More Gonz Show: Paula Cole
I’ve heard that you’ve since moved back East. Where are you living now?
In New York City. West Village
Has moving back East helped re-center your life?
I think it did. Manhattan forces you to streamline. I ended finding a new home for my two big dogs. They were two big over-grown mutts. But they couldn’t acclimate, so I had to find them another home.
That’s so sad. I always wanted a dog, but my mom wouldn’t let me have one. Which is sadder, I think.
They have an amazing home now. It was just cruel to keep them here. NYC isn’t a good place for dogs.
Courage is your fourth album, right? Was there any specific inspiration.
I tried to make a fourth album for Warner Brothers, but I had to walk away from them because of the contract. When I left Warner Brothers, it was an opportunity to write from a fresh place. Courage was my mantra to get to a better, happier place in life. And I wrote these songs.
Was that cathartic?
Well, the songs weren’t cathartic. But the songs did make me realize what I was feeling.
I got your new CD through the publicist, but it wouldn’t play. I tried two different CD players…. I dunno, Paula, that seems like a bad omen.
(Laughs.) It’s not an omen, John. Just a bad technological moment.
Ok, well can you just sing it for me? Start at the beginning and go from there.
Not even a few bars? Come on, Paula.
No. (Laughs.) I will not tap dance for you…how old are you?
30. Unless you’re talking about my mental state, which is closer to 10. I’m actually having a bit of a midlife crisis, Paula. I guess that means I won’t live all that long. Anyway, do you have any tips for me about being in my 30s now?
Oh, don’t worry about it. We tend to define ourselves by what we do. We congratulate ourselves on specialization. But it’s much healthier to inhabit other parts of our psyche as well. Maybe you might be happier if you explore the other things in your life that don’t involve your job.
(Continues) I found that to be true in my 30s. I had over-identified with my persona—with Paula Cole. Don’t focus on money and gratification. Don’t let that stuff define you.
One of your songs from Courage, “El Greco,” features the words: “Happiness is over-rated/it never lasts.” I think the idea of happiness being ephemeral is right, but do you really believe it’s over-rated?
Oh yeah. It’s the catch all. It’s the end phrase.
On “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone,” you ask about your happy ending. Did you ever get one?
I was writing that from a wry place. I was taking a sincere question and mixing it with sarcasm. I don’t know. A happy ending? I don’t know if there is such a thing. I was poking fun at society and how we always want to wrap things up with a happy ending. What really turns my stomach, now that I have a child, is all these Disney movies with happy endings.
Huh. I can’t get enough happy endings. Maybe that’s just my predisposition.
“I don’t want to wait” was co-opted by Dawson’s Creek. Does it bother you that, whenever anyone hears that, they think of a terrible teeny-bopper show? Because you’re now forever linked to Katie Holmes and that whole crew, which is a little like being linked to dumpster full of stuff no one ever wanted.
(Laughs.) There’s that. But I know it to be more, so I’m secure. I know where the song came from. On a practical level, I was able to get off the hamster wheel for eight years and make a living and raise my daughter because of that song. It keeps getting played, and it helps me live my life. So I don’t worry about Dawson’s Creek. It used to bother me, but it doesn’t anymore.
I wouldn’t let James Van der Beek within 100 feet of me without a high-powered water gun and some tranquilizers. He’s creepy.
No. (Laughs.) He’s a really humble, warm human being. It’s so easy to be critical. There are so many other pretentious people you could shoot with a water gun.
Speaking of: What was it like touring with Peter Gabriel when you first started out? Was he pretentious? I’ve always thought he’d be super pretentious. I mean, naming your first four albums after yourself? Sweet lord, not even Paris Hilton is that narcissistic.
You’re so funny. You’re too young to understand this.
Too young? Explain it to me. I like older women who want to educate me.
He’s an overgrown schoolboy. He named it Peter Gabriel because it was a stoicism and simplicity to it, not because he’s narcissistic. He’s all about ethics and values and music. He’s an amazing artist and an amazing man.
There’s been a lot made about you sort of falling off the map. But I find it really interesting that you said, even at the height of your success, that you felt sort of beaten by the process. “Funny how something you love so much turns soul-draining,” is how you put it. But when you stopped writing and performing, was it the release you expected, or did you regret your decision?
It’s really healthy to stop. For people who do, it gives them an opportunity to let one part of them die and find a more authentic second-adulthood. It can make you a better human being. I recommend it.
You’ve said that the old Paul Cole died. Do you miss her? Is that why you’ve come back?
The music, I can’t live without music. I can’t live as a hermit any more. This time off has served its purpose. It was dysfunctional; I need to sing and see sunshine again. I need to sing. It’s something to be shared. My life, it’s almost bigger than me, and it’s steering me back into the world again with a new record deal and new excitements. It feels really good. And I think it will be different this time.
While you were away, you studied analytical psychology and Carl Jung. Jung was an introvert, and you’ve described yourself as one, too. Did you learn anything about yourself by studying his philosophies?
I can’t say I know a lot of biographical information about him, but I just identify with his thoughts and how he shaped his thoughts. His spirituality made sense. I relate to it. When you have troubles, and you view them in Jungian sense, they put you on the everyman path, the universal path.
Well, at least Jung wasn’t a coke-head like Freud. But do you think he was a Nazi-sympathizer? A lot of people suspected he was.
I never heard that. I wonder who thinks that. He was Swiss. I don’t know.
That’s just a little trivia for you. A little knowledge.
(Laughs.) Hey, I’m not a Nazi-sympathizer.
Good to know.