Feist talks


Over the weekend, I spent a couple of hours feasting my eyes and ears on Feist. It wasn’t a concert; she was part of the New York Times Arts & Leisure Week, which featured several artists (and I guess leisurists?) talking about their work. She was gorgeous, charming, funny, smart and incredibly inspiring.

I mean, we already knew she was all of those things, but I didn’t expect to be quite so moved. I took notes, so here they are.

How to handle fame: “I do my best to not live externally.” She talked about the way some people see life through the lenses of fame: “I don’t want to see through those eyes, but through my own.”

Her February show with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra: Feist will be doing a concert with the orchestra and plans to turn it into a “jangly folk orchestra,” with violinists playing tambourines (for example).

The iPod commercial: She admitted that she’s tired of answering questions about how the iPod commercial came about, and joked that she “busked outside Steve Jobs’ house” until he noticed. She also noted that Apple as a company is “artistically respectful” and let her song stand on its own.



Grammys and Junos and the like: “It’s all great fortune, as long as what I’m doing makes sense to me.” She noted that her Juno awards are on the mantel at her mom’s house.

“1 2 3 4” generally: Making the video was like “playing in the sandbox” — she trusted director Patrick Daughters and just let him do his thing. She originally had a vision of something “aerial but not girlie.”

Upcoming videos: She described the video for “The Water” as a short film, to star Cillian Murphy and David Fox. Meanwhile, for the “Honey Honey” video, she’ll work with the Old Trout Puppet Workshop.

Recording Let It Die in Paris: Although people say they can “hear Paris” on the record, Feist said she was very isolated during the recording process and didn’t feel very influenced by the city. Instead, she felt the effects of “the elsewhere factor,” the experience of being a foreigner; of not knowing the language and “playing charades with a whole city.”

She’s tech savvy: Jon Pareles, Times music critic and the interviewer for the evening (who was not very good, IMHO), tried to say that “1 2 3 4” is a song about “digital” things. Feist calmly explained that if it were, it would “0 1” instead. She later noted, “My laptop is the center of my universe.”

Her guitar: She called it her Excalibur. The interviewer made a lame joke — is it Excalibur in the sense of being a sword in a stone, or in a dragonslaying sense? Feist said, very drily, “Yeah, it can slay any dragon as well as be a musical instrument.”

The writing process: “As long as I don’t think about it, I can do it.”

Singing in the audience: Feist is known for “conducting” her audiences as if they’re a big choir. She mentioned the idea soon after taking her seat (“Why wouldn’t you want to sing?”), and the evening ended with her leading the audience in a simple major chord. I feel it all!

She was both sarcastic and sweet; thoughtful and loopy; receptive yet opinionated. It’s not often that I feel like I’m in the presence of a true artist who has unique gifts. And Feist knows she has gifts, but not in a braggy way: She appreciates them, cherishes them, fosters them. I could listen to her talk for hours, and am really glad I got to do just that.

The event was streamed live and should eventually be available on the WCBS site (if you find a link elsewhere, please share!).

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