03.02.94 THE FORT LAUDERDALE SUN-SENTINEL


The following article by Dave Joseph appeared in a March 1994 issue of The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel newspaper...

He seems happy on this recent afternoon; joking, laughing, talking. Sting is being everything but what he has been made out to be - a brooding, moody, self-important rock star.

Sting considers an appropriate response.

"Maybe, at some point... I was pretty moody, broody," he cautiously admits, as if walking through a minefield. "But I'm not some serious-minded, moody guy."

In fact, a day after arriving in Miami from a brief tour of Australia, Sting is cordial, accommodating, dare we say chatty? For instance, he is talking about recording recently with Tammy Wynette.

"I went to Nashville because she was recording 'Every Breath I Take',' he said. "It was great fun. She's the queen. We were sitting in a restaurant with her husband, and the Bellamy Brothers came in. They had cowboy hats on and said, 'Hey, Sting, we really love 'Fields of Gold'. Sting with Tammy Wynette? With the guys who wrote 'Let Your Love Flow'? 'Redneck Girl'? And, oh, by the way, "I worked with Julio Iglesias, too," he said.

This is all coming from what was once rock's angry young man, someone who once described himself as "a perfect freak who would never be part of normal society."
But now there are Tammy and Julio. Now there's the huge power ballad 'All for Love' - "All for Rod," as Sting refers to it - with Bryan Adams and Rod Stewart. The man who once recorded with Gil Evans and Miles Davis is now a fixture on adult-contemporary radio stations.

Yes, it's all true. Sting has changed.

"I'm not pretending to be anything but 42 years old with five kids and responsibilities," he says. "My job is that of a songwriter and musician. I don't think of myself as a rock 'n' roller."

There are lots of things Sting isn't. But he still will be one of today's most diverse and original artists. Since 1978, when he debuted as lead singer and lyricist with The Police, and up to and including his latest release, 'Ten Summoner's Tales', Sting has followed his muse. Whether it be from rock and punk (The Police), jazz ('The Dream of the Blue Turtles'), politics ('Nothing Like the Sun') or sombre and autobiographical confessions ('Soul Cages').

But that muse also has led him to a dozen movies, a Broadway production of 'The Threepenny Opera', and benefits to help Amnesty International and the Brazilian rain forest. And, yes, contentment.

"I feel comfortable," he says. "I'm not interested in where I am in the historical sense, or where they'll put me in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Sometime you can paint yourself into a corner, and people can help do it.

"Someone asked me why I write about the environment. I don't write about the environment. I never have written about the environment. But that's easy journalistic shorthand to say I'm a certain way.

They're labels, labels an artist desperately needs to avoid. I'm not looking for any kind of label at the moment."

But the one he can't shake is that of being one of pop music's most articulate songwriters. Are there any more finely crafted pop tunes over the last 10 years than 'Fortress Around Your Heart'? A more bittersweet song than 'Fields of Gold'? A more claustrophobic ode than 'Every Breath You Take'? Yet, with every turn Sting has surprised us with something new, always challenging himself and his listeners. From an angst-ridden vagabond, to a restless poet, to, on 'Ten Summoner's Tales', a light, playful, modern-day Chaucer. Even he admits that, after 1991's introspective 'Soul Cages', it was time to lighten up.

"I'd written an album before this one that was very personal," he said. "I didn't want to be a writer who writes only about himself... I didn't want this to be, 'Here's Sting with his latest trauma.' I didn't want it to be like that."

So 'Ten Summoner's Tales' was written and recorded in his 500-year-old home near Stonehenge.

"I'm happy to go through the craft of songwriting," he said. "But it was really designed to amuse the people around me. My band, my family, everything else is cream on the cake. I mean, it was successful in-house."

It's an admission Sting might not have made several years ago, when he felt one had to have inner pain or turmoil to write.

"I see a lot of younger bands thinking the same way," Sting says, "that you have to have dysfunctional pain to create. Sometimes it works, but who wants to be like that? I mean, what's the ultimate? You kill yourself when you're 24? I'm 42. I've failed."

The hits, Sting said, meant everything to him when he was starting out with The Police.

"But I don't know what a hit record is anymore," he said. "I used to. I had my finger on the pulse of what a hit was. 'Message in a Bottle', 'Every Breath You Take'. As soon as I finished the first eight bars, I knew they were hits. But I don't anymore. I think Bryan (Adams) knows exactly what he wants in terms of writing a big hit ballad. But I don't approach it that way. Songs seem to occur to me."

And how did it occur to Adams to get Sting and Stewart to sing on 'All For Love'?

"I've know Bryan for years - he has been like a little brother," Sting said. "He called me a few months ago and asked if I'd like to sing on some record. I said sure. He said, 'Well, you haven't heard the song.' It didn't matter to me. He told me there'd be a third person. When he said Rod, I thought, 'Interesting.'

"Rod and I have a long history of slagging each other off. Well, we didn't meet until we made the video. It was funny, because once we met we realised how much we had in common."

Like?

"We're both idiots," he says with a laugh.

But it's no joke that Sting was nominated this year for six Grammy Awards, which were presented Tuesday night. He considers being nominated "more significant than winning."

"When you consider that there are thousands of records that come out every year and you're one of the five nominated, it's something," he said.

"To win is like being elected class president."

Sting will return to England after the current tour to write new songs. He'd like to record again in his house, "but I don't know what I'll do."

"I have to figure out if I have anything to say - whether it's useful or whether I should shut up," he says. "I don't want to put out something just to put it out."

He'll also begin filming a movie over the summer, a black comedy called 'The Grotesque'. Then he is laughing again. Joking, pleasant... everything he isn't supposed to be.

"I was in a shop this morning and the person working there said, 'Oh, God, I thought you were much smaller than you are.' It's funny how people have such different impressions of how you are, of what you do. But I don't really mind that. It allows the real me to be me."

© The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
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