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(Soundbite of song "So Sorry")

Ms. LESLIE FEIST (Canadian Singer): (Singing) I'm sorry. Two words I always think after you're gone, when I realize I was acting all wrong…


With her latest CD, "The Reminder," and songs like this one called "So Sorry," Canadian singer-songwriter Feist appears to be on her way to becoming a full-fledged star.

(Soundbite of song, "So Sorry")

Ms. FEIST: (Singing) We don't need to say goodbye. We don't need to fight and cry.

YDSTIE: Her previous album, "Let It Die," helped solidify her as a darling of the indie rock scene. But "The Reminder" is an album that both the critics and the broader public seemed to love. And it's even being featured at Starbucks.

(Soundbite of song "So Sorry")

Ms. FEIST: (Singing) Oh we, we could hold each other tight tonight.

YDSTIE: We've caught up with Feist whose first name is Leslie at Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 Club where she was setting up for a show. Welcome to the program.

Ms. FEIST: Hi.

YDSTIE: You've got this very distinctive vocal style, sort of voce, but you haven't always sung softly. You fronted a punk band for a while.

Ms. FEIST: Really, it was the early '90s in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and it was the soundtrack of being 15. You know, it was loud, percussive, aggressive.

YDSTIE: It actually damaged your voice.

Ms. FEIST: Yeah, it was too loud, I guess. But, you know, a happy accident because I was 19 when it happened. I had been in a cross-Canada tour and just - we really had to play the show to make the gas money to get to the next show, to just get ourselves home. And so, yeah, I was really ill by the time I got home, and then ended up moving to Toronto to see a specialist about it and around that same time, I got into more instrumental music and…

YDSTIE: You learned to play the guitar, right?

Ms. FEIST: And that's when I picked up the guitar, I guess, because I couldn't sing for that period. So, it was a really lucky thing that happened in the end.

YDSTIE: When you listen to the music, that music, now do you cringe or (unintelligible)?

Ms. FEIST: Oh, I don't.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FEIST: Yeah, I guess I do. I think in a way the memories are so potent and so positive, it was great. I mean, I had something that I love doing to wrap all those teen years around, you know, and it made my heart beat. And it was all those movie moments of crying in the rain intensity, but something to put it into, you know. But I wish we'd never made albums because now I listen, I think, oh, oh, that's weird. But it was perfect for the time.

(Soundbite of song, "I Feel It All")

YDSTIE: Now, as listening to "I Feel It All," which is on "The Reminder," and I thought, you know, it could have been a very loud rock anthem. It could have been turned way up, with really, you know, screaming vocals.

(Soundbite of song, "I Feel It All")

Ms. FEIST: (Singing) I feel it all. I feel it all. I feel it all. I feel it all.

YDSTIE: And I wonder when you were singing it, did you ever feel like you want to cut loose like that?

Ms. FEIST: Not really. I suppose, when you're feeling it all that you're not only feeling anger or lousiness, it's coming from maybe the heart rather than the fist or something, you know.

(Soundbite of song, "I Feel It All")

Ms. FEIST: (Singing) Oh, I'll be the one who'll break my heart. I'll be the one to hold the gun. I know more than I knew before.

YDSTIE: Can you still sing very loud if you want to or if you have to, or is it - does it risk your voice if you do that?

Ms. FEIST: It's more a choice now, and is not really interested.

YDSTIE: Yeah, despite singing softly, I think - I mean, somehow, you managed to get a huge range of emotion that you might not get if you try to sing more powerfully.

Ms. FEIST: Yeah. Something that I think I figured out slowly was if you're playing a show and there's a chatter or there is, you know, a lot of noise -people talking or something - I was never the one whose instinct was to try to be louder than them. So I suppose I sort of figured out subtlety is where - for me anyway - I feel the most interested in what goes on on that level.

YDSTIE: You spent you last several years in Europe - Paris and Berlin. Why did you decide to move over there?

Ms. FEIST: I think I was just tired of Toronto and I had never been to Europe. And, I mean, coming from Canada - for the NPR listeners, a little perspective of the way America looks - you know, it's really this enormous, 10 times as populated as (unintelligible) country, lots - tons of cities, and yet, somehow, those two enormous iron doors. There is one in New York City and there is one in California. And those are the way that you can get into America, the way you enter as a musician.

Europe, though, you know, I was - if you just squint and imagine that there's hundreds of these little, colorful Hobbit doors, you know? And so a little red one in Sweden and another little orange one in Spain and a little - and there's more places where you can begin. And all of my Canadian friends that have moved to Europe, we always joked that our little slogan is, we come from Canada so we've got stamina. Because when you cut your teeth touring in Canada and then you go to Europe, it's like Easter egg hunt every morning. It's just fun.

YDSTIE: You grew up in Saskatchewan and Alberta, I guess. And I can't help but note that one of the greatest Canadian singer-songwriters is Joni Mitchell who grew up in Saskatchewan. Saskatoon, I think. You grew up in Regina?

Ms. FEIST: Regina, yeah. Yeah. My grandparents were there so I was there a lot. Yeah.

YDSTIE: Did you listen to Joni Mitchell? Did she influence you in any way?

Ms. FEIST: Not until I moved to Toronto. Yeah, then I discovered Joni Mitchell and, of course, she's - I mean, "Blue" is one of my favorite albums. And I need to start tiptoeing my way into her later work but I really only really know "Blue."

YDSTIE: But you have a lot of the same kind of intimacy in your music. Do you think of the people who have affected your music, influenced your music or directions that you've wanted to go because you heard someone doing something?

Ms. FEIST: There's tons, of course, and - but at the same time, there is Toni Morrison's narratives and there's Paul Auster's(ph) "Play by Play." And there is great films and the color indigo blue. You're an enormous sponge and everything goes in there and you squeeze it out in songs, I guess. And if you're a painter, you squeeze them out on to a canvass. And if you write books that - you know? So all of it - yeah, there's tons of influence out there but I wouldn't - just because I make music, I wouldn't say that my inspiration only has come from musicians all over. Of course, there's tons.

YDSTIE: One of the most intimate songs - at least from my hear on the album -is "The Park." Let's listen to "The Park."

(Soundbite of "The Park")

YDSTIE: Sounds like you opened a window and then turned on the recorder.

Ms. FEIST: That's what happened. We were outside, actually, in downtown Toronto. And there was a little parquet(ph), you know, a quarter of a city's lot(ph) covered in-between buildings. There, in the middle of the day in downtown Toronto, that's what it sounded like.

(Soundbite of song "The Park")

Ms. FEIST: (Singing) Why would he come back through the park? You thought that you saw him but, no, you did not. It's not him who'd come across the sea to surprise you. It's not him who would know where in London to find you. Sadness.

YDSTIE: Why did you decide to go simply by your last name - Feist?

Ms. FEIST: I don't know. It's been years. I made the first Feist album in '98. So at that point, it was my nickname. It was as far as with my circle of friends, and just felt more accurate than two names.

YDSTIE: Any other songs in that album that we haven't talked about that you really want people to hear this morning?

Ms. FEIST: I have the Smithsonian Folkways field recordings from years and years and years ago. And on it, there was these two little girls singing "Sea Lion Woman" from I think the early 1900s.

(Soundbite of "Sea Lion Woman")

Ms. CHRISTINE AND KATHERINE SHIPP: (Singing) Sea Lion Woman. Sea Lion. She drank coffee. Sea Lion. She drank tea. Sea Lion. And he gamble lie. Sea Lion.

Ms. FEIST: These were kind of their playground songs, you know. And yeah, I ended up doing a version of that that was kind of a half cover of the little girls. And also Nina Simone, of course, made a famous version 50 years later. And I really love the recording of "Sea Lion Woman" on the record.

YDSTIE: Well, let's hear it.

(Soundbite of "Sea Lion Woman")

Ms. FEIST: (Singing) Sea lion woman.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Sea lion.

Ms. FEIST: (Singing) She drink coffee.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Sea lion.

Ms. FEIST: (Singing) She drink tea.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Sea lion.

Ms. FEIST: (Singing) And a rooster crows.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Sea lion.

Ms. FEIST: (Singing) Sea lion woman.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Sea lion.

Ms. FEIST: (Singing) She drink coffee.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Sea lion.

Ms. FEIST: (Singing) She drink tea.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Sea lion.

Ms. FEIST: (Singing) And a rooster crows.

YDSTIE: Singer-songwriter Feist speaking with us at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. Her new CD is titled "The Reminder."

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us today.

Ms. FEIST: Oh, thanks to you.

(Soundbite of "Sea Lion Woman")

Ms. FEIST: (Singing) Sea lion woman.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Sea lion.

Ms. FEIST: (Singing) Dressed in black.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Sea lion.

Ms. FEIST: (Singing) Wink at the man.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Sea lion.

Ms. FEIST: (Singing) Then stab him in his back.

YDSTIE: To hear more about the "Sea Lion" song, go to

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm John Ydstie.

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