New Sting Album Revisits Winters Past

Former Police frontman tells how songs were inspired by his childhood U.K. home.

December 10, 2009, 2:06 PM

Dec. 11, 2009 — -- The cameras are waiting for the Englishman in New York.

The man of the hour is Sting, in this case arriving at a charity event at WNYC radio's the Greene Space in New York City. He's joined by his wife, Trudie Styler. He's been smitten with her for decades.

"You know, what I mean, you could say, 'I love Trudie,' but that's a given," Sting said. "I really like this woman. When she walks into the room, my world lights up."

Sting and Styler were at the Greene Space for a screening of "Twin Spirits," a movie the pair made in 2007 about Robert Schumann, the composer, and his wife, Clara Wieck.

"Nightline's" David Muir caught up with the couple at the screening. Sting talked about enduring love, winters past and life's changing seasons.

The couple met when the singer Gordon Sumner was just starting to call himself "Sting" and was topping the charts with The Police.

Sting's early days were recorded by Police drummer Stuart Copeland in his documentary "Everyone Stares." At the time, millions were staring -- and buying albums. The group has chalked up 40 million albums sold.

But the The Police had a short run. Their short fuses were legendary -- especially Sting's.

"He was impossible," Styler said of Sting in his early years.

But 30 years and four children later, the couple is still together. Styler isn't in the business -- she is a formidable human rights activist, now as director of the Rainforest Foundation.

In 1998, the couple's passion for one another made headlines when they first spoke of hours of tantric sex.

"Do you still get asked all these years later about the tantric sex?" Muir asked.

"Absolutely," said Sting.

"Including tonight," said Styler.

"We better get going, darling," said Sting. "We've got seven hours to put in before breakfast."

"Only seven?!" exclaimed Styler

They joke. But it's something Sting still takes seriously, to this day.

"People are fascinated by sex, of course they are," said Sting. "But the idea of tantra is slightly more complex ... And that can be the way we walk, the way we breathe, the way we eat, the way we relate to each other and certainly the way we make love."

Sting is also in town to promote his latest project -- one that seems most un-Sting-like.

'It's a Winter Record'

The star is releasing a song of seasonal recordings, "If on a Winter's Night..."

Muir sat down with Sting one-on-one at the Stone Rose Lounge in New York to discuss the project.

"So a lot of folks are gonna think 'Sting? A holiday CD?' What made you do it?" asked Muir.

"You know, it's a winter record as opposed to a Christmas record," Sting replied, laughing. "And I have very ambivalent feelings toward the season. It's cold, it's uncomfortable, for a lot of people it's a tough time. It's also the season of Christmas, you know, the joy of Christmas, the family coming together again. So on this record, I tried to strike a balance between the dark and the light."

"Don't expect 'Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire'?" asked Muir.

"No, I don't like 'Chestnuts Roasting by an Open Fire.'"

During the week "Nightline" followed him, Sting invited us to a rehearsal in New York.

Sting said the new album comes at a turning point in his life. This new music is drawn from his roots -- a rumination on all the winters of his life.

Before recording the album, he traveled back to the place he grew up: the town of Wallsend in northern England. The trip is captured in a video documentary of the making of the album.

"This is the station road where my Dad's dairy was," Sting says in the video. "Now it's a Chinese takeaway."

Sting's father was a milkman, with the tenor voice. His mother, a one-time hairdresser, played the piano. Both have passed away.

The story of the English boy who would become Sting is famous in Wallsend. And now Sting is turning the tables, conducting a musical search for the place he left behind.

"I always get writer's block," said Sting. "You know, there's always anxiety. You write a song, you say, 'Well, that's good,' now where does the next one come from?"

This time, the songs came from home.

And now the milkman's son from Wallsend stands on a stage in New York, for his premiere concert here at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

He's here to tell the stories of those winters from long ago, with a 35-member orchestra and some help from Johann Sebastian Bach.

'Just Be Yourself'

Sting has written lyrics to some of Bach's music. The star said the composer is his idol.

"Did you think you'd be collaborating with Bach?" asked Muir.

"I never thought I'd collaborate with him, and I hope he's not spinning in his grave as we speak, but I became obsessed with one of his tunes," said Sting.

Sting wonders where today's young artists get their inspiration.

In England, he's taken on Simon Cowell and "The X Factor" -- the British version of "American Idol" -- for encouraging conformity.

"I worry about the 'X Factor,' because it seems to encourage young artists to merely conform to an existing stereotype," said Sting. "You sound like Mariah Carey, or you sound like Whitney Houston. Whereas the really X factor is to sound completely unique. You know, each of us has a unique voice like a fingerprint, like a signature. ... I think it's impersonation. It's clever to impersonate someone else, but it's more important to just be yourself."

Simon Cowell has said he would now like Sting to go on the show, to mentor young artists. Sting told us he'd do it, if time allows.

But for now, he's got plenty to do. And, he says, a lot to contemplate. Another winter, but this one is different.

"You have said at 58 you are preparing for the winter of your life," said Muir.

"This is the country of eternal youth, so to say something like that is kind of controversial," said Sting. "'How could you say you're facing the winter of your life?' I'm 58. I've been a young man. I've been in middle life. And now I'm not in the winter of my life, but I'm certainly looking at it, I'm preparing for it and saying, 'Well, what kind of old man do I want to be?'

"He said he is entering the winter of his life when he talks about this album. The winter of his life. A little profound. Well, it's sort of a catchall for 'Go buy this!'" said Sting. "I am NOT, in the meantime, I am firmly in the summer."

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