11.01.99 THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH
The following interview appeared in a November 1999 issue of the Australian Sunday Telegraph newspaper. The interviewer was Kathy McCabe.
New Day dawns for Sting - Sting's magical tour of Tuscany...
Wandering the sunflower-filled pastures of Tuscany, Sting spent a summer searching for inspiration. The magical Italian province, which has influenced some of the world's greatest works of art, didn't fail him in his endeavours to summon the stories that would become his latest album, 'Brand New Day'.
"I'd go off for a walk in the morning with my sandwiches and come back late at night, and my wife would ask 'Well, dear, any luck?"' Sting says with a laugh.
"Often the answer would be 'Nope, nothing, no fish in the basket today'.
"But some days, there would be a snippet of an idea.
"I'd work on it, and eventually come up with the whole thing."
The 48-year-old songwriter's labours took a vastly different tack from past writing sessions, in which the music and lyrics would be worked on simultaneously.
This time, the music - created in a big barn Sting had converted into a portable studio - came first. He relied on the sounds to tell their own stories.
'Brand New Day' features a sweeping pastiche of characters linked by the optimistic theme that love can mend broken lives.
It was a theme that revealed itself when all the songs were done, rather than dictating the direction he would take.
"It's definitely not a biographical record by any stretch of the imagination," Sting says.
"It's really about me looking through other people's eyes, and stepping in other people's shoes.
"The mood of the music tended to create something and reveal the characters in the songs -- and some of the characters are very strange.
"I wrote one song about a transsexual, which is as far removed from my experience as you could imagine."
Although Sting does confess that 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong', which bemoans a canine's unrequited romantic love for its owner, could be close to the bone.
"I am a dog, I have to admit it," he laughs.
"I'm very close to dogs, and what I understand about dogs is that they're fiercely loyal and fiercely jealous.
"They're the same as me."
Sting's fierce loyalty to family and friends is well documented.
He has six children, two from his first marriage to actor Frances Tomelty and four with his wife of 17 years, Trudie Styler.
While their actual presence is difficult to discern in the songs of 'Brand New Day', their influence is paramount.
One of Sting's ambitions with 'Brand New Day' was to express optimism about the future and the vicarious stake he has in it through his offspring.
"I can't separate their influence on my life from my work," he says.
"Although I couldn't point to anything in the record that would be a direct indication of that.
"I have six kids, and I can't under-estimate the stake in the future they have given me.
"They certainly fulfil my life more than anything.
I could do without many things in my life, but certainly not the love of my family. No way."
Millennial madness and prophecies of doom also spurred the singer-songwriter to pen tales with relatively happy endings, despite the trials of their characters.
Sting admits his happy life these days means he has to dip into a reservoir of memories to write about the pain the subjects of his songs endure.
But optimism wins out, and the former teacher and ditch-digger believes it's the most appropriate message for the turn of the decade.
"The title song, 'Brand New Day', starts with this man saying he never wants to fall in love again because it's been too painful.
"Yet one smile from the person he loved before is enough to make him start again," Sting explains.
"Optimism, in that sense of 'Let's begin again', is a good feeling for the millennium, I think.
"Forget the doom-and-gloom scenario, which I simply don't buy. Pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy - it's awful.
"Optimism is the only strategy in life."
In addition to the peerless musicians who continue as the core of Sting's band, he called on some impressive guests to perform on 'Brand New Day'.
Algerian singing sensation Cheb Mami is partly responsible for the superlative reviews the track Desert Rose has attracted.
Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and Branford Marsalis also make signature contributions to the tracks.
Sting admits it's one of the perks of success that he can call on his own heroes to join him in the studio.
"I thought I'd give these young guys a chance," he jokes.
"These guys are my teachers: they produced albums I've worn out playing.
"To have them walk into the studio and ask me what they should do is quite a turn-around.
"I'm still very much a fan, and I would never become blase about the privilege I have.
"When Stevie starts playing that thing (mouth organ), it's the most joyful sound on the planet."
'Brand New Day' is available now, and Sting will tour Australia next year.
© The Sunday Telegraph (Australia)
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