It’s a friendship that has surprised many.
British musical legend Sting said his pairing with Jamaican reggae star Shaggy was intentional. The duo spoke to ABC News' “Nightline” about their chemistry, their new album and the political undertones of their new songs.
“I think surprise in any artistic enterprise is the most important element when you're composing music you need surprise in the first four or eight bars. When you choose the kind of music you're going to do next, you want to surprise people,” said Sting. “When you hear the music, you will be surprised again and then you'll think, 'Well that isn't so surprising because they, they do blend together in a very remarkable way.'”
Shaggy pointed out that massive hits of the Police, Sting’s former rock band, like “Roxanne” and “Message in a Bottle,” were deeply influenced by reggae.
“Early Police records have a very heavy reggae influence.” The Police “used to tour with Steel Pulse Steel Poles and you know some of the earlier reggae,” he said.
The “Boombastic” star revealed that the prospect of working with Sting left him “terrified because this is the 100 million selling guy with 16 Grammys.” but that he quickly realized Sting “was like a kid in a candy store and that really connected me right off the bat.”
Agreeing that there was “fair amount” of trash-talking between them, the two laughed about competing over Grammy wins.
“Why you gotta bring that up? I only have that one right there,” joked Shaggy adding that “King of Pain” star had won “innumerable” Grammys. (He’s won 16.) He also said that the two never argued and compromise was simple.
“It’s almost like the universe is driving us up and even making the album itself,” he said.
Except when it came to marrying their creative processes.
“You know it was the first time I made a record where I got up in the morning,” said Shaggy. “I went to his house for breakfast. We put our knapsack or bags up and we walked to the studio. And we start work like any normal office guy. And we end at about 6, 7 o'clock. Like any other office guy. And we did this for six weeks. It's like going to the office. Never happened to me before. Normally my process is we started in, you know, at 2 a.m. in the morning.” The star continued, “I'm not supposed to get up that early. By the way, I'm always on time. This right here,” he said pointing to Sting, “That's next level.”
“I was a milkman's son and he was getting me up before school to deliver milk to my classmates,” responded Sting. “If we're supposed to be downstairs at 5 a.m., he's there from 4. That's weird!," chimed in Shaggy. "I'm just letting you know, OK?"
Titled “44/876,” their new album is a nod to Sting and Shaggy’s respective country codes. The songs, like “Dreaming in the U.S.A.,” have political undertones.
“We came here because we love this country, because we value what this country represents,” said Sting, adding that the song is a love letter to the United States. “We both feel that those things that we value about America are under threat right now…. So please accept this love and remember that you have to protect that.”
The message is a clear departure from Sting’s iconic love songs and some of Shaggy’s sexy hits like “It Wasn’t Me.”
Sting said that the idea was to first entertain and then inform their listeners.
“There's a joy and there's a hope in it but it's also an awareness if you just scratch the surface of what we value about the world being under threat,” he said. “People need a sense of when they get up in the morning feeling that things can get better.”
For Shaggy, a former U.S. Marine who fought the first Gulf War, the message hit close to home.
“The values that we're fighting to protect are values that I fought for. So if I see it's threatened, I have something to say about that,” he said.
The duo has further common ground -- a long history of philanthropy.
Through the Shaggy Made a Difference Foundation, Shaggy has donated and raised funds for the Bustamante Hospital for Children for 17 years. This year, he invited Sting to perform at the annual fundraiser, raising a million dollars.
“I felt I had some kind of debt and this helped me go back and feel I could make a token gift of thanks, really for the island,” he said.
Calling Shaggy the “Pope of Kingston,” he added, “Not only because of his work as an artist, but his commitment to his people and community there, but the work he's done with the hospital. People know that and they respect him. And you know when I see celebrities and advocacy I look for consistency over a long period. This is real. And he's a real person and you deserve all the credit. Your Holiness.”