Born the daughter of musicians in Rockport, Massachusetts, Paula Cole grew up singing for fun: American songbooks, traditional folk songs, Christmas carols, and a cappella harmonies. While finding kindred spirits in records, she became a fixture in her school musicals, which catapulted her toward a scholarship for Berklee, where she studied jazz singing and improvisation.
While a senior at Berklee, she was offered a deal with a jazz label but declined. In 1993, Peter Gabriel asked her to join his Secret World Tour, after Cole's Imago debut, Harbinger. Throughout 1994–1996, Cole toured America extensively, building a foundation of support that then embraced her 1997 album, This Fire. It became a breakthrough smash, yielding the hits "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?" and "I Don't Want to Wait" (which was used as the theme song to the hit WB show Dawson's Creek), and the 1997 Grammy for Best New Artist. In 1999, she released her third album, the spiritual and soul-influenced Amen. After a seven-year musical hiatus, she returned in 2007 with a powerful album produced by Bobby Colomby, aptly titled Courage, after her daily mantra. On Tuesday, September 21, Cole will be celebrating the release of her much-anticipated new album, Ithaca.