It’s been three years since we’ve had new material from Sting – and while many would like to think his time has been spent crossed-legged in a Goan yoga retreat, the reality is quite the opposite. Sort of. According to a new interview with the singer, the songwriting featured on his 12th album – named 57th & 9th, after the intersection in New York he travelled through on his way to the studio – revolves around world events he absorbed during his time out, such as the deaths of David Bowie and Prince, and the mounting catastrophe of climate change.
“If you sit at home, you get anxious, but that anxiety is a sort of engine for you. It makes you think, “OK, what am I going to do?” The first single [I Can’t Stop Thinking About You] is about looking at a blank sheet of paper and seeing what looks like a field of snow, with no clues as to what’s underneath,” the star told Entertainment Weekly.
On one song, 50,000, he sings about the deaths of rock stars, inspired by the passing of Motörhead’s Lemmy, David Bowie and Prince, as well as his friend the actor Alan Rickman, in quick succession. ‘It was a strange time because you think that these people are immortal, but then suddenly they’re like the rest of us, they die. It intrigues me that great success is this brilliant light, but also every brilliant light creates a dark shadow. I think wisdom only comes when you can navigate both. I’m getting philosophical.”
On One Fine Day, meanwhile, Sting addresses global warming sceptics. “I pray that climate sceptics are right. I’d like the scientists to be wrong! But I think it’s happening. This is my ironic take on that whole thing.”
57th and 9th is out on 11 November, and follows the 2013 concept album The Last Ship, which featured artists with connections to north-east England, including Brian Johnson from AC/DC, Jimmy Nail and the Unthanks. A tribute to the closed yards in the shipbuilding town of Wallsend, where Sting grew up, it was made into a musical on Broadway, which closed three months after launching. In an email quoted in the New York Times, its producers Jeffrey Seller and Kathryn Schenker acknowledged: “We have been bewildered and saddened by our inability to sustain an audience for this musical that we deeply love.”