Music News

Leslie Feist Spent Years on the Road Before "1234" hit.

Canada's Leslie Feist, for whom one name has proved more than enough, loves to travel — but after six years of near-constant gigging, even she's had it.

"I think there's something to be said for everything in moderation, and I haven't done anything moderately," she points out. "I've just been stoking the engine — going and going and going. And I don't really have much perspective right now. I just need to stop it all for a while and hear what might come next."

She's certainly earned a breather. She began singing with bands in her mid-teens, and before long, she'd connected with the brain trust of Broken Social Scene, an ever-shifting (and consistently intriguing) collective in which she still retains a membership of sorts. She subsequently fell in with electro-rapper Peaches before getting serious about a solo career, and while 2004's Let It Die earned generally positive notices and the fealty of a growing cluster of fans, she didn't reach the mainstream until 2007's The Reminder, a rapturous disc whose success was powered by the use of the single "1234" in an iPod nano commercial. Feist didn't feel conflicted over her decision to let Apple deploy her tune in a way old-schoolers like Neil Young would find objectionable — and the choice to perform a rewritten version of the ditty on Sesame Street was even easier.

"In a way, I was so sick to death of '1234' at that point," she admits. "It was such an amazing, cathartic release to have the song turned into a song for kids, which is what, in essence, it turned out to be in reality, too. So many people came up to me and said, 'My three-year-old can't stop singing it!'"

Now, however, she's ready to recharge. "I need to allow myself to believe I may never write another song before I write another few dozen," she maintains. "You've got to trick the muse into showing itself by pretending you don't care. Sort of like the ghost in the room, and there's a flicker in the corner, and as soon as you look, you can't see it anymore.

"You know that sensation?" she goes on. "You see something from the corner of your eye, and you get the sensation that you can only see it from the corner of your eye. You can't see it if you stare straight at it. And being on tour, you're staring straight at it every day. It becomes a kind of banal, scheduled thing instead of something you're tripping over while you're doing something else. And then it's that moment of 'Eureka! There it is!'"

Visit Backbeat Online for more of our interview with Feist.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts