“It’s only been six months,” longtime R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe says quietly. “So it’s really hard to even figure out who I am.” The 52-year-old is of course referring to life after his band, who — after three decades, 15 albums, and a meteoric rise from indie icons to mainstream superstars — announced they planned to “call it a day.”
“It’s pretty wild,” Stipe says. “I have this sensation that I’ve never felt … It’s kind of a newfound freedom.”
It was the end of an era, and not only for Stipe, but for anyone who’d grown up with REM. And yet, even as Stipe soul-searches, he is making some of the most creative work of his life. He’s got a studio in downtown Manhattan, where he is creating bronze sculptures of old cameras and cassette tapes. He’s producing a documentary about Internet fame. He (was) on Instagram, until a few weeks ago, when he proclaimed he did not want “any part” of Facebook “up in my grill.” And he has a crazy, beautiful, eccentric Tumblr — Confessions of a Michael Stipe — that he uses as a scrapbook to document it all. We sat down with Stipe at the Tumblr offices (among many giddy staffers) to get inside his head.