LIANE HANSEN: With his latest CD, Ten Summoner's Tales, Gordon Sumner, better known to most as Sting, is enjoying a success that surprises even him. The disk from the former singer of the 1980s new wave band The Police is number 26 on Billboard's album chart. The second single from CD, Fields Of Gold holds the number two spot in the Billboard adult contemporary category, but it was this single, If I Ever Lose My Faith in You, which captured the interest of the music-buying public when it was released last spring.
STING: It would [unintelligible], and I'd recognized that that melody was - could be a sort of flagship for the record, you know, and almost immediately, I knew that was the song I could hang the rest of the album on.
LIANE HANSEN: And how does the rest of the album hang off of that?
STING: [laughs] Well, it's a pretty mixed bag stylistically. It ranges from country to western to jazz to Baroche. You name it, it' s on that record. I make no apologies for this. I think I did the record for fun, and this is my idea of fun, creating strange kind of musical hybrids.
LIANE HANSEN: Thinking about what you had just said about the different styles and everything on your album, you know what it sounds to me like. It sounds like the old days - well - old for us, I suppose - the old days of radio, where on the radio stations before they became so programmed, you would get to hear things like - you'd hear - you might hear a little bit of classical music, then you might hear a little bit of jazz, then you might hear a little bit of something.
STING: Well, that's the way I was educated musically with the BBC in England, you know, where - 'cause there was just one radio station, and they played everything; they had to. So you got an eclectic sort of Catholic taste about music. I think it's missing from radio now. If you want to listen to heavy metal all the time, you can listen to one station. If you want to listen to jazz all day, you can listen to another, but they never meet anywhere. It's a shame.
LIANE HANSEN: Do you think people just think they can't meet? I mean, a lot of people are very pure about their tastes in music.
STING: I - I hate that sort of pure ethic, you know, the pure jazz or pure blues or pure [unintelligible] music. What's pure about it? You know, it bores me. I'm not a - I'm not a musicologist in that sense. I like mixing things up.
LIANE HANSEN: What do you listen to in your spare time?
STING: This morning, I listened to Bill Evans - the Bill Evans Trio playing with a classical orchestra [laughs]. That's what I had breakfast to.
LIANE HANSEN: What a nice thing to wake up to. You like classical music, yeah?
STING: I like classical music. I like every kind of music, really.
LIANE HANSEN: I had seen you perform in Threepenny Opera.
LIANE HANSEN: -and I was just wondered [sic] about having that sort exposure to, I mean, Brecht getting to do his work. Then I see some of these - these songs on Summoner's Tales, and to a certain extent, that's a little bit what you're doing, you're telling stories.
STING: It's true. I mean, I loved every minute of doing the Threepenny Opera - one of the best times of my life to do it. When I look back on my influences as a child and they're very important influences, you know, my first - the first albums I really listened to, and this memory's only just sort of revealed itself to me was My Fair Lady and Westside Story [laughs]. It wasn't rock and roll at all, it was - it was show tunes, you know. So, if there's a connection somewhere musically, then it's probably due to that.
LIANE HANSEN: What's your definition of a good song?
STING: A good song. Well, a good song defines itself. I think it needs a central metaphor, and therefore, it has to have more than one meaning, it has toi have a personal meeting and a more universal meaning that other people can relate to. It should have a certain ambivalence about it, about it's lyrical content. It should be recognizable musically to the ear and yet push people's expectations slightly to the left or right. A lot of things.
LIANE HANSEN: Heavy Cloud, No Rain fits into that category, I think, because every time one hears it, one could think about different things, don't you think?
STING: Well - well, that's one of my comedy songs, you know. I like the idea of Louis XVI being advised by his astrologer that if it rains, they'll save his life, - fact it doesn't.
LIANE HANSEN: The record - the CD Ten Summoner's Tales is doing really well, getting a lot of airplay.
STING: Beyond my wildest expectations. I think this is gonna be the most - my most successful album, which is nice.
LIANE HANSEN: Did you consider it a successful recording even before you knew whether or not it would fly either on the charts or with the critics?
STING: Well, I always submit an album to the record company with the idea that this is the best I could do at the time, and I couldn' t do any better, and so if it's received well or nor received well, it's, you know, it's out of my control really, but it's the best album I could've made at the time given the circumstances. The circumstances were very fortunate for this one. I was very content, very happy, and so I produced a record that reflects that, I think.
LIANE HANSEN: Gordon Sumner, a.k.a. Sting, joins us from our New York studio. He's now on tour in Europe and will be touring America again in the Spring. His CD, Ten Summoner's Tales is on A&M Records.