Sting on songwriting: I listen to the music and ask it to tell me a story

Sting has said that when he writes songs he listens to the music and asks it to “tell me a story”.

The multi-award-winning musician said it was his “job” to “translate abstraction” into stories and characters and that it happened “nine times out of 10”.

The former frontman of The Police, 71, is due to be awarded a fellowship by the Ivors Academy on Thursday.

Gala performance of The Last Ship
Sting is due to be awarded a fellowship by the Ivors Academy (Owen Humphreys/PA)

He will be the 23rd fellow the academy has inducted in its 79-year history, and joins the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, Kate Bush, Joan Armatrading, Peter Gabriel and Sir Elton John.

Throughout his career, he has won 17 Grammys, three Brits and various other accolades.

He was the primary songwriter and frontman of new wave rock band The Police from 1977 until 1984, after which he left to pursue a solo career.

The band found fame with hits such as Roxanne, Message In A Bottle and So Lonely.

Speaking about his songwriting process, Sting said: “There’s no one way of knowing how it’s going to happen.

“I tend to write music first. And then if you construct the music in the right way, it already has an abstract narrative.

“So my job is to translate that abstraction into lyrics, into stories, and into characters. I listen to the music, ask the music to tell me the story.

“And, nine times out of 10, it comes, eventually.”

Sting’s 1983 hit Every Breath You Take was nominated for three Grammy awards at the 26th annual ceremony, including song of the year.

He said he had been staying at a house once owned by James Bond creator Ian Fleming in Jamaica while writing the song in 1982.

Sting said that “some of the spirit” of the famous fictional secret agent lay in the song.

Queen Elizabeth II 92nd birthday
Sting has won 17 Grammys, three Brits and other accolades (David Mirzoeff/PA)

“Every night I’d sit at Ian Fleming’s desk and try to write songs,” he said.

“I think one of the strange things about Every Breath You Take is that it’s very ambiguous. It has double meanings.

“I never contradict people’s interpretations, because I think it enriches the song. And this song has that double-edged thing.

“My theory is that James Bond, you know, he’s a double character. And I think some of that spirit is in this song, though you can interpret it any way you’d like.”

Sting has previously won seven Ivors including the lifetime achievement award in 2002, and said he regards the awards as “the most prestigious” in music.

To commemorate his new fellowship, the Ivors’ newly announced sponsor, Amazon Music, will release a previously unheard demo of Sting’s 2021 single If It’s Love, taken from his most recent album The Bridge.

It will be released exclusively on Amazon Music.

The winners of the 2023 Ivors will be announced at a ceremony at Grosvenor House in London on May 18.