This weekend, R.E.M. manager Burtis Downs took to the band's official site to confirm what we've been hearing around town, which is that they have, in fact, been working on a new album here:
Band finishing work on the record in Nashville. All going well, songs sounding great; the band, ably assisted by Jacknife and team, in the homestretch of making what sounds to me like a great R.E.M. record. And between New Orleans, Berlin, and Nashville, you would be hard-pressed to find three more musical and [inspiring] places in which to work. Having Anton Corbijn in town was pretty special as it has been a while since any of us has seen Mills, Stipe, and Buck through Anton's eyes and lens. And Nashville provided some pretty characterful backdrops.
Guessing from the photos posted, I'd say they had dinner at Margot one night. I heard Michael Stipe was in the audience at Saturday night's Pixies show at The Ryman, but didn't see him. If you want to see Stipe playing pocket chaos noise and leading handclaps, check out this in-studio video of the new R.E.M. album in progress.