With his new album, Mercury Falling Sting shows he is firmly on the path of middle age - his autumn is here. When interviewed, despite the occasional self-deprecatory remark, he has become a lot more contemplative, mellow and talks of life as if he has passed a turning point. But there is also his future, one that is touched upon by the foreboding lyrics of the album and he is quite frank in admitting that death is its central theme. 'In the past I've written albums that were related to death, death of someone I loved or death of relationships or whatever,' he said recently. 'But now I've reached the stage in my life where I don't see death as the end to anything. I see death as merely another door to open and I think the songs perhaps reflect that openness about death. [The songs] are as much about rebirth as they are about death. 'I would say quite categorically that life begins at 40. I know it's an old cliche and I never believed it as a young man - I thought 'God, when I'm 40 that's it, it's over' but you know my life is so much better now,' he says. 'I'm more equipped to enjoy it and appreciate it than I ever was when I was a younger man; I'm 44 now. I also think of myself as not fully formed, I'm still a student, I'm still learning about music . . . I don't want to be set in my ways. I'm not.' The album title is a direct giveaway of his central theme, as are the cover photos, with Sting wrapped up in a scarf, carrying a walking stick, with trees in the background stripped bare of foliage, looking comfortable in the grounds of his English country estate, which includes the studio where the album was recorded. 'Mercury Falling was the first lyric I wrote, the first line of a song called The Hounds of Winter . . . it's about winter and mercury falling,' he says. The themes of both weather and nature appear in I Was Brought To My Senses. 'It's really about nature and accepting nature not only as a metaphor for your own life, but as something miraculous in itself. I'm much closer to nature now than I ever was; I hug trees, I speak to the grass,' he says with a laugh. 'It helps.' But while those themes inspire Sting lyrically, the musical styles differ widely. From The Police to the present day he has shown that he can adapt and adopt - country, gospel, blues, rock and reggae among the categories. 'When I was 15 or 16 . . . [the time] coincided with the boom in soul music,' he says. 'Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Booker T and the MGs, James Brown. So that music means a great deal to me. 'I think if I look back to a golden age in my musical life it's probably then. If I pick my favourite songs forever they are Dock of the Bay, When a Man Loves a Woman, Aretha Franklin, it's all that stuff.' Another example is with You Still Touch Me. 'I used a quote from Soul Man which was used by Isaac Hayes,' he says, pulling out a guitar and playing the first few chords. 'It's a kind of soulful song with a sort of baroque chord sequence.' With Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot, the third track on the album, he reveals a convergence of the lyrical themes and musical influences on the album. 'I suppose it's a kind of gospelly song - gospelly ballad,' he says in his house-cum-studio near Salisbury, England. 'I wrote this when I was in Norwich, I was in a film last year called The Grotesque and I just got into this mood, a strange mood, and wrote this song. It's a song about death, I suppose, or dealing with death in a way. But it offers some sort of hope. 'I think it's quite an uplifting song . . . we have a huge choir on it; a big 70-piece choir from North London. I'm pleased with it.' When it comes to film, acting has not, to say the least, been kind to Sting. But his various forays into the medium have been more successful with film scores. His most recent is for The White Squall due for release in the territory soon. The film, starring Jeff Bridges, is set in 1961 and is about a group of schoolboys on a sailing adventure around the tip of South America when disaster strikes and the ship goes down. 'I've known [director] Ridley Scott for a number of years now,' Sting says. 'When I first moved to London I did some commercials for him. He owned a big commercial company and then he went on to become this huge film director. I've worked with him before. 'I wrote this song called Valparaiso. It's a city north of Santiago [Chile]. It's the first major port you'd get to if you go north round Cape Horn. So I wrote this song about a sea voyage, getting safely around this terrible stretch of sea. Valparaiso also means the valley of paradise, so I suppose it's symbolically about death and it's quite a nice song.'