Paula Cole to perform in Steamboat |

Paula Cole to perform in Steamboat

Singer-songwriter's career has come full circle

Nicole Inglis

Singer-songwriter Paula Cole performs Thursday and Friday for Strings Music Festival.

— Wednesday morning, at the tip of Cape Ann in Massa­chusetts, singer and songwriter Paula Cole was headed back to her house after a trip to Home Depot.

Currently in the process of renovating a house in Rockport, Mass. — the town where she grew up — the 42-year-old mother said her life had come full circle.

And her music career had traveled a similar path.

Once a well-known voice on popular radio for her 1997 No. 1 hit, "I Don't Want to Wait," Cole's passion for singing and songwriting took a back burner to being a mother from 1999 to 2007.

During the hiatus, she raised and took care of her daughter, Sky, and lived the reality of struggles with self-fulfillment and dreams, despair and divorce.

In her upcoming album, "Ithaca," Cole's personal journey is exposed through her soulful songwriting and airy, emotional voice.

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"There's a feeling of a spiritual full circle," Cole said about her new album. "Rockport, Mass., is my Ithaca. It's kind of a literary metaphor of the journey. It's been 10 years of finding my way back home."

She'll tell that same story in two performances this weekend in Steamboat Springs.

Cole will play tonight at Strings Music Festival's annual fundraising concert. The show begins at 6 p.m. at Bob and Mary Litterman's home. Tickets are $150, of which $90 is tax-deductible.

Cole also will perform at 8 p.m. Friday at the Strings Music Pavilion as a part of the festival's Different Tempo series. Tickets are $37.

Jennifer Shea, Strings Music Festival director of marketing and development, said the festival is proud to host Cole for the first time.

"We cannot wait to welcome Paula to perform at our intimate Encore Fundraising concert on Thursday evening and to hear her at the pavilion Friday night," Shea said. "We love her celebrated songs and can't wait to hear her new songs from her latest album."

Cole, who's influences range from Joni Mitchell and Annie Lennox to Bob Marley and Peter Gabriel, said she will touch on all parts of her story in her performances, from her early work to songs off "Ithaca," which will be released in late September.

She wrote the album; a process she said comes naturally to her.

"It feels like my first language," Cole said. "I get tongue-tied in English. If I could just sing how I felt, I would do that."

She said the songs encompass both darkness and light in the pain and hope of her journey out of her marriage and back into the music industry.

"I was in the process of divorce and songs that needed to come out and were therapeutic to come out," she said. "But (the album) finds its release and its hope, and I find love. I feel like I find acceptance."

Cole also faces the lasting stigma as the voice behind the "Dawson's Creek" theme song. But she remains optimistic that her true artistry can shine through the magnitude of her popular hit.

"That became so unexpectedly big," she said about the 1997 release. "But that's life. Life takes unexpected turns. I wish certainly I was known more for the breadth of the writing or my singing. In reality, that helped me survive in my off years.

"Now, I'm coming back and I'm eating some humble pie and connecting with the fans that are there knowing all the songs. And what a joy it is. It's humbling, it's hard work, but I'm creating a more authentic second career."

She said both studio time and live performances are important to her, calling her 90 minutes on each stage a "transcendental" experience.

But the lyrics and emotion come from a private place; her personal narrative she exposes to each audience.

"My songs are just part of the autobiography I'm required to write so I don't go insane," Cole said. "I'm too sensitive to this world, and I have to write."

If you go

What: Strings Music Festival Encore Fundraising Concert with Paula Cole

When: 6 p.m. today

Where: Bob and Marry Litterman’s home

Cost: $150, of which $90 is tax-deductible

What: Paula Cole

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Where: Strings Music Pavilion, Mount Werner and Pine Grove roads

Cost: $37

For more information, call 970-879-5056

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