This article is from Issue 55: Jan/Feb 2012

Feist Blooms

The indie queen on rest, the complexity of love and growing tomatoes.

If you’re a busy singer-songwriter who has conquered air-waves, Sesame Street, NPR, Starbucks and the iPods of everyone from hipsters to soccer moms, what do you do when you finally get a break?

Simple: You plant a garden.

At least that’s what indie songstress Leslie Feist did during her recent self-imposed sabbatical. Since 2007’s The Reminder, which spawned the ubiquitous iPod commercial track “1234,” she has been in a career growth spurt. In addition to touring the globe in support of her album, she’s done time with supergroup Broken Social Scene, performed at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, collaborated with Beck and Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead and hung out with Stephen Colbert. It’s no wonder Feist needed some downtime. And some gardening time. “I had tomato plants, and that was a big deal,” she says with a laugh. “I actually did end up going away at one point when I had finally gotten them up to three feet tall. I had to lament, ‘Oh well, it was worth a try, but I guess that’s that.’ But when I got home, even though they were fallen over, they were about six feet tall and covered in tomatoes! So I staked them up and they just did their thing while I was gone.”

Finding time to cultivate some new fruit could be a metaphor for Feist’s career. Several years of rigorous traveling and touring, she says, took their toll on her spirit and her creativity.

“When you’re moving at one pace for all those years, it does seep into you,” she says. “Mentally, you’re also moving at that pace. It was kind of about trying to calm down that dust storm, that constant dust storm of thoughts and movement.”

From 2008 to 2009, Feist took some time for rest, still dizzied from the immense pressure she suddenly felt. But when inspiration came to start working on a new album, she seized it, releasing Metals, her fourth LP, back in October. She knew that she wanted this album to be different than her previous efforts—no matter how successful they’d been.

“With The Reminder, the intention had been to have it be a live record. We didn’t prepare before we got to the studio,” she says. “I wrote the record from fragments that I’d been writing on the road. When we went to the studio, we hadn’t had much time as an ensemble to spend with the arrangements. We learned from that circumstance for [the] next time.