With Sting’s March concert just announced, we got in touch with the man himself to find out how the world’s been treating him
Your most recent solo tours have been for Songs of the Labyrinth, your album of tunes by 16th century composer John Dowland. Did it satisfy you in a way that your pop songs couldn’t? I’m always satisfied, whatever the resonance with the public or what the material is, to have some people that appreciate it and enjoy it. This record was a surprise for me because it was just something I was curious about and put some energy into – I didn’t for a minute think it would be a record. But I persevered with it, and after a year I realised I happened to have something that people would like. I didn’t have any huge expectations about record sales. But then I was surprised – happily so – because it sold almost a million copies. I mean, it’s amazing. Very satisfying.
Did you have to shape your voice around the album, or is it recognisably you? I think it’s recognisably me and it doesn’t sound like anybody else. But the material itself will dictate a certain style. Since they were rediscovered in the 20th century these songs are mainly being sung by operatic tenors, but really that’s not the style of singing that was happening in the 16th century. Operatic singing wasn’t invented until 100 years later. So my argument is that the way I’d sing it, it’s perhaps closer to what Dowland would have heard.
Moving on: now that you’ve had a bit of distance – a year and a half, to be exact – between you and The Police Reunion Tour, how do you think it went? I feel kind of vindicated that my timing was good. I think it was the most successful tour of all time. We played to 3.7 million people [laughs], so it wasn’t a bad idea. At the same time, we had a lot of fun and I think the band sort of reached what the Americans call ‘closure’. We’ve achieved closure. We didn’t do too much. We did just enough to feel that particular asset had been realised – we can feel satisfied.
What’s the biggest compliment you’ve been paid: winning a bunch of Grammys, being a character in Guitar Hero: World Tour or having a species of Colombian tree-frog named after you? [Laughs] You know, I get more compliments about my children than I do about anything else in my life and that makes me extremely happy. That makes me feel like I’ve done a good job in life. It’s nice to win Grammys, it’s nice to have platinum hits, to have a frog named after you – but actually, to be a reasonably successful father for me is a major accolade.
Do your kids take after you? I have a few musicians in the brood. Six children: two are very, very serious musicians with recording contracts. I also have two actors and a filmmaker, and my youngest apparently is going to do a job that hasn’t been invented yet. So he says. You’ve got a very strong literary interest – one of your albums is named after Chaucer’s works, and another one after a Shakespeare work. Why do you like to do that? Well, you know, literature has always been an inspiration to me. I always quote my sources: ‘This is what inspires me.’ Nothing wrong with that. You could say, ‘Oh, that’s pretentious,’ but it’s actually the truth.
What’s next for you? My whole thing is just to learn and hopefully evolve and develop what I have. There’s no end to that. There’s no end of the journey. I have no idea what I’m doing next.
What did you think when Absolutely Fabulous creator Jennifer Saunders made fun of your lute-playing on her latest show, Clatterford? Oh, it’s hilarious. I’m far too thick-skinned to be affected by it negatively. You become a public figure and sometimes you’re ridiculed and sometimes you’re praised, and it’s all part of the rich tapestry of life.