The following article by Chrissie Iley appeared in an March 2004 issue of The Evening Standard
At home with Sting.
Sting is perching on one of his battered leather antique sofas. He is wearing immaculately cut dark trousers with faint pinstripes, and a superfine cotton shirt with blue and white stripes, unbuttoned nearly to the waist to reveal a lithe, almost hairless chest. He is a mixture of shyness, confidence and dry wit. Perhaps he's aware that he's taking a risk by inviting me to his grand country home set in acres of organic farm in Wiltshire. The house manages to be lavish, but is also filled with homeliness and flowers. There's not a liveried servant in sight.
Sting is about to set off on a world tour featuring his 'Sacred Love' album, which is all about taking emotional risks for love. 'Human beings are more willing to declare war than declare love,' he says. 'I think you have to say, "I'm going to capitulate and take a risk, because love can annihilate you".'
He is fully aware that he is sometimes portrayed as a kind of caricature of himself, and that he and Trudie Styler, his actress-turned-film producer wife, can sometimes annoy people.
'In my private life, yes, I'm vulnerable,' he admits. 'In my public life I'm vulnerable too. I am actually shy, but people don't recognise that trait in me.'
He claims he is an introvert, who says he has used music all his life as a refuge from emotional pain. 'I go into music when I somehow feel weakened or under siege. It works for me.'
In his recent autobiography, Broken Music, he revealed how the childhood discovery that his mother was having an affair with one of his father's co-workers on the milk round continued to haunt him. It was then, he says, that he became obsessive about playing bass guitar. It was his refuge.
'Often, if you feel trapped in a situation, through the structure of a song a development appears,' he explains. 'A simple key change can provide that different way of looking at a problem. That's my therapy. In reality, nothing ever stays the same and I think we should remember that in our deepest depressions.
I think my best work has that component.' He still thinks he has a morose side which to a large extent Trudie has helped him out of.
'We've been together for 25 years and it seems to be working. With Trudie I am a bit more conscious, and she is extremely conscious, very funny and deeply honest. She has a devotion to honesty, even if it is painful, and that is something we are not conditioned to do, especially someone from my working-class background. She is light and funny and that ameliorates things when I get ponderous.'
People are always accusing him of pretentiousness. 'I am not pretending, I am just trying my best,' he says, faux offended. 'You know, all this stuff is levelled at me by the middle class. I don't take much notice. I think they do it to keep you in your place.'
But he created that impression himself when he admitted publicly to having tantric sex. A faint blush rises to his cheek. 'You know the context of that story? Fourteen years ago me and Geldof in a bar, drunk off our arses, just bullshitting.
I didn't know there was a journalist there, and it went around the world.'
Does he deny it? 'No, I'm definitely not going to deny it, or confirm it.
Yes, I do a lot of yoga. I'm not an expert on tantra, but it's about trying to establish everyday normal things like walking, eating and making love with an element of the sacred.'
Despite his claims to spirituality, Sting is not ascetic. 'I'm not terribly moderate,' he admits.
'I have a huge capacity to function when drunk. I love chocolate and ice cream. But my job is pretty aerobic and I walk the dogs every day, so I've always been fit.'
In the middle of our conversation, his gorgeous, 13-year-old daughter Coco stops by on her way to change for her afternoon ride. 'I think when you have delinquent parents the kids tend to ground themselves,' he says. 'My kids are very well-mannered.
I kind of listen to what music my kids are listening to, just by osmosis.
Coco, what are you listening to at the moment?' 'Radiohead, Coldplay, Fiction Plane [her eldest brother's band ] and the Stones,' she says.
Is music Sting's way of staying in touch with trends, or his way of bonding with his kids?
'I'm not sure I need to stay in touch, to be honest, but I do have that link with my kids. They're very into music. We talk about music a lot. And I try not to be judgmental. I'm always happy to collaborate. I've just worked with a guy from the Black Eyed Peas. It's interesting to see my music evolve in a different direction.'
In London Rufus Wainwright and Joss Stone will be his supporting acts. 'I think they are both really good. This show will be a lot more theatrical than I've done in a long time. Huge screens behind us with animation and film.'
Does he have some songs that he enjoys playing more than others?
'It's my job every night to infuse a 25-year-old song with as much energy and commitment as if it had been written that afternoon. People don't want to come to a Sting show and not hear 'Roxanne'. It's nice that you write new material and that eventually down the line those songs become equally loved and accepted. I'll keep going until I'm too old and too stupid to do it any more.'
There's a certain irony abut a song written by a young man being performed by a man of 52.
'Hopefully that just means the song evolves with a different viewpoint.'
He's an extremely fit 52. Looks better now maybe than ever. 'I am happier in my skin than when I was 22,' he says contentedly. 'I'm not just saying that, I really am.'
Before London, he is going back to Newcastle to join his first ever band Last Exit, and to give a songwriting seminar. He sighs, heavy with nostalgia he has lots of friends still up there, and the memory of his late parents.
'I'm still in touch with my parents in a psychological way. In situations where something wonderful happens to you, they are still there as part of my consciousness. It makes my current life seem even more extraordinary.'
But he still has a sense of irony about that life, particularly when it comes to Trudieisms.
Recently she went on the Howard Stern Show and said that she and Sting had visited a swingers club. Is it true? He laughs. 'I think she might have been winding him up, but I'm not going to confirm or deny anything. Let's just say we have a healthy sex life.'
I am sure he does.
© The Evening Standard