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Sting still busy as a bee

Grammy, Oscar-nominated singer writes autobiography, launches tour, looks to future
/ Source: The Associated Press

Nominations for two Grammys and an Oscar. A world tour. An autobiography. His 14th solo album.

Sting has a lot happening right now, but he might be proudest of being honored Friday by Musicares, the Grammys’ charitable arm, for his contributions to organizations like The Rainforest Foundation.

On Sunday, Sting will perform at the Grammys with reggae artist Sean Paul. Two songs from his dark, emotion-probing album “Sacred Love” are up for awards that night — “Send Your Love” and “Whenever I Say Your Name,” a duet with Mary J. Blige.

A few days before his tour kicked off in Miami, Sting spoke in a phone interview with The Associated Press:

AP: You got an Oscar nomination for the song you wrote for “Cold Mountain,” the Gaelic “You Will Be My Ain True Love.” How was that different from writing a song for an album?

Sting: It’s the complete opposite of what I give myself when I make an album. I can do and say and feel what I like when I make a record. When I went to see “Cold Mountain,” and they said there’s room for a song here, I was tied to the film. I was tied to the mood, tied to the characters, tied to the language people would have used in those times. That was great fun and a great challenge.

AP: Have you dreamed about an Oscar speech?

Sting: If I ever won, I would be spontaneous and say how wonderful I felt.

AP: Is there any one aspect of your life — music, charitable causes — that makes you the proudest?

Sting: They’re all connected, obviously. The Musicares one is something I’m particularly proud to be part of. You know, I’m a very fortunate musician in many, many ways. But there are hundreds of musicians who are not so fortunate, who have fallen on hard times. Musicares looks after them in many ways, in terms of rehabilitation, in terms of trying to get them a budget, trying to get them a place to live. That’s important, especially from my point of view, because I think I’ve been very lucky.

AP: What makes you so lucky?

Sting: There are many talented people out there. But I don’t know, maybe I got lucky early on, then maybe I got smart. I wanted to avoid being pigeonholed as much as I could. So I would carve myself out areas of freedom that were ever larger, so no one would know what to expect when a Sting record came out.

AP: “Sacred Love” was recorded during the buildup to the war in Iraq. How have you been able to juxtapose personal relationships with what’s going on in the real world?

Sting: Relationships tend to be a microcosm of what’s happening in the world. The way we deal with each other is reflected largely in the bigger macropicture of the world. In that sense, we need more love, we need more understanding, we need more compassion. You multiply that by a couple of billion times and you have a world situation that desperately needs to be changed, that desperately needs more affection more kindness, more charity. So, that may sound a little naive, but I actually believe it.

AP: It’s interesting that you stopped your autobiography, “Broken Music,” right as The Police are hitting it big. Is this part of a larger anthology of books, or did you just want to get the early story of your life out there?

Sting: I’m not sure it’s part of a larger anthology. The story I chose to tell, the first 25 years of my life, is a story no one has heard before. I was the only source. You can read about my career in backdated People magazines or some of the biographies that have been written about me by people who’ve never met me. ... I wanted to deal with what I thought was a more interesting story: How an ordinary person from the north of England becomes Sting, becomes a celebrity, becomes a successful artist.

AP: Do you look back at your early experiences as fun?

Sting: It was a lot of fun ... and some of it wasn’t fun. Some of it was quite harrowing. But it was essential for me to go through, to become who I was. I didn’t win American Idol one week and become a superstar. I actually trucked up and down the country and carried gear up and down stairs and slept in flea pits.

AP: How therapeutic was it for you to write the book?

Sting: I set out with the idea of it being therapy for me. I just would pull a memory out of the well and another 10 memories would then breed another 10. You realize you’ve never forgotten anything. Some of it painful, some of it joyful, some of it very, very illuminating.

AP: How was working with Mary J. Blige? In your media bio, you say she’s the next Aretha Franklin.

Sting: She’s a complex person, she’s a deep person. She’s vulnerable, she’s tough. She’s a classic star. I sent her the song. I tailored it for her, and prayed she would accept it.

AP: Beside being a musician and singer, you’ve acted in films and on Broadway, and you’re now an author. How much of that is simply being yourself, and how much is expanding your commercial appeal?

Sting: Expanding the creative muscle to other uses — to write prose, to write articles, to write, you know, grander songs or more complex songs on more different subjects — is a natural function of maturity. It’s carving out choices for yourself.

AP: Now that yoga is mainstream, does it lose some allure for you? Are you still devoted to it?

Sting: I just did two hours this morning. Whether it’s fashionable this month or not has no interest for me ... I find it stimulating and a challenge and it enhances a lot of stuff in my life.

AP: Do you fear the point when your career is over?

Sting: Am I afraid of it? I hope not. If my career were to stop this afternoon, I wouldn’t begrudge it ... I’ll sing and play music till the end of my days. But success is not something I’m counting on forever.