Singer-songwriter Paula Cole had a stream of hit songs in the '90s ala "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" and others, nabbed a Grammy for Best New Artist in '98 and then, shortly after, disappeared from the limelight. It would be eight years before she returned to the stage, which is why Cole calls her career "very bookend."
"My career in the '90s felt very pre-Internet, a very different paradigm with record labels and tour support and people buying physical (CDs) and people were still playing real instruments," Cole said during a recent phone interview. Then "life happened," for Cole.
"I had my daughter, I was stuck in an unhealthy marriage, my daughter had health problems and I couldn't even think about touring," she said. "I tried to make an album a few times, but the universe was saying no."
in 2007, Cole returned, releasing "Courage" on Decca Records, followed by "Ithaca" in September of 2010.
"That began this second, more adult career of mine," Cole said. "All the numbers are smaller - less people, smaller venues, smaller sales. But that's really OK. It suits me very nicely. The loyal people are still with me and that's lovely. In that way, it's a family reunion."
During her time away, Cole said she missed music, and connecting with audiences. She calls this portion of her career more "authentic."
"It's not about the hits and being on MTV," she said. "It's about the breadth and depth of the entire catalog. It's an emotional ride we're taking together."
And it's not about living out of suitcase for months at a time, either. Instead, Cole leaves her home in Beverly, Mass., and her daughter and step kids for a weekend here and there.
"It's more occasionally interspersed throughout the year," she said. "It's not giant legs anymore."
But that doesn't mean Cole is floating along, relying on her old hits rather than striving to cover new ground.
"It still feel like I'm pushing myself very hard to be as excellent as I can be," she said. "I play the old songs, and it's a fun memory lane ride, but I'm not living there."
'Broaden your musical library'
Cole plans to play a combination of old and new songs during her concert Sunday night at the Vilar Center in Beaver Creek, she said. She kicks off the Underground Sound concert series, an annual off season series aimed at bringing lesser known singer/songwriters to the Vilar Center, and, with the lure of affordable ticket prices, some new faces to the venue. The transferable Full Access pass gets you seven shows, and seven drinks, for $98.
"By purchasing the pass, you're taking a chance to broaden your musical library with names you may or may not be familiar with," said Kris Sabel, executive director for the Vilar Performing Arts Center. "Connecting fans with new music is an important part of our mission, and the pass is great because it's affordable and easy to share with others."
This is the second year Singletree residents Paul and Ann Rosenwald purchased passes for the series.
"It has become a date night for us - dinner at The (Dusty) Boot with another couple, and then off to the Vilar," Ann said.
The couple plan to attend Cole's concert, even though they're not familiar with much of catalog, other than "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" but the Rosenwalds "trust Kris Sabel's ear for good performers," Ann said.
'Feels like freedom'
On Sunday, Cole will perform as a trio. She'll play the piano with Ben Whittman on drums and Mark Goldenberg on guitar.
"That's what I used to do when I played in the '90s, so I that's how I wanted to return, as a trio," she said.
As for Cole's live show, she said she puts forth a lot of energy and a lot of passion, and likes to tell stories and talk about the songs.
"Sometimes its very rocking, sometimes its softer. There's a big range dynamically."
Recently Cole has been in the studio - a converted barn in Mass. - recording songs for her next album, titled "Raven," which she hopes to release spring 2013. For the first time since her early days, Cole is not on a major label. At the end of this month, she will launch a Kickstarter project to help fund "Raven."
"We've recorded around 12 songs and it sounds fantastic," she said. "I'm very excited about it. I just need an extra push to help me release this album."
Cole has produced her own albums before, so she feels very comfortable, she said.
"I can do the albums, I don't have to go to the middle man to work it out," she said. "I feel much freer that way. I feel like this is the new reality, the new paradigm. And I think it will be better for artists in the long run if they can bridge this gap."