Paula Cole is back with a compelling new record, “Ithaca.” Her last album was 2007’s “Courage,” but she hasn’t been in the national spotlight since 1996’s “This Fire,” home to the hits “Me,” “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone” and “I Don’t Want to Wait.” In 1999 came “Amen.” Then Cole took a long hiatus from the music business, during which time she got married, had a daughter, got divorced and moved back to her hometown of Rockport, Mass. Cole will be performing tonight at The Landing at Pine Point in Scarborough. GO recently caught her via phone. 

“Music in Me” is the (lead) single. What was the process of deciding what the single should be?

I let go. I’ve been disastrously wrong in the past with singles, so I let other people make that choice now, and we did some research. That’s what companies do now. Whether they’re advertising agencies or record companies, they did some research, and “Music in Me” was testing well, so there you go. 

Is the song doing anything? What’s going on with it?

I’ve had just a small handful of extremely loyal stations that play it, but really, across the board, I don’t have support from the major markets this time. Right now in my career, after the hiatus, I’m under the radar and haven’t broken through the noise. I’m just continuing because I must, so over time I will have the fans that matter and that have the musical literacy to understand the breadth of the writing, the breadth of what’s actually happening.

Creating a second career is quite a difficult path. It’s harder than being a debut when you have a fresh palette. You are stigmatized in people’s minds. I don’t know why. I’m not going to waste my life trying to figure that out. Instead, I will put my energies into making the next album or playing my shows and continuing on that positive, steady path. 

What’s it like if you’re in the bank, for example, and you run into an old classmate or teacher or somebody like that? Does this happen, and are people ever weird because of your celebrity? Are people cool?

Overwhelmingly, they’re cool. It’s random and rare, especially in Rockport, which is an extremely small town. Thankfully, I’ve cultivated good karma there over the years. I care about the community. There’s an air of respect, and most of the time it’s quite loving. It’s not like New York, where you’re completely anonymous. 

What do you think your favorite song is right now on “Ithaca”?

Today, my favorite song is “Violet Eyes.” I like the lyrics; they make me smile, they’re positive. Usually, my answer is “Waiting On a Miracle.” I’m proud of that song. It’s dark, though, and it’s hard, but musically it’s so rich. 

How did you decide on the order of songs on “Ithaca”? There’s such a flow to them.

“The Hard Way,” when I listen to it, I just thought, that’s the opener. It’s like a grand stroke and there’s something striking with the way the song is bookended with that kind of Chopin-like passage. It just felt like an opener; it felt grand, it felt like the one. Then you move not only with a lyrical arc to your story, but what sounds good. You don’t want to stay in the same key; you want to vary key choice and feel. That’s the musical analyst in me. You need to change up feels, tempos, keys. But you also want it to have a lyrical arc in a sense that the lyrical arc was moving through hardship, moving through darkness and finding light and beauty and hope and new-found love. 

Who’s in the live band?

We’re a power trio. That’s how I like it. I thought about the early days when I toured as a trio and how good it was. Ben Wittman on drums; he’s all over the album. I have a new guitarist at the moment. His name is Steve Elliot.

Aimsel Ponti is a Portland freelance writer. Contact her at:

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