Feature: Feist at the Wexner Center

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From the May 31, 2012 edition

Leslie Feist’s signature single sent her careening — from coffee shops to concert halls, from Apple ads to “Sesame Street.”

The clamor for sing-songy anthem “1234” and Feist’s 2007 album “The Reminder” was widespread and unceasing. She was part of indie-rock collective Broken Social Scene, which profited from a firestorm of underground hype in 2003, but this was a much bigger sort of frenzy. Suddenly everybody wanted a piece of the folk-pop ingenue, and her people-pleasing side found it hard to say no.

“It was kind of mayhem, and I hadn’t really learned how to steer things properly, so I was just kind of on a roller coaster of promotion,” Feist said over the phone from her Toronto home.

• Check out Chris Deville's full interview with Feist
on the Sensory Overload blog •

A ride like that is exhilarating, but eventually you just want off. So Feist picked a drop-dead date, slammed the brakes and disappeared into a quiet home life, unsure whether she would ever make another album.

“I think that’s kind of important to let yourself imagine that you could go back to school or that you could open a book store or just that life can have many paths,” Feist said. “And then if you choose to go back and make another record, obviously you’re choosing it. There’s a true desire to do it, rather than that’s just what you’re supposed to do next.”

After a year of travel, family time and mild domestic living, Feist found that fire again.

“When I came back to writing, it was from a place that was really, really private again,” Feist said. “And I think that just made things a little more potent for me and just made me feel like I belonged inside of it all again.”

The resulting album, 2011’s “Metals,” feels like a slow smolder. It’s a whispery, introspective collection punctuated by occasional ruckus (the rollicking, Spoon-reminiscent “A Commotion” in particular) — the kind of record you keep close to your heart if it doesn’t slip past you entirely.

“Metals” didn’t generate half the fanfare of “The Reminder,” and some reviews pegged it as less approachable for its lack of overt pop moments. Feist also skirted most of the promotional circus this time. Still, she doesn’t feel like she’s shooing listeners away.

“It just means different people are going to feel welcome, you know?” Feist said. “Or they’ll feel more welcome on a one-on-one conversation rather than, ‘Come to the house party.’”

She continues to inspire a broad audience, including fellow musicians. Her songs have been covered by everyone from British dubstep balladeer James Blake to Georgia prog-metal titans Mastodon. Among indie music fans, she carries enough clout to headline Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival this July; Wednesday, she’ll play the Wexner Center’s spacious Mershon Auditorium.

That said, with the “1234” hype storm long since evaporated, Feist connects with a smaller, more devoted core these days. She likes it that way: “As opposed to many people vaguely caring, it seems like less people care more … And that makes playing shows a lot more meaningful to me.”