Sting on "57th & 9th," Songwriting and Touring

MC: You're touring with a small band this year, a four-piece. Getting back to your rock roots?
Sting: In some ways it's easier because there's less bandleading to do; I don't have to organize space as much because it's just naturally a function of a smaller group being there. With no keyboards, less of the frequencies are taken up, so there's a lot of space. We'll miss the occasional arranging thing with not having a larger band, but I think that'll be made up for by the space that's created.

MC: You don't seem to feel too tied to playing the songs as they're on the album, either.
Sting: The album's only the starting point of a song. It's the beginning, embryonic life of a song, and then you find things out about a song as you tour it night after night. You find an incremental change or a profound change that remains, and the songs grow, tour by tour.

MC: The initial dates have been in smaller venues, but you've obviously done arenas and stadiums. Do you have a preference?
Sting: I think it's always good to start an album that way so the songs can grow organically, bringing people into an intimate setting rather than starting in an arena or a stadium where the stadium plays you, really. I like to play in large arenas, obviously, but I also like to play in small places because it's a muscle that needs to be stretched in both ways. In a small place you have to make it into an event that people will remember, and in a big place you have to make a huge event seem like something intimate. I've gone the opposite way, but it's useful for an artist to keep those skills up in the air, to keep them working, oiled.

MC: Last year you toured with Peter Gabriel. What's your post-mortem on that tour?
Sting: Y'know, so many people have come up to me and said, "That's the best concert we've ever seen." It was fantastic. I think people were actually surprised by how inclusive it was, how interactive it was, that we have a lot in common, Peter and I. We're more or less the same age. We have some common history. We've worked together many times going back to the ‘80s, Amnesty International. We have a lot of similar interests, both politically and musically, but we're different enough for them to be a contrast. We found it pleasurable and challenging and different, and the audience seemed to love it. We'd love to do it again, both of us. We just need to find the time.

Facts about Sting

MC: This year is the 40th anniversary of the Police forming. Any plans to commemorate that—Desert Trip, maybe?
Sting: I don't think we're old enough yet. (laughs) I'm very proud of the legacy of the Police. It still seems to live in people's memory. I still play a lot of those songs, so I'm very proud of it. I'm not sure that I need to recreate it again. Having done it eight years go, very successfully, I feel like a circle was closed at that time. But we're still very much in touch and friends and mutually proud of our achievement.

MC: Is there anything else planned for The Last Ship?
Sting: We're looking at putting it on in England next year, so it won't be gone. It can be raised—raised from the sea (laughs)—at any time. I went to see a production of it in Salt Lake City a couple months ago; they had a short run of it. It was very interesting to see my British home town recreated in the middle of Utah, kind of surreal, but a wonderful cast and the songs stand up. The great thing about a play is you can constantly work at it. You can constantly evolve it, which is closer to my own art form, if you like, of songwriting and how songs can evolve.

MC: Would you like to do another musical?
Sting: I would do it again in a minute. I was very proud of that play. It was probably one of the most satisfying five years of my life. I don't think there'd be anything as personal as that; it was an important psychological journey for me to go back to my real roots, both musically and culturally. I found it very therapeutic.

MC: Is there a glimmer of an idea of what you might do next?
Sting: Not really, since we're still at the beginning of what we're doing with [57th & 9th]. But I'll probably do something different next time. I don't know what that is, but you can't just rely on pushing the same buttons like a monkey in a maze will, otherwise you'll wind up with the same banana. And you know I'm not really interested in getting the same banana every time.

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