courage to produce her music again.

Cole's 2013 recording, "Raven," marks her departure from major labels. No surprise considering "This Fire" was self-produced. Along with the nomination for best producer for "Fire," she won the Grammy for best new artist with the album's breakout hits "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" and "I Don't Want to Wait."

"Raven," she says, is more about family and love.

"I moved back to my hometown in Massachusetts after my divorce," Cole says. "I'm in a new marriage, settled and happy, and my daughter is doing great. I think this is allowing the songwriting to bloom again."

The song "Life Goes On" was written for her father, the first track, "Eloise," tells a story of love and heartache, and "Strong Beautiful Woman" is a song all women should listen to.

"I've prioritized my personal relationships," Cole says. "It feels right for me, so my relationships inform my songs."

Cole learned piano while growing up, then studied voice and received a degree in professional music from Berklee College of Music in Boston.

"It's the loosest of music degrees," she says. "You can tailor it to your needs."

Now, she teaches creative writing — or the "art of writing out your life in autobiography and song," she says — at Berklee.

"The big thing is that I'm off major labels," Cole says. "I don't have a manager, and I can streamline my performances to fit my life. I highly recommend that artists take the road of independence, especially women. My goal is to leave the best work I possibly can, and I accept that it will lead to a humbler life."

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