Sometimes discretion is simply the better part of valor — just ask Paula Cole. After winning a 1997 Grammy for best new artist — and composing the addictive theme song to “Dawson’s Creek,” “I Don’t Want to Wait” — the Berklee-schooled singer-songwriter saw the writing on the wall. “There was a huge change in the culture,” she says. “Out went Lilith Fair and in came Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Jessica Simpson, and I found myself in that landscape and I was unhappy.” So she left the business for eight years, moved to rural Massachusetts and, as a single mom, raised her daughter Sky, who is now 11. But Cole has a dark new comeback, “Raven,” on her own 675 Records imprint.
How did you get the guts to leave showbiz?
Well, there were a few things leading up to it. I’m an introvert, I’m a writer, I’m a music geek, I have a degree in music — I love music deeply. And I think things went a little more pop than I anticipated. I was out there, running furiously on my hamster wheel, and things happened very fast, and I don’t think I handled it very well. I wanted to get off my hamster wheel, so I went away. And I wondered if I’d ever come back. I also really wanted a baby. I felt like this little soul was calling out to me in the ether. So I had a baby, then I ended up getting married. But that was ill-fitting. It didn’t last.
How did you end up on the East Coast?
My daughter had intense health problems with her asthma when we lived in L.A. And our pediatrician told me, “The best thing you can do for asthma is leave L.A.” And indeed, it got better when we left. And then I’m a mother with a fragile little daughter, and I couldn’t even think about leaving on tour. I did try to make an album once or twice in there. In fact, one of the “Raven” songs is “Eloise,” which I actually wrote during those years.
You officially returned in 2007 with “Courage.” But when you say you didn’t handle things well, what do you mean?
For instance, I was kind of a bohemian girl, and I didn’t shave my armpits. And then I show up at the Grammys, and there was all this lambasting and negativity that came out of that. And I didn’t take it very well. Jay Leno made a Paula Cole doll with rotating armpits, and he shined his shoes with it. Three separate times on his show. Now I think it’s funny. But I didn’t back then.
Where: Yoshi’s, 1330 Fillmore St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, May 9
Tickets: $28 to $32
Contact: (415) 655-5600, www.yoshis.com