''I'm so thrilled that The Last Ship is opening in Newcastle – I've gone from being the bass player to the gaffer,'' he says.
''My grandfather was a shipwright, my father built turbines for ships, so as a young kid I thought that may be my destiny, my fate – and in fact it was the last thing I wanted. The shipyard was a dark, dangerous, unhealthy place and I had other dreams. I dreamt that I would be a songwriter, a singer, a musician, and I would sing my songs all over the world. I would become famous, get paid extravagant amounts of money – and I must have dreamed that extremely hard because that's what happened to me, by good fortune!''
''I went back there – in my imagination first of all – because I realised I had a debt to pay to my community, the community I was brought up in. I wanted to tell their story. I felt I was ideally placed, as a songwriter and as someone from those streets, to tell the story of the last ship.''
He was living in New York at the time so he took the idea to a US-based producer.
''I told him the story and he said 'this is great, this is about communities under threat. To me, this is like Fiddler on the Roof with ships'.''
''It was the reverse of how it should have been done but I've never obeyed the rules,'' laughs Sting. ''The themes are universal ones that I think we'll recognise – the closure of an industry, the closure of a factory, the closure of a mine; where a town has got its identity from the work that it did is something I think all of us will recognise. It's also a love story and there's a lot of laughter and joy and fun in the show, but it's a serious musical, if that's possible.''
He adds that the production is constantly evolving.
''For me, a play is never finished. It's constantly being rewritten every night. We decided that for the English audiences it needed to be a little more political because it's in the context of where it's from, the social and political issues were very important to us. The story has a few less strands; I thought it was very complicated on Broadway, so it's now a little more straightforward. But it's changing every day. I'm in the rehearsal room with the cast, tinkering and pestering them, I'm a total pain!''
''He's inspiring and generous, enthusiastic, helpful and supportive,'' says Charlie, who is best known for her role as Val Pollard in television soap Emmerdale.