Jude Cole is an American singer-songwriter, manager and record producer who started out as a four-sets-a-night musician, sideman and session guitarist, graduated to solo artist with three albums on Warner Bros. in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, one release on Island Records, (1995) and one independent effort before he became manager, producer and co-writer with the band Lifehouse, actor Kiefer Sutherland and others.
Among his Billboard chart hits are his own 1990 single, “Baby, It’s Tonight” (#16 Pop Singles),"Time For Letting Go" (Top 40 Pop Singles) as well as a number of Lifehouse songs that garnered multi-format airplay: “You and Me”(#1 Adult Top 40 and AC, #5 Billboard Hot 100, #4 Top 40), “First Time” (#3 Adult Top 40, #26 Hot 100), “Whatever It Takes” (#3 Adult Top 40, #10 Adult Contemporary, #17 Mainstream Top 40, #28 Christian Songs and #33 Hot 100), ”Halfway Gone” (#2 Adult Top 40, #12 Adult Contemporary, #15 Adult Alternative Songs, #16 Dance Club Songs, #25 Mainstream Top 40, #50 Hot 100), “All In” (#6 Adult Top 40, #25 Adult Contemporary, #26 Christian Songs, #29 Adult Alternative Songs) and “Between the Raindrops” (#21 Adult Pop Songs, #27 Adult Alternative Songs, #79 Hot 100).
The Moline, IL native’s father was a salesman who made his living as a gambler, with a stay-at-home mom. Cole grew up subconsciously groomed by the country records played in his home, listening to the likes of George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Bobby Bare and Kris Kristofferson, learning from his dad where the hook lay in each song. Hearing Elvis Presley and Meet the Beatles was a game-changer. Picking up a broom and pretending it was a guitar, he eventually became the proud owner of a real one, from Harmony. At the age of 12 he formed a series of garage bands, eventually quit high school at 18 and, in 1978, took his first-ever flight in a prop plane to Southern California in search of a musical career.
Through the local Musicians Contact Service, Cole was recruited as guitarist and background vocalist in 1978 by Moon Martin, a rocker whose songs were covered by Robert Palmer (“Bad Case of Loving You) and Mink DeVille (“Cadillac Walk”). Moon had his own critical success in the US and overseas with “Rolene” and "Bad News”. Cole learned a lot about writing from Moon and finally co-wrote two cuts with him, “No Dice” from the album Street Fever, and “She’s In Love With My Car” from Mystery Ticket. At the same time Cole’s “Paula Meet Jeanne” was covered by New Wave brit artist Dave Edmunds for his DE7 album.
Next he moved to London to join the U.K. band The Record, recording their 1980 album, Crashes, and going once again on the road opening for the likes of The Police, Joe Jackson and The Pretenders. During this period, Cole toured with Moon Martin, The Records, Dwight Twilley, Billy Thorpe and as bassist for Del Shannon, provided background vocals for the primetime TV soaps Knots Landing, Dallas and others, and wrote and performed the theme song for Alan Carr's Where the Boys Are ‘84. Cole has also composed musical scores for several films and contributed guitar to Randy Newman’s "Maverick" and James Newton Howard’s "Grand Canyon", and has played guitar, bass, keyboards and background vocals on albums with Lifehouse, Kiefer Sutherland, Jewel, Beth Orton, Shania Twain, Travis Tritt, Ted Nugent, Del Shannon, Moon Martin, The Records, Patrick Simmons (Doobie Bros.) and others.
By the early ‘80s, Cole had burned out on the seemingly endless touring life, and began working on his own songs with an eye towards a solo career. Through a connection with Chicago’s Peter Cetera, Jude was signed to Warner Bros. Records and released his self-titled debut in 1987, featuring Russ Titelman as producer. Cole’s 1990 follow-up, A View From 3rd Street, delivered his first hits with “Baby, It’s Tonight” cracking the Top 5 on R&R's Pop Singles chart and “Time for Letting Go” (also covered by Billy Ray Cyrus in 1998), with other singles “House Full of Reasons” and "Compared To Nothing".
Produced by noted film composer and friend James Newton-Howard – 1992’s Start the Car found him taking a more heartland roots-rocker Americana direction. Songs like title track "Start The Car" (R&R top 5 Rock), the yearning power ballad, “Tell the Truth” (cowritten by Howard), and the harmonica-laced country swagger of “First Your Money (Then Your Clothes)”, a song he co-wrote with frequent collaborator George M. Green, based on a saying Jude’s poker-playing father would declare when on rare occasion he came home a loser. -"That's the way it goes... First your money, then your clothes"
Encouraged by his manager, the late Ed Leffler, (Van Halen, Sammy Hagar) – Cole left Warner Bros. to sign with Island Records for his fourth solo album, 1995’s I Don’t Know Why I Act This Way. This effort offered a darker, more pensive Cole, reflected in the Edward Hopper Nighthawks influenced album cover with songs like "Speed Of Life" "Believe In You" and “Joe,” featuring a spoken-word narrative from friend Kiefer Sutherland.
This move from Warner Bros. to Island Records was a poor choice, in Cole’s own words. “I suffered from too much respect for my manager,” he reflects. I did what he told me to do and didn’t consider the home I had built on my own or those who had invested in me there. With Warner's success stories constantly towering over mine, I looked at them more like a bank than human beings... but you live and learn”
With his Island journey short-lived, Cole found himself uncertain of his future with a wife and two kids, no label and the musical climate changing dramatically. In 1997, while up in the middle of the night pacing the floors, Cole saw a Tony Robbins’ Personal Power II video infomercial, and thought to himself, “This guy looks a lot happier than I am right now. I’m gonna buy that damned thing.”
This led to an epiphany and re-definition of how Cole perceived himself. He quickly decided to take his experiences as an artist and use it to help others avoid the pitfalls he had learned the hard way. He wrote, produced and shopped songs for 13-year-old singer Lindsay Pagano and immediately got her signed to Warner Bros. Records. She would go on to appear as Time Warner's "AOL Girl", and later a contestant on The Voice. At the same time, Jude was introduced to 17-year-old singer-songwriter from Seattle, Jason Wade, whom he would steer to the DreamWorks label. This would begin a new chapter in his career as manager and producer.
Wade’s success was immediate with Lifehouse. With creative and business direction from Cole, the band’s debut album, No Name Face, went to #6 on the Billboard 200, spawning three hit singles, including “Hanging by a Moment,” a #1 Modern Rock hit that became Top 40’s Most Played Song, peaking at #2 on the Hot 100. Since 2000, Lifehouse has released seven albums that have cumulatively sold 15 million around the world. Cole’s co-writes with Wade include “You and Me,” "First Time", “Whatever It Takes,” “Halfway Gone,” “All In,” “Falling In,” “Between the Raindrops” and “Hurricane.”
Jude took his management firm inside the walls of Irving Azoff’s company for four years. After this he left to form Ironworks Music with partner Kiefer Sutherland, which began as a recording studio and eventually became a record label and music publishing company. Together they signed Canadian singer/songwriter Ron Sexsmith, punk rockers Billy Boy on Poison, blues-pop artist Rocco DeLuca & the Burden (Colorful) and folk rockers HoneyHoney, as well as releasing Jude Cole’s 2000 independent release Falling Home, Lifehouse’s Out of the Wasteland, in 2015, and most recently, Kiefer Sutherland’s Down In A Hole album (Ironworks/Warner Music Nashville).
In his multi-hyphenate role, Cole has managed to cross over the boundaries between a creative artist and businessman, one of the few who can handle both effectively. With no “pipe dreams” about his musical career these days, Jude is preparing to release a series of singles on a regular basis, including a Paul Simon-ish “Partners in Time” and a Pink Floyd-influenced “The Dark,” both mixed by long-time colleague Chris Lord-Alge. Cole’s eclectic mix of styles – from country twang to British new wave synth-pop, from heartland rocker to yearning balladeer – has made him difficult to categorize in an industry that loves to pigeonhole artists. Cole admits that may well have hurt him in the past, but is quite comfortable with the schizophrenia of it all now. “It’s just music,” he simply states.
“For me, it all comes back full circle to being a songwriter,” he said. “When I was just a guitar player looking for a way through, I found I could write songs pretty well, and that provided a life for me. When I finish a song, it makes me feel like everything’s right. If I could just write songs for the rest of my life, I'd be a pretty happy guy.”