Interview: THE JOURNAL (1999)

September 11, 1999

The following article by Phil Gould appeared in a September 1999 issue of The Newcastle Journal newspaper...

Sting in tune with happy side of life - Pompous, pretentious, smug and bombastic are all words which have been used to describe Sting. As his first single for three years, 'Brand New Day', hits the charts, the Tyneside-born singer tells Phil Gould how he is a changed man who is finally happy.

Sitting under the gently swaying branches of a tree in the garden of one of his many homes, pop superstar Sting looks contented. And, let's face it, he has every reason to feel pretty smug.

The Wallsend-born ex-teacher formerly known as Gordon Sumner is happily married, with six children and almost as many houses. Oh, and he's not short of a bob or two - he was recently ranked number one in a list of celebrity money earners, making more than £10m last year alone according to the Labour Research of City Directors.

"Ask me whatever you want," he jokes. "Whatever you have read about me - it's all true."

Brand New Day, Sting's latest single and the title track of his forthcoming album, seems to herald a brand new beginning for the ex-Police singer.

"My albums do tend to reflect my moods," he admits.

"At the moment my strategy in life is to be optimistic. I think we need to look positively towards our future and not be taken over by the idea that everything is going to fall apart at the start of the millennium."

Sting has often been labelled a new age hippy, so it might come as a surprise to hear he eats meat, likes a good red wine, knows a fair bit about 60s pop trivia and is a staunch Newcastle United supporter. But he still believes in causes, such as the rainforests and Amnesty International. Partly as a result of his efforts the Brazilian government created a protected area of rainforest the size of Switzerland.

He has two children from his marriage to actress Frances Tomelty - Joe, 27, and 17-year-old Kate. Their marriage ended in divorce following his affair with actress and film producer Trudie Styler. The couple married seven years ago and have four children - Mickey, 15, and Jake, 14 (from her previous marriage) plus Coco, nine, and three-year-old Giacomo.

"I've finally come to realise that all I need is my wife, children and friends to be a happy man. Nothing else really matters," says Sting, now aged 47.

"I have had a wild time in the past but don't feel the need to be excessive any more. I'm more mature and have never been happier in my life."

Sting has built recording studios at the family's Jacobean manor house in Wiltshire, and their 400-year-old Italian farmhouse, complete with its own vineyard and olive groves, in the Tuscan Hills near Florence. He has two other homes - an apartment in New York and a beach house in Malibu. The Italian estate provided the idyllic setting for him to write and record his seventh solo album, 'Brand New Day', and plan his world tour which kicks off next month and reaches the UK in March 2000. Sting's new-found contentment with life seems very much based around family life and he says being able to have his family around him while he works is a great bonus.

"Most recording studios are very sterile places in cities where all you look at is a brick wall. So over the past few years I've tended to be at home with the family with the drums set up in the living room and my musicians around the house.

"I think that's a really stimulating environment for the kids, being able to see dad working. They are part of it and it's worked really well being at home and I get to see more of my family.

"The two little ones who aren't studying for their GCSEs are coming to America with Trudie where we will be spending most of the rest of the year."

The logistics of touring and shifting the kids between the school holidays is difficult but not impossible. And although Sting, a proud dad if ever there was one, admits he has always encouraged his children to take an interest in music, he's not too keen on them following in his footsteps.

"I've always taught them that to play music is a joy but I wouldn't ever actively encourage them to make a professional career out of it."

He may be contented with his lot, but he still has ambitions. "There are so many records out there - I can't just sit here and smugly think I'm Sting, that's it. Anyway, it's a good feeling to sell lots of records. My ambitions really are to carry on singing for as long as possible. Music has always been part of my life and always will be."

'Brand New Day', his first album since 'Mercury Falling' in 1996, showcases an eclectic mix of pop which should please Sting's core fans and possibly win over a few new ones.

The single provides a taster of what is on offer, but the stand-out track must be Desert Rose, co-written and performed with Algerian-born singer/songwriter Cheb Mami.

"The album was recorded in beautiful surroundings and I tried to kid myself that I wasn't making a record. I just phoned up my musicians saying, 'come over for a few weeks, the sun is shining, have some good wine,' and I didn't really look on it as doing a record until I started mixing the tracks.

"Otherwise I'd be thinking I have to put a record out to satisfy the record company and pay everybody's mortgage who works for me which would stifle the creativity."

He adds: "Really the album is window cleaning music... People will be polishing the windows, start humming a tune then suddenly go: 'oh, it's a Sting album'."

Stingfile - Ten things you might not know about Sting:

1. As a child, he attended schools including St Cuthbert's School in Benwell. Later on, as a teacher he taught at schools including St Paul's First School in Cramlington.

2. Sting played bass in jazz bands including the Newcastle Big Band and the River City Jazzmen while his first rock group was called Last Exit.

3. He was given his nickname by Gordon Solomon, frontman with the River City Jazzmen, after the bass player began wearing a gold and black striped jersey to gigs.

4. Sting holds the record for appearing on stage with the most number of people on Top of The Pops, performing with a nine-piece band and 43 gospel singers.

5. Over the years, he has starred in a number of films, including Dennis Potter's 'Brimstone and Treacle', 'Dune', the Tyneside-based thriller 'Stormy Monday', and most recently with Vinny Jones in the big British hit, 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels'.

6. Sting was one of a number of stars lined up to appear on heavyweight BBC political programme, 'Question Time', in a bid to make the programme more popular.

7. A Newcastle United fan, Sting wrote the club's official 1998 FA Cup Final song, 'Black and White Army (Bringing the Pride Back Home)', and was also present at this year's final. He is also a fan of athletics.

8. Sting and wife, Trudie Styler, were ranked sixth in a list of most wanted celebrity guests at high society parties by Tatler magazine.

9. He is a devotee of yoga and the ancient Buddhist yoga technique of tantric sex. He once boasted that he could make love for more than five hours at a time.

10. The Sting-penned Police hit, 'Every Breath You Take', was ranked 79th in the list of 100 best songs of the century in a survey compiled by Radio Two. The song was also the basis of the multi-million selling Puff Daddy hit, 'I'll Be Missing You'.

© The Newcastle Journal



Sep 9, 1999

Why Sting believes pop today is bad for the young: With his latest album, 'Brand New Day', in the shops on Monday, Sting is keen to dispel any rumours of his imminent retirement from music. The singer, who turns 48 on October 2, is in the middle of a schedule that would exhaust a performer half his age. A typical day he says, involves rising at 7am, a television appearance, radio interview and a flight to Japan. Next month, he embarks on a world tour that lasts to the end of 2000...

Sep 8, 1999

Sting: The reason for happiness: We went out of the studio where Sting is mixing the tracks from the new album. He lets us listen to, in his words, three 'naked' songs. 'Brand New Day', with Stevie Wonder on the harmonica, 'A Thousand Years' and 'Desert Rose', a duet with Cheb Mami...