With music composed by The National's Aaron Dessner and lyrics by Stipe, the song was actually finished last fall, long before 'lockdown' was a word used in everyday conversation.
"It's uncanny and a little bit magical or surreal how relevant the words became when this situation kind of descended upon us," Dessner tells Q104.3 New York's Out of the Box with Jonathan Clarke. "It seems as though it was written about [the pandemic and the racial injustice protests], but actually it was written before. That is the weird alchemy and magic of music and Michael's words."
For Stipe, the collaboration with Big Red Machine — comprised of Dessner and Bon Iver's Justin Vernon — is the latest in his sublime reconnection to music following a lengthy hiatus after R.E.M. disbanded in 2011.
After some three decades of being singularly focused on music (and contractually obligated to be a musician), Stipe tells Out of the Box that he took five years to reflect on who and what he was beyond the stage or the studio.
"It was after the band disbanded that I realized I had not not thought about music my entire adult life since I was 19 years old," Stipe says. "With R.E.M. it was always, always there. And so it was a bit of a vacation, frankly, to not have to think about music — and also to not be under contract."
The time away allowed Stipe to come back with a renewed enthusiasm for music and for singing.
He continued: "It was really nice to step away from it and then even better to realize when I came back into it, quite accidentally, that music for me is like breathing. And singing is something that I missed immensely.
"And I do love my voice. I know that sounds arrogant to say, but I like my singing voice. I have enough ego to like a lot of the things that I have to say. It felt really good to come back into it through projects like this."
Watch the official for "No Time For Love Like Now" here: