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Aimsel Ponti

Aimsel Ponti is a Content Producer at MaineToday.com and a music writer for MaineToday.com and the Portland Press Herald. She has been obsessed with - and inspired by - music since she listened to Monkees records borrowed from the town library when she was six years old. She bought her first Rolling Stones record at a flea market when she was in 7th grade and discovered David Bowie a year later. She's a HUGE fan of the local music scene and covers it along with national musical happenings in her "Face the Music" column and with artist interviews that appear in print in the Portland Press Herald and online at Mainetoday.com. You'll also find her out and about absorbing live music like a sponge and roaming around local record shops and flea markets. Aimsel is also the host of Music from 207 on 98.9 WCLZ and appears monthly on the News Center Maine TV show “207” to talk about...music of course.

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Posted: April 23, 2015

A Q&A with Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Paula Cole

Written by: Aimsel Ponti
Paula Cole. Courtesy photo

Erica McDonald photo

 

Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Paula Cole has just released her seventh album, “Seven,” and heads to Maine this weekend for two performances.

Her recording career began in 1994 with “Harbinger.” In 1996 “This Fire” propelled Cole to stardom with the hits “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone” and “I Don’t Want to Wait.”

After releasing “Amen” in 1999, Cole took a hiatus from the music business before returning in 2007 with “Courage.” Albums “Ithaca” and “Raven” followed. Although major commercial success has eluded her since the ’90s, she remains a vibrant artist with a huge voice that has kept many loyal fans going out to her shows.

Cole, 46, is from Rockport, Massachusetts, but she and her 13-year-old daughter, Sky, now call Beverly home. As she was getting ready to head out for a string of dates, she fielded several questions about being an independent artist and making “Seven.”

“Raven” and now “Seven” are both on your own independent label 675 Records. Do you like being an indie artist?

It’s nice to be independent for many reasons, yet another one is that this is my quickest turn-around. It’s only been two years between albums, and that’s my fastest turn-around ever. It’s freer.

Where was the album recorded?

We recorded this in a converted barn of our engineer Chris Rival in North Reading, Massachusetts. He’s kind of an eccentric genius and he constructed this barn by hand.

You originally had different plans for this record … correct?

I was going to record an album of standards and ballads and then the surgery happened.

What happened? I tore my ACL playing tennis. I had the surgery and I was lying about in recovery and once the drugs wore off it was the first time in a very long time that I didn’t have to multitask every day. So I was finally this open portal for inspired songwriting, and all these songs came and I realized that I had a session booked for standards. But all these song were here and I almost felt a spiritual duty to the songs; they come first. So I kept the same instrumentation, a very acoustic set-up and just went with it, even though it seemed very odd. I think it was very healthy to be acoustic and performance driven.

Let’s talk about “Gloucester Harbor Shore.” Is it homage to fishermen and their families?

I suppose. I wasn’t intending to make an homage, more just feeling some empathy and it’s the community I grew up in. I grew up in Rockport, which is right next door to Gloucester, which is America’s oldest commercial seaport, and we have respect for the weather and our oceans are overfished, so the fishermen are at greater risk because they go farther out. Normally my process is highly autobiographical, and it’s different for me to write through another’s voice. But this felt very intuitive. I don’t know why it happened, it just did.

“Puncture Wound” are harsh sounding words, but you’ve made a lovely song with them despite the lyrics being pretty dark. How did you come up with this one?

It’s pretty brutal. It was really all happening in 2004. That was one of the songs I wrote when I was having my first feelings ever while married thinking, “Oh dear God, what have I done and what will I do?” There was so much shame. Nobody got divorced in my family. How do I get myself out of this pickle with my daughter? It was just so heavy and such a terrible feeling and it took years to extract myself fully and to get my life right again. So that song really is my terrible realization of entrapment and mistakes. It’s hard to say those things.

“Chickadees (and Sipping Tea)” seems to look back on life shared with someone with some regrets but ultimately being thankful for the good things. Fair assessment?

Yeah. I felt the need to write about my reality now and being in middle age. That’s such a bad word, isn’t it? We need to come up with a different name for it. It is prime work years, prime parenting years, I’m working hard for my family. And here I am in my home and I’m getting such profound enjoyment simply out of looking out my living room windows at the bird feeders. The desperate angst of my 20s is somewhere far behind me and here I am and it’s simple and I’m more at peace. I’m in a good relationship.

Here we are and we’re finding peace and love, and yes there’s regrets but mostly an appreciative moment. Amongst all the young dreams, you find yourself in your current reality just like you find yourself like this little chickadee that is fluttering in on a feeder like a miracle. You can actually see the miracle, you can appreciate the miracle because you’re in a more still place.

What made you want to cover the old Leadbelly tune “Goodnight Irene?”

This album if full of my family and my life, and my sister’s name is Irene – she was named for the song. We grew up with this song. I’ve heard Leadbelly do it, but mostly I’ve heard my father’s version. It’s a family standard for me and when we cut it, it was magic and it felt like an album ender.

Cole’s live shows will feature Jay Bellerose on drums and Mark Erelli on guitar and vocals.

Listen to “Gloucester Harbor Shore” from the “Seven” album:

 

Paula Cole

WHERE: Gracie Theatre, Husson University, 1 College Circle, Bangor
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
HOW MUCH: $25 to $35
INFO: gracietheatre.com

WHERE: Chocolate Church Arts Center, 804 Washington St., Bath
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
HOW MUCH: $35 in advance, $40 day of show
INFO: chocolatechurcharts.org

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