Paula Cole Discusses Her Road To Success

KURT: Meanwhile, on the charts, singer Paula Cole found herself with a Top 20 hit this week, with "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?" [QuickTime, 1 MB] the new single off her second album, "This Fire." Not all that long ago, Cole was a high school prom queen who couldn't seem to get a date. Things are better now, though, thanks in part to her pal Peter Gabriel.

PAULA COLE: I always knew in my heart that I would have a lasting career. That's what I always envisioned. Not so much a big, quick rise to success, but an enduring path.

MTV: Wherever that path leads, it began in the small town of Rockport, Massachusetts, where the only music a young Paula Cole listened to were Country and Jazz standards and whatever her musically inclined father could conjure up on the myriad of guitars, pianos, and harmonicas lying around the house.

COLE: When you get into 6th, 7th, 8th grade, and it suddenly becomes a fashion statement

what radio station you listen to, I realized that I was incredibly out of style and ignorant. But so much of the stuff on the radio I really didn't like -- which is still true (LAUGHS). It's good though, it gives me a different perspective towards music. A lot of music that we take for granted, I haven't really listened to, but therefore I get to listen to it in my own time in my own way. I appreciate that. I appreciate that I'm different.

MTV: Cole landed a record deal at the age of 25 only to find her record company, and consequently her debut album, "Harbinger," in a state of limbo for almost a year. Salvation came through her producer, who also worked with Peter Gabriel -- who heard her album and took her on his 1994 world tour as part of his band.

COLE: Before I joined Peter's tour, I was literally a hermit. I was so inhibited and shy before. I learned a tremendous amount by observing Peter and seeing the way he deals with his success and his career. It was such

an amazing experience. I wouldn't have had that if I had been thrust immediately into my career.

MTV: Enter "This Fire," an album that allowed Cole to strut her new found confidence and independence. Fans need look no further than the album cover for proof of the new Paula.

COLE: This little vision popped into my head and I just followed my heart again, like I have with all the other decisions with this album, and it felt really true and really honest, and it felt wonderful. I totally recommend swinging on a swing naked to people. It feels great.

COLE: My life is changing now that "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?" has become a hit. It's so weird to say even... I'm not used to this. It's wonderful to headline my own shows. I feel like I'm spreading my wings and you know, it's not gonna hurt, either, having a little better quality of life on the road.

KURT: Paula Cole plays Pontiac, Michigan, next Thursday, and in July will join Jewel,

Fiona Apple, Sarah McLachlan, and other women performers on the "Lilith Fair" tour.