Sting has ‘no truck’ with his rock peers who oppose vaccines: ‘I’m old enough to remember polio’
After spending much of the last decade tending to his Broadway musical, “The Last Ship,” Sting will set out on a maiden voyage this fall when he opens his first residency in Las Vegas at Caesars Palace on Oct. 29. The show, called “My Songs” and scheduled to run through Nov. 13 before returning in June 2022, will precede the Nov. 19 release of “The Bridge,” a new set of pop-rock songs he says were “written in a year of global pandemic, personal loss, separation, disruption, lockdown and extraordinary social and political turmoil.” The singer, 69, called from his home in Italy, where he said he’s “waiting to start work — waiting to get back to my life.”
Tom T. Hall’s body of work reflects his era, when old-fashioned country values collided with the turbulent modern world of the 1960s and ‘70s.
Have you been in Italy for most of the pandemic?
Wherever there was a studio, that’s where I was — New York, the Bahamas, everywhere. That’s how I kept myself sane, turning up at 10:30 every morning and working until dinnertime.
Would you have made a record if COVID-19 hadn’t happened?
It was certainly time for me to make a record, but the circumstances were unique. It’s difficult to get people together in one place, so I did a lot of recording remotely via Zoom and via studio technology. But I think the theme of the record is building bridges between separations. I didn’t begin that way — I was just writing songs — but at some point in the process I went, “Oh, that’s what this is about.”
“The Bridge” handles some heavy topics. But the lead single, “If It’s Love,” out Sept. 1, is a sparkling pop song.
It’s the most whimsical song on the record, so I thought, “Why not?” Any song with whistling in it is a winner for me.
Is it gratifying to realize you can still bust out such a catchy tune when you want to?
Yes. I’m often drawn to music that’s problematic or complex; I like puzzles, and I like solving puzzles. But occasionally, you have to put that aside and just do something that’s easy. A major chord followed by a rounded minor — it’s the oldest trick in the book.
What did Sting the young English punk think of Las Vegas?
It would conjure up Frank Sinatra, Dino, the Rat Pack. Then Elvis, Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck. All great artists, but they seemed to be trapped in this world. Vegas was an enclosed system, and it never really appealed to me; the idea of a residency seemed like some kind of prison sentence. Now it’s not that way at all, because you play these pods — four shows for three weeks. That doesn’t seem like such an onerous job. Also, I haven’t been onstage for almost two years, so I’m raring to go. I want to do 20 rounds in Vegas.
You’ll have your days free while you’re there. Are you a gambler?
No, and I’ve really no idea what the appeal is. I’ll sometimes play Texas hold ’em with my wife, but she always wins, because she’s smarter than me.
Are you optimistic about the return of live music? The Delta variant has complicated things.
We’re in a wait-and-see mode. Everyone should feel safe — the audience, the artist, the people working the show. I’m hoping the vaccines will really start to kick in by the time our show starts. I’m very much in favor of vaccines.
I assume you’re vaccinated.
I had no doubt about it. I’m old enough to remember polio — kids in my street who were crippled by a disease that was eradicated very quickly by vaccines. So I have no truck with people who doubt their effectiveness.
Eric Clapton, one of rock’s most vocal COVID-19 skeptics, says he reserves to right to cancel any show where vaccination becomes a condition of attendance.
Some of your peers in the music world have a different take, Eric Clapton and Van Morrison among them.
We’re all entitled to our opinions. But I think that’s a dangerous thing to be telling people: “Don’t trust the vaccines.” I mean, where does this come from? I’m not sure where the science is to support that.
You and Trudie Styler have been married for nearly 30 years. What’s Sting’s secret to a successful marriage?
Every day is a negotiation. You have to work at a marriage; it’s not an easy thing, but I’ve got a great partner. We spent a lot of the last two years together — more time than ever. And she still puts up with me, so go figure.
Will she accompany you to Vegas?
She’ll be there. She’ll be gambling, not me.
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