NEW YORK – New York is a couple of years past Sept. 11, 2001, but that grim day still haunts rock icon Sting (search) - so much so that it spurred him to return to writing much sooner than he'd planned.
The prolific songwriter turns his talents to two new efforts - a record, "Sacred Love," (search) released last week, and his autobiography, "Broken Music," (search) to be published by Simon & Schuster next month.
Talking with The New York Post in his palatial home overlooking Central Park, Sting spoke about the connection between the tunes and the tome.
"These two things are a testament of my thinking, my beliefs and my progress," he said.
Sting, who said he and his wife, Trudie Styler (search), "lost a very close friend in the tower," recalled the night of Sept. 11, when he was scheduled to play a private concert on the grounds of his estate in Italy.
"It was the last thing I wanted to do," he said, "but people had come from all over the world to see this show in my backyard."
Rather than cancel, Sting performed. It was, to him, the start of healing: "I felt [my guests] needed some kind of therapy - just to be together."
Writing the autobiography was another form of therapy.
"I never anticipated how difficult it would be to write," he said, "how painful it would be bringing up memories that I've suppressed and left to lie in the sediment."
Some of those memories include his relationship with his parents, especially his father, and Sting's inability to allow himself to be vulnerable to love.
Call it an epiphany. Now, the man born Gordon Sumner 52 years ago is happily in love - with his wife, their six children and his life. His newfound philosophy was born of self-examination and political terror.
"The world is made day-to-day in little ways," he says. "By two people sitting next to each other, making eye contact, or with a touch or a small act of kindness or a bit of generosity.
"Equally, the world is made by a meanness or a fear. So everyone is making the world what it is right now.
"The idea of separate lives lived in separate nations is the real illusion."
Sting will be getting together with a few thousand of his closest friends for a musical party celebrating "Sacred Love" tomorrow at the Hammerstein Ballroom.
Post: Do you ever think of yourself as Gordon Sumner?
Sting: No, not anymore. I've been Sting longer than I was Gordon Sumner. When I'm in New York, even the doorman calls me Mr. Sting. I'm comfortable with Sting. Gordon Sumner didn't suit me, never did. I was given the name Sting by people who knew me, and that name suited me.
Post: Another of your nicknames is the King of Pain. Is the best art the fruit of adversity?
Sting: Pain is an opportunity to evolve, a way to trigger different consciousness. Don't misunderstand me. I'm very happy with my contentment at the moment. I've had enough adversity, pain and sadness to know just how it feels. I can go there if I want to, but I don't need to manufacture pain to be creative. I used to believe that you had to live on some kind of emotional edge. I don't need to do that. A lot of my friends did and they fell off.
Post: Do you try to live an ordinary life?
Sting: I live a very rarefied life. That's because a lot of people know who I am. I enjoy that, but I try to demonstrate my citizen's rights by walking down the street alone, without a bodyguard or sunglasses. People appreciate my accessibility. They respond to it. To get back to the question: I lead an ordinary life, but I'm a bit of a rare bird.
Post: Do you worry about getting older?
Sting: I never thought I'd make it to this grand age. I feel healthy. I've been obsessed with death for most of my life, as I think we all are. Lately, I've lost my fear of it.
Post: Is that a matter of faith?
Sting: I believe there is something after life. I've no way of defining it or giving it form. There's a reason why we're here and it might become apparent when we're out of this body. I envy people who have an absolute certainty about it. I also worry about them.
Sting: Because certainty in that realm is guaranteed to be proved wrong. We're not built to embrace a concept as big as God, for example. I don't think God looks like me, but there are some who thinks God looks like them. I'm convinced Usama bin Laden thinks God looks like him. The highest form of blasphemy is implicating God in your murder. That's a heavy karma to carry through eternity.
Post: Have you ever experienced anything that might hint at an afterlife, something paranormal?
Sting: For most of my life, I've been very skeptical about that sort of thing. Despite that, I've had some experiences I simply can't explain.
Post: Such as?
Sting: I've seen ghosts. I've actually seen an apparition. It was quite something.
Post: Were you frightened?
Sting: I was terrified. I saw a woman and a child in my bedroom. My wife saw it, too. We both woke up. At first I thought it was her with one of the kids until I reached over and I realized she was still in bed with me. I was absolutely terrified. I now believe those things are out there, but I have no explanation for them.
Post: Not to wish you ill, but when you die, do you want to do a little haunting?
Sting: I would hope my music will do the haunting for me. I don't want to be a ghost at the feast - but a little of my music wafting in the ether now and then would do me.
Post: Your last album ["Brand New Day"] was a giant success in America. It sold millions of copies and won a pair of Grammys, but it wasn't that popular in England.
Sting: It didn't do terribly badly in England, but by comparison, it didn't do as well as it did here. England is a tough market in music. It's always about new things, new sounds, new bands. I have a very solid fan base there, but I'm not on the singles charts. In England, pop music relates to the singles charts, not albums.
Post: What does success mean to you?
Sting: Music is its own reward. I don't measure my success and happiness by sales figures. I could, but I don't. I never fret if one record didn't sell as well as the last one. I'm nourished by playing music. It's my route to spirituality.
Post: When you finish an album or even a song, do you ever wonder if it's the last one?
Sting: Nobody knows. The record industry may implode. This record could be a total commercial disaster and nobody will ever give me the opportunity to do it again. There are no guarantees. I hope I'm smart enough and objective enough to say to myself, "Perhaps I shouldn't do this anymore," and alter the compass of my life.
Post: Is this record a continuation or a new direction for you?
Sting: It's a new wing on an old mansion. It's all related, but I hope it's more direct. I don't think it's possible to stand still. You either go forward or you go back, and then something in you dies. I'm not ready for that yet.