The following interview took place in February 2004 with The Hollywood Reporter newspaper. The interviewer was Tamara Conniff.
The MusiCares foundation will bestow on Friday its person of the year honor on singer, songwriter and humanitarian Sting.
The MusiCares foundation will bestow on Friday its person of the year honor on singer, songwriter and humanitarian Sting. From founding seminal rock group the Police in 1977 to his prolific solo work beginning in 1985, Sting has proven himself to be a musical force as well as an activist. In 1989, he and his wife Trudie Styler founded the Rainforest Foundation to protect the indigenous peoples in those regions. To date, the organization has raised more than $18 million. As a solo artist, Sting has garnered 10 Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, an Emmy and three Oscar nominations. He's also tried his hand at acting, appearing in more than 10 films and recently added author to his list of achievements with the publication of his memoir, 'Broken Music'. He recently spoke with The Hollywood Reporter's music editor Tamara Conniff.
The Hollywood Reporter: How do you feel about being named MusiCares person of the year?
Sting: It's an amazing organization for musicians who fall on hard times. I'm a very fortunate musician in every way. And I don't forget that I could quite easily be on the other side of the tracks. There are incredibly talented musicians who never get the breaks in any way - both commercially and also in their lives. So MusiCares puts a safety net under these people. They can get rehabilitated, get you someplace to live, help pay your rent. It's a fantastic idea. So I'm happy to be the point person this year and stand up there and be the main attraction to raise some funds.
THR: How did you and your wife come to found the Rainforest Foundation?
Sting: My interests have been human rights and where they dovetail with environmental issues, which is often. It's essentially a human rights organization, where we feel that by protecting the legal infrastructure around the groups who live in natural habitats, we protect the natural habitat. So it's really protecting the people who live there legally, and that has a knock-on effect to protect the environment; it's not the other way around. We don't buy trees, nor do we just give money to people. We pay for lawyers; we pay for education projects. It's all very hard-nosed. It's been going for over 15 years now, and the model we created in the Amazon is being repeated in various places - Madagascar, Thailand, other places in the Amazon forest. It's going very well. It was difficult at first. We had to figure out how to do it. But just by being resilient and consistent with our aim, we managed to get it going.
THR: Your most recent album 'Sacred Love' was written and recorded in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and during the buildup to the war in Iraq. It touches on issues of love, sex, war and religion. Do you consider it a political album?
Sting: I don't think anything in this day and age, even a love song, can be apolitical. It's all political. I believe that the world is created in human relationships. We create the world when we speak to the person next to us, when we're polite or kind or generous and also when we're mean. You multiply those little acts of kindness, and you get a better world. You multiply acts of meanness and greed, and you get the opposite. So I really believe that the love song has a part to play in creating a potential world we could realize if we accept the power we have as individuals. I think every problem in the world we face is a result of a lack of love, a lack of care, a lack of consideration. It's a cliche, but it's one that I happen to believe in.
THR: 'Sacred Love' has earned you to two Grammy nominations this year. Does being honored by your peers carry special weight?
Sting: My mantra when I'm asked about awards is that music is its own reward. You don't make music to get awards. But when you're nominated for a Grammy, you have to take it seriously because the constituency that votes for you are fellow musicians, artists and producers - people who know how hard it is to make a good record and a good song.
THR: You're also part of the Oscar race with a best original song nomination for 'You Will Be My Ain True Love' from 'Cold Mountain'. You've written many songs for films that are usually tacked on as end-title songs, but this one is featured in the body of the film. Was that a conscious choice on your part?
Sting: That was my stipulation. I'm sick of writing songs for when people are putting their coats on and going home. I wanted it to tell the story. I wanted it to propel the story in some way.
THR: Was it challenging to write a song in the period of the American Civil War?
Sting: That was my job. It couldn't stick out as a modern song; it had to be in the idiom of the time, musically and lyrically. And I'm so happy (Alison Krauss) interpreted the song the way she did. Her voice is ethereal and angelic.
THR: Many people were surprised at how personal 'Broken Music' is. Was it difficult for you to put pen to paper?
Sting: I don't think this book is something people expected. I think they expected a kiss-and-tell, fame, success, tea with Elton (John) and all that sort of stuff. And it's the opposite. It's about an ordinary boy growing up in a little town. It was such a deeply personal and intimate story that I couldn't really trust anyone else to (write) it, so I really had to do it myself. Then once I began, it became a compulsion which was very hard to get out of, so I kept writing until it was finished. I was doing the album at the same time, so I would do big chunks of the book and then big chunks of the record. I think somehow the energy kind of blended into each project. I was stretching a creative muscle.
© The Hollywood Reporter