Ann Arbor is a town constantly undergoing change and transformation. Each year graduated seniors take their leave from Ann Arbor as a new class of freshmen settles into residence halls. It is a culture that is ever adjusting and ever evolving.

Paula Cole

Sunday at 7 p.m.
The Ark
From $25

Paula Cole, who hasn’t performed in Ann Arbor since playing at The Ark’s 21st Annual “Folk Festival” in 1998, will be returning with some changes herself.

The seven-time Grammy nominee, who has sold over three million albums in her 18-year career, will be performing Sunday at The Ark.

Cole is on tour to promote her upcoming album, Raven, which is set to release spring of 2013.

Cole said her previous album Ithaca, with songs written mostly during and about her 2007 divorce from Hassan Hakmoun, was “very much a grief outpouring.” But fans can expect something a little different this time around.

“I’m in a good place right now in life,” Cole said. “(I’m) happy, and I find that when I am happy, I am more productive and there’s more music flowing out of me.”

Cole has grown from her divorce and childhood struggles, as evidenced by the title of her upcoming album, Raven. Cole said the title partly drew from Native American culture, where ravens are viewed not only as symbols of wisdom, but also as “highly intelligent birds of transformation.”

Transformation has been a recurring theme throughout Cole’s career. The artist is now in her mid-forties, and finds spending time at home with family increasingly important.

“I am a mother so I play weekends and extended weekends,” Cole said. “I don’t tour like I used to. I don’t go on a bus and say goodbye to my family like I used to. I’m constantly coming home.”

The music industry changed during the course of Cole’s career, and it continues to do so. Cole’s listeners are divided by a generation gap, which forced her to reevaluate how she markets to her fan base. It also created moral issues surrounding digital media.

“I have two very distinct careers: one pre- and post-Internet,” Cole said. “The generation below tends to not feel morally compelled to pay for music, whereas Generation X and above do feel morally compelled to pay for music digitally.”

Even so, Cole welcomes the music industry’ transformation. The failure of huge music labels opens doors for musicians and provides new ways of marketing to their fan base.

“We can exercise our entrepreneurial muscles and gather our fans and go directly to them,” Cole said. “I think there’s more artistic freedom in that. And I like not going through management channels. I embrace it.”

Cole has certainly embraced the change in preparation for Raven’s release. It will be Cole’s fourth independently produced album, which she is funding through a Kickstarter campaign. Listeners can download and sponsor the album online, with rewards going to generous donors. A $15 dollar pledge or more gives listeners a downloadable bonus track.

Cole is also utilizing social networking sites to get Raven out to fans.

“This is kind of my first time going entrepreneurial that way — through fan funding and going direct to social media,” Cole said.

“(I’m) choosing not to go to a major label now. I’m choosing to use whatever fan base and platform I have at this point and spread my message directly,” Cole said. “It’s just me and I’m excited about it.”

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