Interview: BILLBOARD (2006)

September 04, 2006

The following article by Gary Graff appeared in a September 2006 issue of Billboard...


Sting says he's fully aware that an album of 16th century lute songs is not exactly a commercial slam-dunk. But he's holding out hope that his 'Songs From the Labyrinth', due Oct. 10 via Deutsche Grammophon, will find an audience.

"I keep saying it - you just never know," says Sting, who recorded the album with lute player Edin Karamazov from Sarajevo. "I think this is a longer shot than ['O Brother, Where Art Thou?'] but... why not? The response so far has been very encouraging. People have said, 'Wow, this is totally different. How refreshing.' I don't know - that may translate into mass appeal or it may not.

"We really did this for love, and whatever happens next is in the hands of the Gods, really," he adds.

Sting and Karamazov certainly plan to do their part to lure people into the 'Labyrinth'. They'll be the musical guests on the Oct. 16 episode of the new NBC show "Studio 60" and have concerts planned for St. Luke's Church in London on Oct. 4 and the Allen Room on Oct. 9 in New York. They're also planning a Berlin show and hold out the possibility for more performances if album sales are good.

"I think we have to stay intimate with it, live," says Sting, who has adapted the Police's 'Message in a Bottle' and his own 'Fields of Gold' for lute. "It's not gonna work in a giant stadium. It needs to be a small, controlled space."

'Songs From the Labyrinth' is comprised of songs by composer John Dowland, along with one track written by Robert Johnson (the Englishman, not the American blues legend). The track 'Come Again' will be a single of sorts, although Sting notes with a laugh, "It's probably radio-proof."

As for his next project, Sting is circumspect - though he expects to return to more traditional creative confines. "I'm sort of feeling anxious about it, so that's always the first stage," he notes. "I'd like to make another pop record, but I don't know what it is. Maybe this album will give me a clue."

© Billboard by Gary Graff


Sep 3, 2006

"Pop is dead. Rock music is dying." Harsh words - spoken by somebody who became "filthy-rich" by this music: Sting has discovered classical music and published an album with 400 year old songs. A conversation about the banality of old habits and the thrill of the past. Sting, you were always a trendsetter of Rock. Now you unbury a 16th century composer: John Dowland. He sang to women in the Elizabethan age. Don't you have something new to tell...?

Sep 2, 2006

There's something a little odd going on. Sting comes off stage after his Bergen concert, hits the hotel bar and opens a bottle of Chablis. And then he talks about 18th century keyboard music. I suppose I started it. There's a song of his I particularly like for its harmonic interest: 'Whenever I Say Your Name', a duet with the American R&B star Mary J Blige from his 2203 album 'Sacred Love'. So I ask him about it. "It's based entirely on Bach," he reveals, not without a little pride in his voice. "Look at the bass line and you'll see it's all him. It's one of his preludes - in C, I think..."