Paula Cole has returned to making music, and her current tour brings her to City Winery on Oct. 13. | GETTY IMAGES
DYLAN RICE; GRAZYNA AUGUSCIK
♦ 8 p.m. Oct. 13
♦ City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph
♦ Tickets, $28-$35
♦ (312) 733-WINE
Updated: October 10, 2012 6:00PM
Ten years ago, Grammy-winning songstress Paula Cole found herself at a crossroads that countless women face every day: become a full time mom or continue with a full-time career.
“I had to make a distinct choice between my daughter and my career,” recalls Cole during a recent interview. “At the age of 15 months my daughter was diagnosed with very bad asthma, and essentially I put my career on hold for a good eight years. I missed music terribly, since I’ve never been the ‘stay at home’ type. Career-wise, it seemed like a death.”
At the time, Cole’s hits such as “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone” and “I Don’t Want to Wait” had taken the seven-time Grammy nominee to the top of the pop charts. She became the first woman in history to solely produce and receive the best producer Grammy nomination for her work, “This Fire.” She had also become the recipient of much love from the Lilith Fair crowd, spending much of the late ’90s touring with the likes of Sarah McLachlan, Jewel and many other female artists.
“It was an incredible time of organic rock music on the radio and I was lumped in with a handful of talented women,” Cole says. “But looking back, the fact was that I had a couple of big hits too quickly and it was simply too much for an introvert like me to handle. In hindsight, taking eight years off really gave me a time to heal, but I also didn’t know if anyone else would still care at the end of eight years.”
Now a thriving and talented fifth grader who takes piano lessons at her mom’s urging, Cole’s daughter, Sky, has served as quite the inspiration for the singer to get back into the business with a new album release and tour dates scheduled around the country, including her Oct. 13 date at City Winery in Chicago.
“Coming back into the business, I have really been worried that people would just lump me into some kind of shiny wrapping of who I was back in the late ’90s, rather than remembering the depths of the writing that I have done,” says Cole, who spent time in Chicago this past spring teaching at Columbia College.
“Sure, my fan base is smaller, but my real, loyal, lasting fans are with me now. My career feels so much more authentic these days.”
Within a career spanning 18 years, Cole has proven her talents within a string of critically acclaimed albums. She now finds herself in the studio, putting the finishing touches on “Raven,” a dark and mystical collection that seems to point toward the authentic artist within.
“I’m becoming much more entrepreneurial with this one,” explains Cole, who launched a Kickstarter campaign last month to help fund the independent album.
“I know labels are interested, but this time, I don’t want to give my album over. Yes, it’s hard to fund and it requires more entrepreneurial smarts. But at the age of 44, I sure hope to be a better businesswoman. I want to get the music straight to my fans. I also have always been my own producer, so I feel well situated to go down this path.”
And what does her daughter Sky think about all this?
“On one hand, she wants to be independent and is fine seeing me go back to work, but she still needs me very much,” she sighs. “In her mind, her mom works, her mom is smart and her mom is strong. She watches me and knows she can do it all too. That works for me.”
Tricia Despres is a local free-lance writer.