Sting in Abu Dhabi

61-year-old former Police frontman on music, fame and ambition

Interview, Hot seat, The Knowledge

You’ve performed Arabic music, most notably on 2000 single ‘A Desert Rose’. What is it about Arabian sounds that excites you?
I think the ears must always be open to the universal language of music, as it cuts across all cultures. Arabic music is mesmerising, and I’ve spent some time listening to the incredible, swooping voices of Arabic vocalists.

Do you still enjoy being on the road? Do you think you’ll ever retire and give it all up?
Working and being creative makes me happy. I have no idea what comes next, but standing still is not an option. I don’t want to put my feet up. I think as long as I can sing in tune, I’ll sing.

You’ve said in the past that you find writing lyrics the most difficult part of the songwriting process…
I’ve struggled with writer’s block at various times throughout my career. As I’ve grown older I’ve become more critical of my own work. That can strangle the creative inner child in you, so it gets harder to write. I can only do what I’m inspired to do, and sometimes finding that inspiration is a challenge, I just have to wait for that inspiration to find me.

Given that you have such an incredible body of work behind you, how do you know when a song is ‘good enough?’
I don’t feel as though I ever really finish anything. I abandon it at some point, because I could carry on tinkering with it forever. But I know when it’s time to say ‘this is it’. For me, as hard as I work on each record, it’s not always the end result. The end result is usually the tour. You put a record out and then you tour with it, and it evolves into something slightly different, whereas the album is more definitive.

You’ve been famous for such a long time, since the success of The Police in the late ’70s. Do you find it hard to stay grounded?
I have a perspective on fame that stems from early on in my career. Before I achieved any success, I held down a job and struggled to pay a mortgage. I really value those times, because it has allowed me to keep a balanced view.

Does it upset you that because you’re in the public eye, people assume they know you?
I’m earnest by nature, so if you ask me a serious question, I’ll give a serious answer. But there’s a tendency for people to think that’s all there is to me. I’m also quite hopeful and fun-loving on the other side.

Is there one goal or ambition in life that you still want to achieve?
I never want to stop learning. I don’t really have a plan quite yet, but I get bored easily, so I always like to do something new and hopefully surprising.
Sting plays du Arena, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi on Thursday March 14.

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