Sting's 57th and 9th: How David Bowie and climate change inspired his new album
No lutes here. This fall Sting, 64, returns with his first pop-rock album in more than a decade. 57th & 9th, named for the intersection he passes every day on the way to and from his studio, was recorded at lightning speed for the icon in just under four months — and was, as he says, fueled by the deaths of friends like David Bowie and Prince, climate change, and walking around Manhattan.
Here, he takes EW behind the scenes of his creative process.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You recorded this album in less than four months. Were you feeling extra inspired?
Sting: My manager said, “You have to have written these songs by a certain date, have them recorded by a certain date…” And I enjoyed that. There was a spontaneous freedom about it and a fun element about it. I think that you hear that.
On the tune “50,000,” you sing about the death of rock stars.
David Bowie went first, and then Lemmy [Kilmister of Motörhead], and then my friend Alan Rickman died, and then Prince. It all seemed to topple on top of each other. 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. [Laughs] It’s because I’m in Elsinore [Denmark].
Another major theme is climate change, and on “One Fine Day” you take on global warming skeptics.
I pray that climate skeptics are right. [Laughs] I’d like the scientists to be wrong! But I think it’s happening. This is my ironic take on that whole thing.
The album name, 57th & 9th, is named for the intersection you pass in New York City on the way to and from your studio every day. Why did that occur to you that it should be the title?
I do a lot of my thinking on the move and it’s an inspiring city to be in. Pedestrians, the traffic, the noise, the architecture — the scale of New York is very stimulating for the mind. The walks is very much a part of the process.
For exclusive details on the biggest albums coming this fall, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands Friday, and see all of our Fall Music Preview coverage on EW.com.
Where else do you hunt for inspiration?
I read a lot, I go to movies. I read the papers, I’m kind of concerned about the world. If you sit at home, you get anxious, but that anxiety is a sort of engine for you. It makes you think, “Okay, what am I going to do?” The first single [“I Can’t Stop Thinking About You,” due out Sept. 2] is about looking at a blank, white sheet of paper and seeing what looks like a field of snow with no clues as to what’s underneath.
Whenever you return to rock music, fans draw comparisons to your work with the Police. Does that bum you out?
I was in a very successful rock band. I’m never going to feel anything but pride about that.
What motivates you to keep creating after so many decades?
Just to have fun. I don’t even admit to myself that I’m making a record. I walk to work every day, and if I’ve had fun at the end of the day, then the day is worth it.