STING stands over by the piano, wearing a cool leather jacket, and hoodie. Only the trendy glasses hint at the fact he’s a year past state pension age.

You can’t help but wonder if having £100m in the bank and accolades such as Time Magazine’s Top 20 Influential Men In World helps him look so young?

But reflecting on the pop star’s ability to defy the ageing process is not why we’re here today.

It’s a chance to watch and listen to rehearsals of Sting’s musical The Last Ship taking place in Gateshead’s Sage Theatre and set to tour the UK next year, stopping off in Glasgow.

Sting, as it happens isn’t here to sing today. But as the ten performers or so launch into one of the songs from the show – all trademark Sting haunting melodies and clever harmonies - he too breaks into song.

The Last Ship tells of Gideon, a seaman who returns to the shipyard town of Wallsend after 17 years, a working world which is closing its doors for good.

Gideon is played by Jimmy Nail in the musical, a role he seems born to occupy.

But in many ways, it’s Sting’s story.

“I love being part of it all,” he enthuses of the production. “I love the fact that this show is a collaborative process.”

He grins: “I’m normally king of the hill and what I say goes, but when you put together a theatre show and ask for ideas from the cast everyone pitches in. That’s fantastic.”

Has he had to adjust to the collegiate approach a little? After 40 years of success Sting, (including 16 Grammys) perhaps you have become a little set in your ways?

“Well, I’ve been working on this show for six years now so I’ve learned my place,” he says with an easy smile, looking across to Scots director Lorne Campbell. “Although I do speak my mind as well.”

Shipyard towns create paradoxical feelings. The work was dirty and demanding, it was grimy and sometimes dangerous. And it didn’t pay fortunes. But what it gave Newcastle and Glasgow was a powerful sense of community.

“That’s what I really love about the play,” he says. “The idea was to capture that relationship shipyard workers had.”

The story runs across three generations. One generation sees the yard as their lives, then the next generation looks at the shipyard and runs away from it. But the third generation doesn’t have it.

The music is a mix of genres, with a strong leaning towards folk.

“Yes, it reflects the Scots and Irish influences in the North East,” he says. But it’s not folk dominant. Sting, as always, uses a vast range of genres to produce powerful melodies and great tempo shifts.

“I was exposed to a lot of folk music as a kid. So in some sense it’s my homecoming.”

It is. Sting was born yards away from the Wallsend shipyard. “Every morning I’d see thousands of men walk to work. It was a frightening, dark, noisy place and for a while I thought that was my future.

“I wondered if this was what I had to do to be a man, but it was the last thing I bloody (not word used) wanted.

“In many ways I abandoned that community. I went to a grammar school in the city and I’ve felt that rift since the age of eleven.”

As he got older, Gordon Sumner, as he was, came to reflect on this sense of abandoning his world.

“I came to think ‘Why am I like am I?’ And I realised it was because I had come out of that community.

“But what I had was survivor’s guilt. I had moved away while others were left to die when the shipyard died.

“Since then I’ve been thinking of how to pay this debt.”

Sting has long been reflective, inward looking, but a man who needs to have new dreams, new projects in life.

“I think one of my anxieties is the idea of doing nothing terrifies me,” he once said. I love the feeling of forward momentum. It's become an addiction."

Coming up with The Last Ship ticks so many boxes.

“I have a debt to pay,” he says in soft voice. “My grandfather was s shipwright and my father built turbines. My father wanted me to take technical drawing at school. But I wanted to be an artist.”

He smiles; “He couldn’t see why. There was a real fear for my future. But our generation broke away with tradition.”

Did he fear perhaps a harsh judgement from his Geordie community given he’d lived away for so long in one of his homes in London or New York?

“Yes, the first appearance of this play was six years ago across the river and we invited former shipyard workers to look at it. We asked if we felt we should carry on the development, and they said (Geordie accent) ‘Aye, carry oan, son.’

“So we were given permission. And I’m glad we asked because you have to be respectful of other people’s lives.”

Did the Tynsiders view him as a remote creature, the boy who’d learned guitar when an uncle who left it behind, who’d gone on to live in a fabulous world which to them was surreal?

“I have been remote,” he admits. “But now I know where my roots are.”

Has age been a factor in looking back? “Yes, I think it has.” He grins; “I think I’m like a salmon. At a certain point I’ve had to go to where it all began.”

There are examples of Sting reconnection. Last week he got up to sing Ain’t No Sunshine in a Newcastle bar, all rather Gordon Sumner. Sting The Eighties Pop Star wouldn’t have done that.

“I get emotional when I see this river,” he says, looking out of the window at the Tyne.

Was the stage show inevitable? “I always thought the story had a theatrical convention to it,” he says. “But it wasn’t until I read a story in The Guardian about Polish shipyard workers in Gdansk who were put out of work.

“The community was derelict, just like here in Newcastle, but a local priest got them working again, building a ship.

“The idea was to weld that story to the tale of my own town, create a sort of allegory.”

It’s worked. He’s produced a classy stage play, with, as expected powerful songs.

And there’s been a great sense of personal achievement.

“It’s helped put life in perspective for me. I was brought up in a Catholic-Irish community, it was tough and in fact an awful childhood which I ran away from.

“But as an artist I was given a gift with all of that experience. And it’s my job to do something with it.”

• The Last Ship, The Theatre Royal, June 18-23. Tickets now on sale.